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Airman joins Air Force Reserve after long break in service

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio -- Here's a follow up to the November, 2006 Buckeye Flyer story in which we profiled two wing members returning to military life after 16 plus years as civilians. We found another wing member who had a long break in service and wanted to share his story with you.

Senior Airman Gary Wilson, a maintenance systems analyst with the 445th Maintenance Squadron had an almost 17-year break in service. He served over six years on active duty with the Air Force and rose to the rank of buck sergeant, now senior airman. At age 41 he joined the wing and went to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, for school.

"I was the oldest in my class but not the oldest taking the course," Airman Wilson said "The school lasted 90 days." That's a long time away from home for a husband and father of two. Plus, he was away from his fulltime job as a letter carrier with the USPS in Springfield, Ohio.

"Both of my children are in college, one is attending Sinclair Community College in Dayton and the other one is at Clark State Community College in Springfield," the airman said. Having older kids made leaving for three months a lot easier, he said.

"Upon my return to the Post Office from Technical School, I was presented with a plaque showing the United States Postal Services' appreciation to me for my service. Of course, the honor of serving my country once again at a time of need is very important to me."

Sort of losing a stripe was another part of the re-enlisting equation. Things were different the first time Airman Wilson served, back in the 1980's. Dropping from the old rank of E-4 buck sergeant with its NCO status to senior airman was not the best scenario, but Airman Wilson said it wasn't a huge deal, rank will come in time.

Another challenge was being in the tech school environment on an active duty base with 18 and 19-year-old airman fresh out Basic Military Training.

"The only major requirement outside the classroom that we had to do was PT," Airman Wilson said. "I keep myself in pretty good shape so it wasn't too bad. The running wasn't too hard but overall I'm glad I'm a letter carrier with the Post Office."

Did he stay up with those 18 and 19-year-olds?

"I'm not going to say that. There were some guys just hauling. My run time went from under ten minutes to 13:30, but I'm 41 years old now."

And how about repeating basic?

"There is no way. No way. I just couldn't do it now."

Airman Wilson plans on staying with the 445th until he hits the 20 year mark, and perhaps beyond. He said that his squadron has made him feel at home and that he appreciates their level of professionalism.