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Seasoning Training Program Prepares Reservists for Desert Duty

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel
  • 624th RSG Public Affairs
Four years ago, three young men who graduated together from high school in Hawaii never thought they would find themselves serving together in Iraq.

Senior Airman Derek Dumlao, Airmen 1st Class Shane Costa and Dennis Gaxiola - alumni of Leilehua High School here on Oahu and Air Force Reservists from the 624th Regional Support Group at Hickam - are currently deployed with the 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, Joint Base Balad.

Their job is to help ensure that people and cargo get to where they are needed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Just the thought that I am on the other side of the world is crazy," said Airman Dumlao. "Never thought in my life that I would be here but I am, and I'm proud to be serving my country at a time when my country needs me."

Of course, serving in the desert has its hurdles.

"Being away from my two-year old daughter is a big challenge," Airman Gaxiola said. "Otherwise, it has been great."

For Airman Costa, it's the heat, the food and "living in a one-mile radius for four months."

Then there are the hazards.

"Just the constant bombardment of mortars keeps me on my toes and alert," said Airman Dumlao. "Other than that, it's pretty much day to day."

What is not a challenge for them is how they perform their jobs. They are able to meld seamlessly with their active duty counterparts because of the Air Force Reserve Command's Seasoning Training Program (STP), which allows Airmen to reach job proficiency sooner than they would through the traditional Reserve process of one weekend a month and two weeks a year.

"Had I not been through the STP most of my training would have been received through this deployment, so I'm definitely ahead of the game," said Airman Gaxiola.

After completing their initial technical school training, the Airmen did 90 active-duty days of "seasoning training" with the 735th Air Mobility Squadron at Hickam.

"Much of the credit for the success of our Squadron's Seasoning Training Program should be given to the 735th AMS," said Lt Col Randall Honke, commander of the 48th Aerial Port Squadron which is part of the 624th Regional Support Group. "They have bent over backwards to ensure our personnel are trained in 100 percent of their core tasks by the end of their 90-day STP tour."

Since the beginning of 2007, the 48th APS has made it their goal to get their Airmen upgraded to a journeyman 5-level in 15 months through the Seasoning Training Program.

So far they've been able to meet that goal.

"If not for the Reserve Seasoning Training Program, I wouldn't have been comfortable with allowing these young Airmen to deploy to Balad," said Lt Col Honke. "The hands-on training and experience they received would normally take any other traditional reservist more than three years to accomplish."

The length of seasoning training depends on the nature of the career field with some needing only a month and others up to a year to receive the necessary polish.

Since June 2007, the 48th APS in conjunction with the 735th AMS has successfully graduated 10 personnel in the STP. Four of these graduates have deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.

"The Seasoning Training Program enabled me to hit the ground running," said Airman Costa. "While certain things are done differently here, I was able to adapt quickly with the training I had already received."

As for being deployed with fellow high school graduates?

"It's pretty cool," said Airman Costa. "It made for a fun time when we weren't working."

Airman Gaxiola agrees.

"I think this whole entire environment is interesting. You have helicopters flying around, F-16s taking off, sometimes sounds of gunfire in the background, and an occasional mortar attack. All the while, I'm still able to have fun with my friends and get the job done."