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Flight crew member keeps JSTARS talking

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kimberly, a communications system technician with the 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard, works at an operator work station aboard the E-8C Joint STARS, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., May 15, 2013. Kimberly is a full-time, civil service employee ensuring communication equipment aboard the aircraft is running optimally during flight. (Full name withheld for security purposes) (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger
Parsons/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kimberly, a communications system technician with the 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard, works at an operator work station aboard the E-8C Joint STARS, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., May 15, 2013. Kimberly is a full-time, civil service employee ensuring communication equipment aboard the aircraft is running optimally during flight. (Full name withheld for security purposes) (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Growing up a in a military family, Staff Sgt. Kimberly knew she was going to serve in the military as her family had done for many generations. When her family settled in Warner Robins it only seemed fitting to join the Georgia Air National Guard.

Kimberly is now a full-time, civil service, communication systems technician, with the 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron. The 128th is a flying unit in the 116th Air Control Wing.

What made you decide to join the Air National Guard? I wanted the opportunity to travel, to become more focused, and to make a better life for myself.

Did you ever envision being a full-time technician in the Guard? When I joined, I didn't know military members could become full-time, civil service employees and still wear the military uniform. I was thinking about the "weekend warrior" who served one weekend a month and two weeks a year but it turned into so much more. It was a great surprise. I'm grateful to be a technician in the 128th.

As a Communication Systems Technician, what do you do? I'm the "Geek Squad" of the sky you could say. Prior to flight, I test the systems to make sure everything is up and functioning properly. In flight, I'm in charge of multiple pieces of communication equipment; troubleshooting and fixing problems to make sure the equipment will allow us to communicate when we need to. It's an enjoyable job.

How do you feel your job "fits" into the overall JSTARS mission? Communication is huge for us, it's what we do. We [crew members], have to be able to talk to the guys and gals on the ground and in the air at the same time other crew members perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance duties. That is why JSTARS is considered a C2 (Command and Control) and ISR platform.

What is it like being deployed? It's humbling; it makes me appreciate home more. Every time I deploy I learn something new and I feel it's an opportunity to better myself. Since 2010, I've deployed five times and I do it because I believe I should "step-up" because that's my job. I feel I have to earn my keep and pull my weight.

You've won some wing and national level awards early in your career, what awards did you earn? I won the Airman of the Year for the Georgia Air National Guard. It was awesome; great to win that award. I also won the Red Erwin Outstanding Enlisted Aircrew Member of the Year award.

What do you feel is the motivating factor for your success? My leadership is always encouraging me to do better. They work as hard for me as I do for them. Without them I wouldn't be where I am today. I also want to make my family and myself proud too and feel good at the end of the day knowing I accomplished something.

"SSgt Kim is an example I wish that all Guard members would emulate," said Master Sgt. James, assistant director of personnel, 116th Operations Group. "She has stepped up in every situation and is someone that can be counted on."

Kimberly has been in the Georgia Air National Guard since October of 2008.

(Full names have been withheld for security purposes.)