AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
There is a group of Airmen in the U.S. Air Forces Central Command who lead double lives. These Airmen are part of the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve. When they’re not defending their country, they’re working at their civilian jobs as teachers, truck drivers and police officers. These Airmen make up one-third of the deployed Air Force personnel within the AFCENT’s area of responsibility.
During a recent 25 day battle field rotation, the Air Force Reserve Component leadership team saw first hand how the two separate worlds of a guard or reserve member can collide when least expected.
Col. Justin Wagner, senior advisor, and Lt. Col. David Lydon Jr., both ARC Advisor-Forward to AFCENT based at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, go where ARC members are serving and listen, identify, mitigate and resolve ARC concerns in the AOR.
“Quite frankly, we anticipated hearing about long hours, austere locations and juxtaposing concerns from ARC members,” said Wagner. “However, what we’ve seen is great Americans working with coalition patriots to neutralize bad actors through the air and on the ground infused with a pride in state and country that you can feel.”
Upon arriving at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, Wagner and Lydon were greeted by Staff Sgt. Jose Hernandez, a traditional guardsman from Stewart ANG’s 105th Security Forces Squadron, New York, N.Y.
Sgt. Hernandez introduced himself to the pair and started up a conversation. Wagner and Lydon quickly discovered that when he is not serving in the U.S. Air Force, Hernandez is a New York City police officer from the 44th Precinct in the Bronx.
Lt. Col. Lydon, a retired New York State Trooper, hit it off immediately with Sgt. Hernandez. Hernandez described his duties as a member of a well trained Ground Movement Team that provides security for high value targets in and out of this particular area of operation.
“The ARC is like a big family,” said Lydon. “I discovered that Hernandez and I had a common connection from the New York guard. That individual was Staff Sgt. Jerome Dominguez, who served with the 105th Security Forces Squadron as well.”
Staff Sgt. Dominguez made the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001 while performing duties as a NYPD officer responding to the terrorist attack on the twin towers.
When asked about Dominguez, Hernandez mentioned that he and other members of the 105th SFS keep a NYPD patch tucked in the visor of their vehicles to honor him and the others who lost their lives in the “War on Terror”.
Whether the ARC member is from New York or California, they all bring a unique approach throughout the AOR to continue to fuel the fight against the violent extremist groups in the region. Having a clear and purposeful mission enables the ARC members and their active duty counterparts to look past personal judgement and to focus on what makes America so special, the enduring spirit of inclusion and cooperation.
"ARC members we've seen in this AOR have displayed an industrial spirit through the beauty of diversity while exuding a strength of will that each of their communities and states back home represent," said Wagner. “These are the kinds of deep patriotic state and community infused efforts ARC members bring to the fight.”