#MyMGM: MGM's Citizen Airmen
The 908th Airlift Wing plays an integral role in global and national security, yet has an equally impressive impact right here at home. / by MINNIE LAMBERTH
Maxwell Air Force Base is home to the 908th Airlift Wing, Alabama’s only Air Force Reserve Unit. Unlike Air University, which is a Maxwell tenant that draws attendees from around the world for Air Force educational programs, the majority of the 908th’s members tend to be more local or regional. “The members of the 908th Airlift Wing come from our communities,” said Major John T. Stamm, Chief of Public Affairs. They’re part of our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, churches and sports, and all other parts of civic life.
A staff of nearly 200 full-time personnel run day-to-day operations for a unit that has approximately 1,200 members – 800 of whom are Alabama residents, while the other 400 make their way here from 21 states across America. Regardless of how close or far away its members are, the 908th Airlift Wing provides an annual economic impact (either directly or indirectly) of nearly $50 million right here in the River Region.
Most of the members are traditional Reservists who serve part-time for one weekend a month and for two weeks of annual training. Made up of a diverse group from all walks of life and backgrounds, some airmen are recent high school graduates, some are nearing retirement, and most are somewhere in between, according to the 908th AW spokesperson.
The full-time staff overseeing operations includes a mix of civilians, Air Reserve Technicians and Active Guard/Reserve members. These individuals are employed in a wide range of roles, including administration, operations, maintenance, finance, medical, security forces, safety, recruiting, supply and public affairs. The 908th also has full-time pilots, navigators and other aircrew.
“The reasons an individual serves are as diverse as the members themselves,” Stamm said. “Some serve because of a patriotic call to serve their country. Some serve because they wanted a challenge or to learn a new skill set. Others chose to serve to earn extra money, benefits like medical insurance or programs to help pay for a higher education. More often than not, it’s a combination of all these reasons, but all feel pride in being a Reserve Citizen Airman.”
The Coronavirus pandemic affected training schedules as the 908th adjusted by holding two Unit Training Assembly weekends per month in order to reduce the number of people at work at one time. In spite of the pandemic, the 908th Airlift Wing has been preparing to execute the largest deployment in its history. Over the course of this year, more than 300 Reserve Citizen Airmen will deploy from here to locations across the globe to support the missions of United States Combatant Commanders.
Members typically come to Maxwell because of proximity – the majority of the Reserve Citizen Airmen are from Alabama and Georgia. But they may also serve here because they have a specific skill that’s in demand or they want to pursue an opportunity that isn’t available elsewhere. The C-130 tactical airlift mission is another draw.
The 908th is notable as the only operational flying unit at Maxwell, and River Region residents have likely seen one of its C-130 Hercules cargo planes flying to or from the base. The 908th operates nine of these aircraft with its subordinate 357th Airlift Squadron for theater airlift in support of combatant commanders worldwide. Known as the workhorse of the Air Force, these planes can carry 42,000 pounds of cargo and can fly up to 386 mph with a range of 5,200 miles. “The Hercules is capable of operating from small, rough, unimproved, dirt strips in austere locations and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas,” Stamm said.
There are changes in the works, however, that would impact the Unit’s current mission. In November of last year, the Air Force announced that the 908th Airlift Wing is the preferred location to serve as a Flying Training Unit for the new MH-139 Grey Wolf. If this change of mission becomes official with a final basing decision, the MH-139 helicopters will replace the C-130Hs now seen in the air over the River Region, and Alabama would become a center of excellence for military helicopter training. The first helicopters would arrive in 2023 if this decision goes forward.
908TH AIRLIFT WING: BY THE NUMBERS
- ALMOST 200 FULL-TIME PERSONNEL
- APPROXIMATELY 1,200 UNIT MEMBERS who come here from 21 states
- ANNUAL ECONOMIC IMPACT: nearly $50 million