St. Joseph, MO -- Senior Airman Taylor Gilbert, an electrical systems apprentice with the 139th Civil Engineer Squadron, decided he wanted more out of life as he was finishing his degree.
“I was interested in law enforcement and I still am, but I wanted to learn a trade so I enlisted into the Air National Guard to learn electrical systems to have a variety of different opportunities and career fields for later,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert finished his criminal justice degree shortly after he enlisted with the 139th Airlift Wing. Learning a trade wasn’t the only reason he joined.
“I was told that once I arrived back at the squadron we were going to deploy, so before I even enlisted I knew I was about to go on a deployment whenever I got back, so that appealed to me,” he said.
Gilbert had no previous electrical, or other trade experience, but his first deployment provided him with countless hands-on experiences.
During his deployment to Qatar, and then Jordan, he performed tasks like electrical underground distribution, trenching, hooking up pad mounted transformers to primary panels, troubleshooting different buildings to find, and fix faults and inspect grounding systems to make sure the buildings that were being turned over to the main base civil engineering unit were properly working.
“The warranty had run out and we had to completely wreck our entire electrical conduit and run the lights and the switches and the panels,” said Gilbert. “We had to completely redo everything.”
During his deployment, Gilbert established friendships that will follow him throughout his life.
“We met each other here for the first time getting back from technical training and then we were roommates for the entire deployment,” said Gilbert. “We worked out and we held each other accountable throughout the deployment, so it was nice to have a good mentor and friend out of Technical Sgt. Winder.”
Gilbert explained how different his military friendships were compared to his civilian ones. He described how the experiences and hardships, like training and being away from family, affected him. He said it strengthens those bonds unlike anything else in today's world.
“I do appreciate the bonds that I have from my deployment actually, I have kept in touch with many people,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert’s most memorable part of deployment happened before he began. He enjoyed the combat training given beforehand because it was a unique and unusual skill set for an electrician to have.
“I’d say the coolest part about the deployment and being a part of the civil engineering squadron was you wouldn’t think of an electrician needing to be trained on combat skills, being captured and evasion after capture, and techniques like that, but we went through a course called ECAC,” he said.
ECAC stands for evasion conduct after capture. This course is designed to help Airmen prepare for any type of situation where they could be captured.
Gilbert says he is also a part of the First Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group (First ECOG). This group sets up and prepares living situations for Airmen in a training or deployed situation.
“We do bare base stuff. If we need to go to a ford operating post and develop tent cities and run generators and AC and everything to get people a sustainable area to live in as well as developing a runway, their field lighting systems and everything it takes to get planes off and landing,” said Gilbert.
Something Gilbert has taken advantage of throughout his time at the 139th Airlift Wing is being involved. This is his biggest advice to any new Airman trying to find their way.
“I would give a student flighter, or new Airman, some advice on getting involved,” said Gilbert. “If you are staying to yourself and not taking opportunities to intermingle with others you're gonna feel like your experience is lesser…The experience is what you make it.”
Since Gilbert received his degree the same time he enlisted, he would like to give his educational benefits to his future children.
“I do see myself staying in for at least another enlistment to get my benefits for 10 years for my children,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert is considering becoming a commissioned officer to make a career out of his military experience. With his criminal justice and law enforcement degree he would like to be commissioned in that field of expertise, but is open to any commissioned opportunity.