Some in the business aviation industry leave behind their families and jobs to serve in active war zones. In the continuing AIN series intended to recognize those in our community who defend the way of life we continue to enjoy back home, senior editor David A. Lombardo spoke with A&P mechanic Kevin Edwards about his recent service in the U.S. Army National Guard. This is Edwards's story. If you or someone you know in business aviation is absent and in harm's way on our behalf, we'd like to hear from you.
Sergeant Kevin Edwards
South Carolina Army National Guard
A&P mechanic, StandardAero, Augusta, Ga.
When I decided to join the National Guard I knew I didn't want to work in aviation. I wanted to do something different from my civilian job, so I signed up for the infantry," Kevin Edwards told AIN.
Edwards was trained as an infantry soldier but he has been cross-trained to assist communities in the event of natural disaster.
"Our unit is prepared to activate in the event of an attack on U.S. or foreign soil. As a result, we are currently on a Homeland Security mission to support any need that may arise here in the United States," Edwards said.
He said he regularly trains in the techniques of urban combat, jungle survival, room clearing and a variety of other associated tasks.
"On the Homeland Security side of things we are trained how to evacuate areas stricken by disaster as well as how to properly search for victims, provide medevac support and provide security for affected areas," he said.
Edwards originally joined the Air Force in 1982 and served in Columbus, Mo., and Okinawa, Japan. The experience he gained in aviation maintenance while in the Air Force laid the groundwork for him to transition into civilian aviation when he was discharged in 1986.
Edwards was working for Gulfstream in Savannah, Ga., on 9/11 and immediately went to a recruiter and enlisted for three years in the Army National Guard. He was trained as a forward observer and did that for two months, then transferred into a long-range recon and surveillance unit. "I discovered there is a big difference between the social club Air Force lifestyle and the ground pounding, get'er done, Army infantry lifestyle," he said.
"I was in the Guard and working for Gulfstream for two years when I was given one year leave of absence to go to Iraq as a civilian contractor working on Army Black Hawk helicopters. I was there for about six months, returned to the states in early 2004, finished out my contract at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and returned to Gulfstream," he said.
Edwards continued to work for Gulfstream for a year and in July 2005 took |a position as a maintenance technician with StandardAero in Augusta, Ga., where he works on a variety of bizjets.
"By the middle of 2007 I really began to miss the military aspect of my life, so I re-enlisted with the Georgia National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade. In early 2008 I transferred from the Georgia Guard to the South Carolina Guard."
Edwards said he found the Army Guard to be a better fit for him. "I found the training helped build a solid leadership and integrity foundation that transferred well into my civilian job, where I deal with customers directly while performing aircraft maintenance in the field away from our Augusta facility," he said.
"I enjoy a great sense of duty to my country. No matter who's in office, whether I agree or disagree with their policies, I am always ready to drop what I am doing to perform whatever may be required of me by my country," he said.
As a civilian Edwards performs inspections and maintenance on Challengers, Citations and the Embraer Legacy. "I also take care of a variety of Gulfstreams," he said. "Other duties include light paint and composite repair, supporting the airline regional jets in the event of a maintenance issue as they fly into Augusta and performing road trips in support of our current customers." Edwards also serves as a regional director for the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association and is an FAA Safety Team (FaasTeam) lead representative.
"StandardAero has been great with its support. The company has worked to improve benefits for its military employees and has never failed to recognize our efforts. The other members of my crew pull together to take up the slack during my absence so the job suffers little if any negative effect by my absence," he said.
"Since being in the National Guard, I have worked with two major aviation industry employers and have received only the best support for what I do. Unfortunately, many employers complain the soldier is spending too much time on his military job, but it's because of our military that employers are able to maintain the workloads that they enjoy and the net profits that result," Edwards said.
"If I could say one thing to all the employers of National Guard and Reserve personnel it would be this: 'Please support your soldiers. Their training may well save their lives when they are deployed, and it will cross over and provide the company with a true leader.