F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE – Capt. Javon Quarles, 321st Missile Squadron missileer, stood alert 283 times in his four years on active duty.
As an Air Force reservist, though, Quarles stood alert for the second time Dec. 18 at a missile alert facility near Dix, Nebraska.
For close to 60 years, nuclear and missile operation officer positions were off-limits to reservists, who serve in more than 200 other career fields. Those who left active duty as 13N nuclear and missile officers to join the Reserve were unable to stay in that occupation and had to retrain into other career fields. That changed Oct. 26, 2019.
“Citizen Airmen missileers can continue to be fully combat mission ready and support nuclear deterrence operations just like their active-duty counterparts,” said Brig. Gen. Erich Novak, mobilization assistant to the commander of 20th Air Force, F.E. Warren AFB.
One role of these Citizen Airmen is filling active-duty manning slots through the Individual Mobilization Augmentee Reserve program. The program complements active duty units through the assignment of IMAs to train and operate with those units. In the case of the missileers, they join their units with considerable experience already, making them able to step in and provide assistance at a moment’s notice, while helping to ensure the deterrence mission is conducted by expected standards.
“By having a cadre of Reserve missileers available to support the transition to Ground Based Strategic Deterrence, Missile Wings will be able to ensure the lethal, safe, and sure requirements of Minuteman and GBSD weapon systems,” said Col. Robert Jackson, IMA to the Director of Operations and Communications for 20th Air Force.
To those that would be concerned that utilizing reserve manning in crucial positions like missileers, though, leaders are quick to point out that these Airmen are ready to stand alert.
“13N Reserve IMAs are required to meet established proficiency, currency, Missile Operations Duty (MOD) medical, and Personnel Reliability Program requirements,” said Lt. Col. Amy Grant, 321 MS Commander. “Maintaining the stringent readiness requirements means 13N IMAs must spend a portion of each duty tour getting “green,” or ensuring proficiency, before performing alert or instructor duties.”
The familiarity with the occupation and the experience gained from 253 alerts spent in the capsule will help ensure that Quarles will effectively support the nuclear deterrence mission as a citizen Airman.
“Although he chose to leave active duty to pursue other life goals, we retain the benefit of his experience and expertise through part-time service and he has the opportunity to continue his service—it’s a win-win for both the Air Force and Capt. Quarles,” said Grant.
Quarles served as a missileer with the “Greentails” of the 321 MS during his time on active duty, and the ability to transfer to reserves while being attached to the same unit has helped ease the transition. That transition from active duty to the reserves has helped Quarles appreciate more of what missileers do on a daily basis.
“’When I first came in, I was amazed that the Air Force was letting me do this. But like with any job, it can become your day to day and it doesn’t feel as special,” said Quarles. “Now that I’m out, I feel like I’ve regained that sense of appreciation, especially coming back and seeing the people who do this every day. I feel like I’m a lot more grateful to them for what they’re doing.”
As a civilian, Quarles is pursuing his juris doctorate at the University of Colorado in Boulder. For now, however, he serves four to five days a month training and pulling alert while he works toward his goal of being an attorney.
Reserve Citizen Airmen interested in learning more about becoming 13N Reservists should contact Col. Steven Priest at [email protected] or Col. Robert Jackson at [email protected] As always, people interested in joining the Reserve should contact their local recruiter.