COLUMBUS, Ohio – “Do you fly?”
Undisputedly, the most commonly asked question an Airman receives when a civilian learns they are in the Air Force.
“You can’t fly without Supply.”
Disputedly, the common response for a logistics Airman, since pilots consist of less than 1% of Airmen in the Air Force.
The Ohio Air National Guard is the second largest Air National Guard in the country, with wings supporting not only the state and federal missions but two different major commands: Air Combat Command (ACC) and Air Mobility Command (AMC). Ohio is also unique in that there are nearly 400 Airmen supporting the logistics missions across four flying wings, each with its own airframe.
“What makes (us) unique is the vast range of Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) and our ability to support our wings’ missions,” said Capt. Justin Beers, acting commander of the 178th Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron in Springfield. “We are FedEx, UPS, Walmart, Amazon, Enterprise, NAPA and ExxonMobil all at the same time, doing all those functions within just our squadron.”
The logistics readiness squadron (LRS) at a wing generally consists of Airmen with jobs covering 10 AFSCs. They are responsible for touching every aspect of the mission from fuels, supply, deployment planning and readiness, transportation, uniform and equipment issue, shipping and receiving, leadership and warfare equipment.
“We are responsible for the facilitation of passenger, cargo and supply movement to support our wing, state and federal missions, and for keeping the unit ready for deployments,” said Lt. Col. Melanie Grosjean, commander of the 180th Fighter Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron in Swanton, Ohio. “Every job in LRS is critical to the mission success. With the vast job diversity within the squadron, there is a necessity for all components to work together seamlessly to carry out the mission successfully.”
Each Ohio Air National Guard member contributes to the mission in unique ways, from flying operations to finance. If you consider operations as the brain for the force, logistics would be its nervous system. Nothing would move without it.
“LRS orders, stores and delivers the parts to maintain all wing vehicles and equipment. We then manage the fuel, supplies and clothing needed not just for our Airmen to use the very vehicles and equipment we ordered, but we also inspect and deliver the fuel required for aircraft to take off,” said Master Sgt. Brian Raines, a fuels service center noncommissioned officer in charge at the 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus. “Every moving piece, person and part that touches the mission has been touched by LRS. We also provide support to the wing in the form of people management when deploying and provide cargo loading and unloading operations. It is kind of hard to include everything we do, but LRS is, hands down, a major part of the mission.”
During a historic year and a half, the pandemic threw its curveballs, but the Ohio National Guard did not skip a beat. While the world shut down temporarily, the National Guard went to work. Among the more than 4,000 ONG members who supported Ohio’s COVID-19 response, dozens were logistics Airmen who assisted at food banks, vaccination centers, storage sites or in other capacities while still executing the federal mission to assist in deploying approximately 500 Airmen overseas throughout the pandemic.
“LRS is a melting pot of talent; we do it all,” said Chief Master Sgt. April Gunnoe, materiel management flight chief at the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield. “I am continually impressed at how skilled our Airmen are and how we can respond to a multitude of challenges by working together.”
While LRS Airmen clearly see how far-reaching, complex, and impactful their mission is, it’s not always so evident how much happens in logistics for those outside the squadron.
“I think a lot of people at our base do not see what goes on behind the scenes; they see the beginning and end,” said Senior Airman Cari Hess, a material management specialist at the 180th. “They do not see the six steps and three different sections within LRS that their request goes through before it arrives at the front door. There is a lot that goes into just getting a single part to repair a single issue on a jet, and that’s just touching a quarter of the jobs within LRS.”
The nervous system of the body is critical for each aspect of life. Like LRS is to the Air Force, it guides every activity from the most fundamental to the most complex. Without uniforms, members aren’t prepared. Without fuel, aircraft don’t fly. Without correct parts, equipment can’t operate. Without chemical warfare equipment, Airmen aren’t protected.
Without LRS, the mission can’t happen.
“At the end of the day I find it most rewarding to watch the jets take off,” Hess said. “Even though I don’t work directly with them, I know that I still play a big part in them being able to fly.”