Reserve Aviation Crews Arrive at Air Station Savannah

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Schuyler Chervinko (left), Petty Officer 3rd Class Forrest Coltham (center), both aviation maintenance technicians, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Doug Scherer, an avionics electrical technician, are the newest members of the Coast Guard's reserve aviation workforce program and began their reserve duty at Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, Georgia, Oct. 16, 2021. The program currently allows enlisted members in the aviation career field separating from active duty the opportunity to transfer into the reserves. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena)

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Schuyler Chervinko (left), Petty Officer 3rd Class Forrest Coltham (center) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Doug Scherer are the newest members of the Coast Guard’s reserve aviation workforce program and began their reserve duty at Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, Georgia. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena)

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The three newest reserve enlisted aviation Coast Guardsmen have arrived at Coast Guard Air Station Savannah and are ready to add their skill and expertise to the unit known as the, “Low Country Lifesavers.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Doug Scherer, an avionics electrical technician, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Forrest Coltham and Schuyler Chervinko, both aviation maintenance technicians, joined their active-duty counterparts after serving at non-aviation units since separating from active duty at least a year ago.

“We didn’t want to totally part ways with the Coast Guard so once separating we were serving wherever the Coast Guard placed us,” said Scherer. “For me, it was Station Panama City doing boat crew qualifications even though I had over six years of aircrew experience. Chervinko was at Base Charleston for two years working in the engineering department fixing cutter small boats.”

These experienced aircrew members were told they would have to remain at non-aviation units until their military commitment was fulfilled. If they wanted to remain in the reserves after that they would be required to change rates. That meant they would all have to learn a new job at “A” school and, for Scherer, a reduction in paygrade to petty officer 3rd class.

The Coast Guard saw a need to retain these experienced enlisted aviators in aviation positions who were separating but didn’t want to disconnect completely from the Coast Guard.

In June 2021, the Coast Guard Office of Aviation forces and the Coast Guard Reserve Program deployed the reserve aviation workforce program. The program started by making 50 enlisted aviation billets throughout the Coast Guard available to E-4 through E-6 members separating from active duty.

“(It’s) designed to create an aviation surge and mobilization capability, retain aviation technical expertise, and develop a career path for aviation personnel in the reserve component,” in a message released in June by Rear Adm. Todd C. Weimers, assistant commandant for capabilities and assistant commandant for reserves.

This was the news Scherer, Chervinko and Coltham were waiting for. They were excited they would be able to remain in aviation and not have to retrain.

“We did not want to have to re-learn a whole new career field,” said Chervinko. “To be honest, I would have completely separated if I had to retrain knowing I had almost seven years of aircrew, and aviation experience so I was definitely excited once the new program kicked off.”

Currently, the focus of the program will be to provide ground-based aircraft and support equipment maintenance though flight status designation is definitely not off the table and will up the unit’s commanding officer.

The office of Aviation Forces and Deputy Commandant for Mission Support plans to schedule various training opportunities for the reserve aviation workforce. Personnel from Air Station Savannah are doing their part as well to ensure the new members are taken care of.

“Myself and YN1 Dillard adjusted our duty schedules to ensure one of us is here at least one day every weekend the new reservists are here,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Tifanee Lasley, a yeoman at Air Station Savannah. “Besides inputting drills, we wanted to make sure they knew we were here to help them with whatever admin support they needed.”

Lesley and Petty Officer 1st Class Jillian Dillard work at the air station’s administration department and are in charge of assisting members with any pay issues, weigh-ins, travel orders and claims.

The air station command has created a drill schedule for the entire year, ensured a senior member in engineering is on hand with the reservists to provide guidance and mentorship, and is creating a plan of the day every day the reservists are drilling.

Spearheading the effort at the air station is Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Snyder, Air Station Savannah’s engineering officer. As their direct supervisor, Snyder’s job is to make sure the reservists have what they need to succeed and ensure the successful integration of the reservists in the unit’s maintenance shops.

“This is a great opportunity for our hangar and reservists,” said Snyder. “With them, we now have the ability to retain personnel in which the service invested vast training. Our job is to hone their aviation support skills so they are ready for the next surge of aviation forces.”

The enlisted reserve aviation workforce program is only the beginning of changes coming to the Coast Guard aviation community. There is currently a plan in the works to establish reserve pilot billets in 2022, though the details of that program are still being worked on.


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