Monday, August 6, 2012

Help wanted: Reservists, all backgrounds welcome

by Staff Sgt. Danielle Johnston
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Master Sgt. David Paladino, munitions technician, builds bombs, July 16, 2012, to be used during a live-employment exercise. Paladino is a traditional reservist with the 442nd Maintenance Squadron. As a civilian he is a small-business owner. The 442nd MXS is part of the 442nd Fighter Wing, an A-10 Thunderbolt II Air Force Reserve unit at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Johnston) Hi-res

7/23/2012 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- On Friday, Dave Paladino assembled a torpedo, but his job is probably not what you'd expect. He owns two sandwich shops, but he's also a bomb builder.

The same Friday, Nicola McConnell taught eight graders about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Saturday, she assembled a laser-guided bomb.

Jeff Wetzel spent his Friday evening building a civil litigation case for a national bank. The next morning, he built a Mark-82 for an A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Paladino, McConnell and Wetzel have one thing in common - they are reservists in the munitions flight with the 442nd Fighter Wing, here.

The other 28 days a month, they couldn't spend their days more differently working as a small-business owner, a teacher and a lawyer.

Bombs - not a small-business venture

Senior Master Sgt. David Paladino is the assistant flight chief of munitions. He is responsible for approximately 80 reservists - all of whom work to build, inspect, store and deliver deadly bombs.

Paladino has worked in munitions with the 442nd FW as a reservist for nearly 20 years. During the week however, Paladino is the owner and operator of two sandwich franchises in Springfield, Mo.

While the two jobs are completely different, Paladino says the skills needed to accomplish them are strikingly similar.

He began his first business as a child in his dad's store.

"I set up a popcorn machine and some soda and started selling," he said. "That was my first business. I feel like I just had it in me, because I come from a family of business owners."

Today, Paladino works nearly 65 hours a week - on weeks he doesn't have military duty. On the weeks he does, he said he relies heavily on employees who come in to backfill positions - sandwich-making civilian reservists.

As both a small-business owner and an assistant flight chief, Paladino is responsible for maintaining supplies, managing personnel and creating smooth workflow.

He said maintaining consistency as a supervisor and leading by example are two behaviors he always tries to exemplify - both of which can be seen when he takes the floor to build a bomb or to make a sandwich.

"Sometimes in the military, when people see supervisors on the floor getting their hands dirty, they think it's poor leadership," Paladino said. "But I want employees - and reservists - to know I wouldn't ask them to do anything I wouldn't do myself whether it's inventorying parts for the Reserve or washing dishes in my restaurants."

Paladino has even found entertaining ways over the years to combine his love for munitions and his talent at managing small businesses.

"Every year we have competitions where the employees use ingredients to create their own sandwiches, and judge the winner," he said, "so now we have a sandwich on the menu called a 'Claymore.'"

A claymore is a U.S. military remote-detonated land mine used in World War II. It is also now a roast beef and cheddar sandwich loaded with tasty toppings at two restaurants in southern Missouri.

A-M-M-O: Teaching history, not spelling

Master Sgt. Nicola McConnell has a tough job. She builds bombs.

She said her civilian job is even harder. She teaches eighth grade.

On drill weekends, she is a munitions line delivery technician - transporting missiles to the mighty "hawg."

She uses her 17 years of bomb-building experience in the classroom as an American history teacher in Ozark, Mo.

"I actually have Korean War and World War II bomb casings that sit in my classroom, along with some 30-milimeter bullet casings, and the kids really get a kick out of seeing that," she said. "It can be a great teaching tool to get them engaged."

Her three deployments, once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan, have also given her a unique perspective in the classroom, she said.

"I think it's very important for my students to know what life is like for the military," McConnell said. "Talking to my students about my experiences can be eye-opening for some of them. Each time I deployed, it cut in the school year just a little bit, so they became more aware of what was happening on the other side of the world."

Next year, McConnell said she will be teaching a leadership course, something a senior noncommissioned officer in the Air Force knows something about - but that doesn't mean it won't be a challenge for her.

"Teaching eighth grade can definitely be harder than building bombs," she said. "Only one of them comes with a step-by-step manual on how to do it, but I love it."

No one objects when you work with munitions

Tech. Sgt. Jeff Wetzel sees explosions in the court room from time to time in Kansas City, Mo. as a civil lawyer for national banks.

In the 442nd Maintenance Squadron he tests and inspects munitions meant to make big explosions.

"One day during my workweek can be very mentally challenging," he said, "and the next day, with ammo, it can be very physically challenging. But some weekends I come in, and I don't care how hard we work, because it's different from what I do every other day, and I love it."

Research is one thing Wetzel enjoys doing, and he gets to do his fair share of it as both a lawyer and as an ammo troop.

"It takes about two hours to prep for processing and inspecting 30-millimeter ammo between reading all five (technical orders)," he said. "Then, when something breaks, you're heading back to the books for troubleshooting. As a lawyer, there are times when I'm in the books researching and writing all day."

As a reservist however, Wetzel doesn't have to do it alone like he does in the courtroom.

"I have three other civil litigators I can go to who can help me, but the vast majority of my work, including hearings, is all on my own," he said. "But in the Reserve, I've got a lot of people I can go to for help with something I'm working on." One of those people, is retired Chief Master Sgt. Greg Wetzel, former 442nd Maintenance Squadron weapon's loader, and Jeff Wetzel's dad. "My dad was in this unit for a long time," Jeff Wetzel said. "He told me this was one of the top career fields he recommended for me to go in to. It's so different than my civilian job, but my dad was right. I love being both an ammo troop and a lawyer."

Source (including 1 photo)

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