Max Flex: The Air Operations Support Technician

Magazine Article / January 27, 2020 / Project number: RCAF-Excelsior-Winter-2020-03

The Air Operations Support Technician (AOS Tech) is an exciting new occupation that is the first of its kind in that its ranks are filled exclusively by reservists. These members are playing an important role in helping the RCAF address capability gaps at the tactical level.

Corporal Travis Valliquette joined the RCAF Reserve in Sept, 2017 and is an AOS Tech at 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron at 8 Wing in Trenton, Ontario. For this issue of Excelsior, we asked him to describe his occupation as he has experienced it:

Cpl Valliquette, what was it about the Air Operations Support Technician occupation that attracted you?

What attracted me most was the fact that I would be able to be a part of the military, while at the same time getting an education to follow my passion for Animation by studying at Loyalist College. The flexible hours and the full-time employment in the summer were a big help as well. I’ve always had a thing for the military, so it was perfect for me to scratch that itch while also furthering my education.

Who was most instrumental in helping you decide to become an AOS Tech?

For me, my family was a big supporter in my joining the RCAF Reserve, as I was not happy in my civilian job. Once I found out about the new AOS Tech trade, Chief Warrant Officer James McKenzie at 8 Wing [Trenton, Ontario] was very helpful in getting me all the info I needed about the trade and how I could get started. Overall, there were a lot of people involved with getting me into the new AOS Tech trade.        

How has your training been so far?

My training so far has been both fun and challenging. I have been through all of the AOS training, and I am currently in the middle of my SAR Support training.  Personally, I think the training is the best part of the trade, because you get exposure to all sorts of occupations within the military, like Avionics Systems (AVS) and Aviation Systems (AVN) Technicians, SAR Techs, and Riggers. 

How did the occupation’s employment flexibility (ability to work nights and week-ends, for example) help you balance your schedule between being a full-time student and a member of the military?

The flexible hours is one of the best things about this trade in terms of balancing work with school or even another part-time job. It was one less thing that I had to worry about while I was in school, as I was able to work as much or as little as I needed, depending on my school schedule. I was able to pick my hours for the month and be able to focus on my studies. The guaranteed four months of full-time employment in the summer was helpful; I didn’t have to worry about finding another summer job.  This is when the bulk of my training took place.  I was also able to see how the unit and base operate on a daily basis. 

What do you find most interesting in your daily work routine? Does this occupation provide you with a challenging environment?

I find the most interesting part of my job is working in the SAR section, with the variety of tasks that there can be. One day I’ll be doing administrative tasks, and the next day I could be assisting in packing cargo parachutes or supporting a drop zone, where we will be collecting the cargo drops and assisting in SAR Techs’ jumps.

This occupation does have some challenging environments. Walking through a wooded area retrieving a cargo drop can be physically challenging, and packing the cargo parachutes can be mentally challenging - you have to pack the ‘chute correctly so that it opens properly in the air.

What it is like to be a member of the air operations team, and how do you think you contribute to your wing’s operations?

Being a part of the air operations team is really fun, and the people are great. On the maintenance side, we help out the technicians with their CC-130H Hercules servicing tasks, such as refuelling them or launching them as part of the aircraft ground party, as well as other tasks so that they can focus on fixing our planes.  We even take up Wing Auxiliary Security Force (WASF) tasks to further help those technicians out. 

On the SAR side, the SAR Techs ─in my personal experience─ have been very happy to have me around, helping in support of drop zones and maintaining their droppable kits.  Overall, I feel that we AOS Techs have a very positive impact on wing operations.

What words of advice/encouragement would you have for someone thinking of becoming an AOS Tech?

I would have to say to that person, “Just do it!”  It gives you exposure to a lot of different occupations to help you choose what you want to do in the military. It’s perfect for students, because it’s a flexible part-time job that will give you a lot of experience to take back to your civilian job, or maybe you will find your love for the military and decide to stay in. It’s a great experience, and an amazing way to start your military career if you’re not sure what you want to do. Either way, there are a ton of opportunities, whatever you decide to do.

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