The Springfield Air National Guard presents a unique opportunity to some of those stationed at the 178th Wing — flying remote-piloted drone combat missions overseas from the base and returning home at the end of the day.
Nearly 1,100 people are part of the 178th Wing at the Springfield-Bexley Airport, and the base contributes $235 million the to local economy each year, Master Sgt. Shane Hughes, public affairs superintendent, said.
All personnel have access to mental and spiritual health resources through the chaplain corps and director of psychological health Amy Hernandez, who works on the base, said Col. Kent Kazmaier, who commands the base.
The guard directly impacts the economy in large and small ways, including, Kazmaier said, simply by members going out to lunch on a weekend when they are one the base, since their number is so great.
During the base’s Community Day on Thursday, leaders said that coming home after deployment for a period of time provides a clear separation of work and life, whereas going home immediately after remotely flying a combat mission can provide a challenge.
Kazmaier said the airmen at the 178th recognize mental health support is crucial in this kind of work, and the base continues to add more resources. He said the 178th is looking into adding another psychological health director.
“Our people are our No. 1 resource, so if we’re not caring for our people, we’re not doing a job,” Hughes said. “So we’re going to make sure that we are caring for our people first and foremost.”
The base is home to several squadrons that provide services, including intelligence, medical support, air control, mission support, personnel support and civil engineering. Airmen use advanced technologies to support their missions, including long-range radios, signal boosters, pole cameras, weapons and munitions and remote-piloted drones.
Hughes said the guard reports to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and can be called upon for federal or state support. He said using technology like aerial camera footage, airmen can help local authorities during a disaster determine where aid is needed most, which roads may be blocked and what is the best path for rescues.
Hughes said that in 2020, one sensor operator assigned to the 178th who provided aid during the California wildfires helped direct firefighters to a community that was surrounded by flames, saving hundreds of lives.
Technical Sgt. Brianna Smith, production recruiter, said her goal is to recruit 36 members a year. She said last year the base recruited 75-80 people.
Hughes said the 178th is not facing recruitment challenges like much of the military.
Smith said airmen receive full-ride scholarships to public in-state schools, a monthly student stipend, low-cost healthcare and more. She said intelligence and medical positions are currently available.
“What puts us in a very unique position is that we get the chance to not just serve our country, but we really get to serve our community and see firsthand how our efforts are helping fellow Americans,” Smith said.
Kazmaier said while the 178th is a large support for the community, the community returns the favor.
“The guard is a reflection of the community, and the community is a huge support of the Air National Guard,” Kazmaier said. We can’t do our mission without the community — the employers, also the politicians and just the local community that support us.”
Credit: Bill Lackey
Credit: Bill Lackey
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