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Air Commando goes from maintainer to aircrew

Staff Sgt. Stephen Welsh, a communication navigation systems craftsman with the 901st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, stands in front of an MC-130H Combat Talon II on the flightline at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 25, 2017. Welsh was selected to retrain into the remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Krystal M. Garrett)

Staff Sgt. Stephen Welsh, a communication navigation systems craftsman with the 901st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, stands in front of an MC-130H Combat Talon II on the flightline at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 25, 2017. Welsh was selected to retrain into the remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Krystal M. Garrett)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- One Air Commando from the 901st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron has decided to continue his Air Force career as a remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator.

Staff Sgt. Stephen Welsh, a communication navigation systems craftsman with the 901st SOAMXS, is set to attend technical training for his new career field in March.

Although the process wasn’t as smooth and fast as he hoped it to be, Welsh is motivated and eager to start his new journey.

“I started my retraining process back in 2015,” said Welsh. “Due to a deployment and Airman Leadership School, I fell out of my First-Term Airman retraining window.”

The FTA retraining program allows Airmen in their first enlistment to retrain into other career fields after serving a certain amount of time in their original career field. The minimum and maximum number of months that the retraining process must take place varies for each enlistment contract.

Welsh applied for and received an exception to policy letter and continued his retraining process. He also had to retake his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test in order to be accepted into the RPA sensor operator career field.

With six years of experience as a maintainer, Welsh is excited to begin his journey as an aircrew member.

“Being part of aircrew and fulfilling a different aspect of the mission is what I look forward to the most,” said Welsh. “As a [communication navigation systems] Airman, I was helping the mission by ensuring aircraft got in the air, as a RPA operator sensor I will be helping the mission by performing aircrew duties.”

Welsh stated that he is prepared for the drastic change in duties he will experience during his retraining process.

“I’ll miss my [communication navigation systems team] but I am ready for a new challenge,” said Welsh.
His fellow communication navigation systems wingmen shared his sentiment.

“I couldn’t ask for a better troop,” said Tech. Sgt. Ceaser Fernandez, a flightline expeditor with the 901st SOAMXS. “I’ve been his supervisor since he graduated technical school, and I hate to see him leave.”

Fernandez stated how the 901st will be losing a good maintainer, but he fully supports Welsh’s decision to retrain.

“He will be a great asset to the RPA operator sensor career field,” said Fernandez. “I can’t wait to see where his career will take him.”