August 14, 2013 (by Capt. Ashley Conner) - Balancing a military career and family life can be challenging for some, but balancing a second civilian career provides an opportunity for one Alaska Reservist to live out his dream.
Maj. Wade Bridges, Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd FS and Alaska Airlines First Officer, prepares to fly a routine sortie on July 18th, 2013. Bridges splits his time between flying the F-22 for Alaska’s only Air Force Reserve unit and a Boeing 737 for Alaska Airlines [USAF photo by Capt. Ashley Conner]
"Alaska provides a flying experience that is unmatched anywhere else," said Maj. Wade Bridges, Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron and Alaska Airlines First Officer. "Almost every pilot dreams of flying in the state of Alaska, so having the opportunity to fly the F-22 and fly for Alaska Airlines is an opportunity that I couldn't pass up."
Bridges transitioned from being a full time Air Reserve Technician to a Traditional Reservist when he was hired as a Boeing 737 pilot with Alaska Airlines in 2012. Between the two jobs he works on average 23 days a month which allows him time to fulfill the requirements of both jobs and still have about around 8 days off a month.
"Both organizations have options available to trade trips or move military days, which is very helpful in providing a monthly schedule to fulfill both commitments," said Bridges. "Alaska airlines is very accommodating to its military members and the Reserve unit is structured around most members having a full time civilian job."
After graduating from Oregon State Bridges commissioned into the Air Force and was an active duty F-16 pilot before transitioning to the Reserve in 2008 as an F-22 pilot in the 477th Fighter Group, Alaska's only Air Force Reserve unit. Both the 477th FG and the 302nd Fighter Squadron trace their history back to the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Working for two employers with such rich history is a perk for Bridges.
"Flying for a company that has such a great history as Alaska Airlines, dating back to 1932, is exciting," said Bridges. "The locations that they fly into are very interesting and challenging. From O'Hare airport in Chicago to Nome, AK, I have the opportunity to see a huge variation in locations."
While two careers in aviation in Alaska have enabled Bridges to meet his professional goals it also helps the 477th Fighter Group, Alaska's only Air Force Reserve unit, meet their objectives.
"Without supportive employers, Traditional Reservists couldn't do what they do," said Col. Tyler Otten, 477th Fighter Group commander. "We place significant demands on our TRs in terms of normal training and deployments. Those demands would remain unmet if employers were unwilling to support their employees that continue to serve their country in the Air Force Reserve."