Milestone for Delaware Air National Guard [video]
On its 67th birthday, the Delaware Air National Guard is also celebrating a recruiting milestone; for the first time since the Vietnam War era, the Delaware Air Guard is 100 percent fully staffed.
Filling the last spot, 17-year-old Dominique DiMatteo took the oath of enlistment, Friday, at Delaware Air Guard headquarters in New Castle. DiMatteo brings DANG's personnel numbers to its authorized strength of 1,107.
"It's a guaranteed job, and I know I'll be able to go to school and I'm part of something bigger now - it's not like I'm just going to be on my own. Now I have a new family to be with all the time, other people to take care of," DiMatteo said.
DiMatteo is a senior at the Delaware Military Academy in Wilmington. Graduating in June 2014, the new recruit enlisted into the 142nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
"As I met people in the medical, they were just, it was the only thing that I was really interested in. That was the first time I found a job that just really seemed like something I would love to do," DiMatteo said.
Once she graduates, DiMatteo will head to basic training and start her technical training.
“Our recruiting team and our entire base population have worked hard to inform young people in our region of the overall value and sense of service that a person can gain from joining the Delaware Air National Guard," Brigadier General Carol Timmons said. “We are still hiring for great part-time positions, and we fully intend to push on to reach 102 percent manning in the year ahead as we strengthen our organization for the future.”
The Delaware Air Guard recruiting team received the Air National Guard’s 2012 National Patriot Team Award that recognizes the best recruiting team in a 10-state region, and the 2012 Golden Eagle Award that recognizes the best recruiting state in the region.
100 percent manning level
For the past 18 months, Brig. Gen. Timmons says the 166th Airlift Wing has been working hard towards full personnel strength, which she says will allow DANG to operate more efficiently.
"We're not short of anything. And if somebody can't deploy, if it's a volunteer requirement and their employer needs them, then someone else is ready to step up. It just allows for greater flexibility," Timmons said. "And it says a lot about our organization. It says that people want to be here."
A full staff is significant in more ways than one for the Air Guard, offering a certain sense of security.
In May 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended shutting down the Delaware Air Guard; eventually, that decision was overturned in August.
"I would say in this day and age with all the budgets and the cutbacks, yeah, it's easier to look at a unit that may not be at a 100 percent, or historically been low-manned... and if they need to take away some jobs, they may look at that unit as an easier target than a unit like ours," Timmons said. "I feel that we're not really on any kind of target list, post 2005 BRAC because of the mission that we do here."
The 166th Airlift Wing is made up of pilots, an aeromedical evacuation group, which can transform a plane into a flying hospital, maintenance and mission support groups, as well as a cyber defense unit.
"We are right on the leading edge of what the United States Dept. of Defense, the military needs these days, both domestically and overseas," Timmons said.
DANG says Friday's swearing in coincidentally fell on the unit's 67th anniversary.