Above and Beyond

Above and BeyondBrig. Gen. Michael Wilson is Preserving Freedom Through the Air Force Reserve

Photo courtesy Eglin Air Force Base 

Since its creation in 1948, the Air Force Reserve has amassed a rich heritage with heroic accounts of humanitarian aid, disaster response and conflict resolution. Unlike their active-duty counterparts, these “citizen soldiers” not only have to be prepared for military duties but also must balance their time and efforts with their civilian jobs and responsibilities.

Brig. Gen. Michael Wilson, who assumed his position as vice commander of the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base in October 2007, has lived in the area for 31 years. As one of approximately 150 reservists at Eglin, Wilson flies military aircraft when he’s not doing his civilian job as a pilot for Delta Airlines. He has served in Operation Just Cause in Panama, as well as Operation Desert Storm in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Wilson recently shared his thoughts with Emerald Coast Magazine writer Scott Jackson about serving in the reserves and his role at Eglin.

EC: Will we see more senior officer reservists assuming leadership positions historically filled by active duty?
Yes. As long as there is a need for commanders in forward-deployed locations, reservists will be called upon to fill leadership positions left vacant.

EC: What are the primary projects/duties you will focus on?
I oversee the operations of the Air Armament Center when the commander is away, and I will share the responsibilities and represent him at events.

EC: What aircraft do you fly in your military and civilian roles? How much time do you spend in those aircraft?
I have about 5,000 hours in military aircraft, including AC/MC/C-130 and O2A. I had approximately 100 hours of combat time in Panama and Desert Storm. In my civilian job, I fly a Boeing 767 for Delta on international flights. Overall, my civilian experience includes 12,000 hours in the 727, 737, 757, 767, MD-11 and DC-9 aircraft.

EC: What portion of your time do you devote to your civilian and military responsibilities?
Right now, all of my workday is spent on my military duties. But normally I spend seven or eight days a month on base and half of the month working in my civilian capacity.

EC: What has been your biggest challenge in balancing these responsibilities?
Staying current in both jobs can be a challenge. There are a lot of changes here at Eglin. I have to be current equally well in all my jobs and balance that with a home life. I have to be a very good time manager.

EC: How has the status of the reservists changed over recent years? Where is it headed?
For about the past 20 years, the Air Force Reserve has been a part of the “total Air Force” and has been integrated into everyday missions of the Air Force. We have been doing active-duty missions and training with the active duty. When the events of Sept. 11 occurred, we were ready to step up to the call and were activated alongside the active duty. We proved ourselves before then, and we really proved ourselves in wartime. We are every bit the warrior as our active-duty brothers and sisters. I think that you will see that continue in the future.

EC: How have the benefits for reservists evolved in order to attract, train and maintain a viable reserve component?
Most of us didn’t join because of the benefits. We do it because we like it. However, reservists qualify for a retirement pension at age 60 that is based on the amount of active duty and reserve training that we served during our career. We also have commissary and base exchange privileges and life insurance, to name a few things. We have educational benefits, and we have certain rights with civilian employers when we must leave our jobs to serve on active duty. There is often legislation to ease the burden of reservists serving. It’s very difficult to balance a life of a family, a civilian job and Air Force Reserve training.