Reserve Support: First In, Last Out

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tyler Bolken
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

One weekend a month, Reserve Citizen Airmen across the United States travel to military installations throughout the country to perform readiness training with their Reserve units during their Unit Training Assemblies [UTA]. More than 1,600 Airmen in the 944th Fighter Wing attend their monthly UTA at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, while nearly one thousand more members of the 944th serve at other installations across the country.

On these weekends, the first Airmen in on Saturday morning and the last Airmen to leave on Sunday night are the men and woman of the Commander’s Support Staff [CSS]. Among a myriad of duties, this small fraction of Airmen check-in and check-out these 100’s of service members into their respective units.

“Coming in on these weekends, we are the first people they see,” said Senior Airman Wren Doyle, 944th Fighter Wing customer service support specialist. “We’re kind of like the middleman between various entities that keep their careers on track.”

These entities cover support across more than 50 commander programs, which include finance, personnel records, performance reports, fitness, and many more.

Reserve Citizen Airmen naturally wear multiple hats, between their civilian careers, families at home, and their service in the Air Force. For CSS, wearing multiple hats isn’t just a badge of pride, but is an essential function of their role.

“We are well rounded in knowledge that a lot of people don’t know," said Doyle, who is a Phoenix, Arizona native.

The CSS shop Doyle is a part of supports the Mission Support Group and Fighter Wing Staff Agency. They are directly responsible for more than 700 members and are led by a full-time civilian.

“I like to think I am a connector of people,” said Kimberly Branche, management support specialist, who has been in her current role since February of 2019. “My passion is helping people.”

Branch, an Army veteran, is no stranger to the military. Her husband is an Air Force veteran and her daughter joined the Air Force Reserve earlier this year.

“I’ve been around the military for more than 20 years, it’s all I know,” said Branche.

Branche said she was brought in to head the efforts at the group level because of how strong she had performed at the squadron level.

“Processes are what we are trying to replicate most and that’s one of my stronger qualities,” she said. “There can, at times, be a lot of turnover with these roles and processes prevent stop gaps from when a person leaves and gets replaced.”

In creating these processes, Branche said she is also continually training the CSS sections at the squadron level with how-to guides, hands-on learning, and resources to enhance their understanding with supporting these important Airmen needs.

“We give our Airmen the tools for success, now it’s our job to train them on how to efficiently use them,” she said.

Branche emphasized how much support the Airmen in the unit actually need, which she feels she didn’t receive as a young soldier in the Army.

“When I came into the service, I didn’t have that kind of guidance and mentorship,” she stated. “You never know what kind of impact you can have just by doing the little things your absolute best.”

Branche talked about how busy UTA weekends can be and how she takes pride in being able to help Airmen slow things down. She added that having support from the commanders is invaluable.

“Our CSS personnel has been beefed up to maintain the support needed and allows us to provide our best customer service,” Branche said. “Buy in from leadership enhances structure and processes across the board.”

Of the thousands of reserve Airmen that serve one weekend a month, remember there are even fewer that provide the essential support these Airmen need in order to focus on their mission-ready task.

“We are a small part of the bigger mission, but at the same time, I feel like we are the backbone,” said Doyle.