916 ARW Building Military Ties and Beyond

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mary McKnight

Familial faces brought an extra meaning to an employer flight hosted by the 916th Air Refueling Wing, Sept. 13.

Senior Airman Kyle B. Jones, a 916th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief and Epes Transport Systems LLC southeast regional planner, is surrounded by family connections.

Jones’ military supervisor, Master Sgt. Damius M. Rice, a 916th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft maintenance manager, grew up in the same house-hold as Jones’ civilian supervisor, Jessie L. Rice Jr., Epes director of regional operations. Jessie Rice is Damius Rice’s uncle and the family tie makes it easy for Jones to better juggle both careers.

Despite the close family connection, Jones still wanted Jessie Rice to come see what it is that he does while performing his military duty and why it’s important.

Past employers felt like I should build my Air Force schedule around their priorities, said Jones. But once summoned by the Air Force it’s an obligation that must be met, an obligation completely different from my civilian employer, explained Jones.

To bring understanding amongst the military and our reservists’ civilian employers the 916 ARW partnered with the Employee Support of Guard and Reserve to host a Boss Lift that provided civilian employers the opportunity to see what their employees do when called to duty.

This opportunity was not lost on Jessie Rice.

“I have a lot of respect for the men and women that put their lives on the line for this country every day,” said Jessie Rice. “It’s not for everybody. The military, police, firemen, EMS, those are jobs that not everyone can do. I can’t do it, I’ll be the first to admit. Anytime I get an opportunity to spend time with my nephew, Kyle or anybody in uniform I’ll try to take advantage of it.”

For Jessie Rice, Jones’ recommendation opened doors to more than just a glimpse into Jones’ military world.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the military, service men and women,” said Jessie Rice. “Then when my nephew (Damius Rice) joined it was pretty cool. We don’t have a lot of military lineage in our family so it really brought our family together. Especially, when he got deployed to Iraq,” said Jessie Rice. “The most emotional I’ve ever been in my life was when he returned home. We were all there, at Bragg (Fort Bragg, N.C.), I still remember that feeling, the hug, the dust flying off of his uniform and everything.”

Jones partnering with the ESGR Boss Lift to bring Jessie Rice to base triggered some emotions for Damius Rice too.

“Back in 2009 we lost my grandad, which is my uncle’s (Jessie Rice) dad, who raised me,” said Damius Rice. “It’s always been one of those things that I wished Pop could see. So to have my uncle here today, not only to see what we do, but to go up in one of the jets that I help maintain; that’s a huge token to me,” said Damius Rice.

While Jones’ path led him to find this connection between his civilian and military supervisor, not all reservists have been placed in such a position.

“It’s a one in a million chance I’d be working for two family members in two different settings,” said Jones. “That’s pretty cool.”

When things aren’t ‘cool’ for reservists and their employer that’s where the ESGR can help.

“The purpose of the ESGR is really a vision that we will work to build a culture in which employers are supportive of their employees who serve in the Nation’s Guard and Reserve," said Ron Vogle, Chair of the North Carolina ESGR. “A lot of that is about educating employers. In my opinion, the best opportunity for us to educate employers is to provide a hands-on opportunity, like we just experienced with the 916th Air Refueling Wing.”

With the help of the ESGR, members like D. Rice and Jones can continue to build bonds with civilian employers, by inviting their employers out for a Boss Lift or base tour, and continuing to create ties within the military and beyond.