Three of a kind: Airmen share career track

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Charlie Miller
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Three Airmen assigned to the 445th Airlift Wing's 87th Aerial Port Squadron have more in common than being assigned to the same unit. They also have almost identical military backgrounds and all work for the same civilian employer.

Tech. Sgts. Roger Dils and Mike Maurer, and Senior Airman Matt Overacker all started their military careers with the U.S. Navy. They are currently assigned to the 87th APS as traditional reservists and on the civilian side they work for the U.S. Postal Service.

Sergeant Dils, an aerial porter since 2000, works at the Kettering, Ohio, post office and has been a letter carrier for 18 years. Sergeant Maurer joined the Air Force Reserve in 2003 and has carried mail at the Mason, Ohio, post office for 11 years. Airman Overacker has been a rural carrier at the Springfield, Ohio, post office for one year and with the 87th APS for less than three years.

These reservists all relish their Navy beginnings but are proud members of the Air Force Reserve. And, given the chance, they get together and talk "post office."

"Being around aircraft all the time with the Navy helped me transition to the aerial port," said Sergeant Dils. "I believe I've been able to teach some of the younger members of the Port a few things even though a Navy A-6 bomber is much smaller than the planes we load and unload here at the aerial port and also the aircraft we see when on annual tour. In fact, you could fit several of those Navy A-6's in a 445th C-5 Galaxy, but who's counting."

"During my time as a Navy firefighter I responded to a lot of aircraft emergencies," said Airman Overacker. "These experiences and the training I received have helped me with my Air Force Reserve career."

The Air Force Reserve offered all three airmen a chance to cross train and all three jumped at the opportunity. Airman Overacker will go to the full six-week air transportation school while both sergeants took the two week hands-on course that was followed with on- the-job training back at home station.

The airmen believe there are differences that can be challenging switching from a different branch of the military as different rank and duty assignments may be challenging.

"The biggest difference is that as a Navy petty officer third class you have a leadership role as a noncommissioned officer, but in the Air Force you have to become a staff sergeant to reach NCO level," said Sergeant Maurer, who is currently deployed.

"The Navy rank is easy to understand except for admirals," said Sergeant Dils. Many Air Force Reserve members find the Navy rank confusing with enlisted seamen wearing brass rank on the collar, said Sergeant Dils. "But it's always 'sir' or 'admiral' when I was addressing them. I never used 'vice admiral' or 'rear admiral'."

Both Sergeant Dils and Airman Overacker served aboard the United States Ship John F. Kennedy, a mammoth 1,050 foot long aircraft carrier with a crew of 3,117. The sergeant was an aircraft mechanic and the airman, a firefighter. Sergeant Maurer, a Seabee and hull technician, served on the USS Canopus and the USS Belknap which, put together, are not much longer than the JFK, but who's counting.

"Airman Overacker may not have been born when I was on the JFK," said Sergeant Dils with a huge smile. The sergeant was in the Navy from 1982 to 1992 and the airman served from 1998 to 2002. Sergeant Maurer spent 11 years active duty and in the Navy Reserve.

"Duty is different with the 87th," Sergeant Dils said. "I'm ready to roll right now with my new branch if called upon. After seven years total at sea with the Navy, I'm ready for just about anything.

For all three airmen, their past Navy careers are now water under the bridge. It's full steam ahead with the Air Force Reserve and 445th, with or without the clich├ęs.