F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
After three years of serving as the Mobilization Assistant (MA) to the 20th Air Force commander, Brig. Gen. Erich Novak is leaving 20th Air Force. As a Citizen Airman and a Sentinel Warrior, Novak made it his priority support the commander, accomplish the mission, and to serve other reservists.
“When I first joined 20th Air Force as the MA to the commander, the position had been vacant for a while. We had a huge gap in opportunities for reservists in the nuclear enterprise,” Novak said. “There was little career development, they were not able to pull alerts, and weren’t doing missile operations (13N) duties.”
Retired Gen. Robin Rand, then the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, identified the gap in total force support for 20th Air Force and to grow missileers, missile maintainers and security forces. Novak set out to change that, first by learning the ins and outs of the ICBM mission. Then he developed a career development plan, which outlined the schooling, courses and career progression for 13N reservists. He also started seeking new billets at various ICBM bases to expand opportunities for reservists.
Novak’s big picture goal was to have reservists supporting the nuclear deterrence mission in a sustainable and a mission relevant manner, which included pulling 24-hour alerts and augmenting the Active Component force as requested by the Operations Group commanders starting with Col. Bob Ewers, 90th Missile Wing Operations Group commander. In the very near future, this change will be especially vital during the transition from the Minuteman III weapon system to Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). However, the road to success was not easy, because it was never done before.
“This is truly an example of Total Force,” said Col. Steven Priest, Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) to the vice commander of 20th Air Force. “With the addition of qualified Reservists to augment the Active Component, the USAF Reserve is truly fulfilling its key role to support Air Force Global Strike Command’s critical mission sets and enhance its capability to project power.”
With the help of other missileer reservists, Lt. Col. Jacqueline Hotz, Lt. Col. Kellie Picinni, Col. Robert Jackson, Lt. Col. Conn McKelvey and Col. Steven Priest, the hard work came to fruition. In October 2019, Capt. Ben Shea, from Minot AFB, North Dakota, became the first reservist to complete a 24 hour alert at a Missile Alert Facility. He was followed by Capt. Javon Quarles from F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, and Capt. Spencer Huyck from Malmstrom AFB, Montana.
“Gen. Novak’s energy, initiative and commitment to incorporate the Reserve Component into missile operations is unmatched,” said Maj. Gen. Fred Stoss, 20th Air Force commander. “20th Air Force will reap the benefits of his hard work for years to come.”
Novak’s departure from 20th Air Force is bittersweet, for him and the staff.
“Brig. Gen. Novak made lasting impacts to the operations, maintenance and security forces career fields” said Col. Robert Jackson, IMA to the 20th Air Force Director of Operations and Communications. “He basically doubled the number of Reservists serving within 20th Air Force in less than three years. I think the best thing about Gen. Novak is that he is extremely humble and approachable as a General Officer. He always makes time for everyone even though he has an extremely busy and difficult civilian job. I learned so much from him and we are going to miss him greatly.”
Besides learning about the nuclear mission and its importance, serving and learning from his fellow Airmen is what Novak will miss the most.
“I love learning about new missions. Any day where I don’t learn something new, is not a good day,” Novak said. “The men and women of 20th Air Force have amazed me with their dedication, service and professionalism, and it was an honor to serve alongside every single one of them.”
Gen. Novak’s next assignment takes him to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, where he will serve the Mobilization Assistant (MA) to the commander of 8th Air Force.