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From dream to reality: after 55 years, ART program remains stabilizing force.

Darn neckties. I never did like putting them on or taking them off. But I was forced to loosen one up and pull it off the man who was lying beneath me on the floor after he experienced a massive heart attack.

By the time one other man and I managed to undo the tightly tied knot, some nurses and paramedics were on the scene performing CPR and eventually electrical shocks to get him back to consciousness and life. It didn't work.

What a terrible way to introduce oneself to the legendary L.C. "Lee" Lingelbach, who many affectionately refer to as the "Father of the Air Force Reserve air reserve technician program." That warm July night in 1989, I, along with many others, was attending a retirement dinner at the Officers Open Mess at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. Almost immediately upon returning to his seat at a table next to mine, having just made a presentation at the podium, Lingelbach had his fatal moment.


Little did I know how huge a shadow this man had cast over the Air Force Reserve since the 1950s. My only wish was that I had met him under different circumstances.

In the early beginnings of the Air Force Reserve, there were many initiatives to try and find a balanced organizational structure and manpower system to make the Reserve system work efficiently. In 1947, Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal appointed Gordon Gray, then the assistant secretary of the Army, to head a Committee on Civilian Components to review civilian positions within the services for best fit and utilization.

His committee made many far-reaching recommendations, including the idea that full-time personnel be assigned as members of reserve units to establish a permanent foundation of administrators by utilizing reservists called to active duty to man personnel positions on flying center staffs. They were called Category R reservists.

There were advantages and disadvantages to the Category R program. Lt. Gen. Ennis Whitehead, commander of Continental Air Command, warmed to the idea that the program would definitely help establish day-to-day continuity at reserve locations during the weeks that the part-time reserve force was not present for duty. However, he was not satisfied with the concept of permanent military personnel remaining on an active tour being exempt from overseas service.

Whitehead and other ConAC senior leaders determined the initiative did not adequately meet the Air Force Reserve's needs. They then pushed forward the suggestion to establish a technician program similar to what the Air National Guard utilized.

In 1954, Lee Lingelbach was serving as ConAC's director of civilian personnel. He sponsored and pushed forward a strategic personnel plan that called for employment of ARTs to fill the critical need for continuity of effort at flying centers and, eventually, wings spread across the continental United States. These ARTs would be members of their assigned units, serving in uniform during their military training while simultaneously serving in a civil service capacity during the normal work week.

The objective of the ART concept was to establish maximum combat readiness effectiveness with lower personnel costs. The ARTs would work reserve issues at their locations on a daily basis rather than leaving them unanswered until the unit assembled en masse.

The plan had to make it through multiple layers of approval, including the Air Staff, secretary of defense and Civil Service Commission, before being implemented. From 1954 to the program's implementation in 1958, the initiative experienced a number of re-writes and bureaucratic overtures from higher echelons that would have normally meant the death of the plan. However, with every hurdle the plan faced, Lingelbach and others in ConAC were right there to make the necessary changes and keep pushing it forward.

The Air Staff and Civil Service Commission's questions were not all frivolous. Some major items needed clarification before the program could go anywhere. These concerns encompassed such things as determining rules and possible exceptions to competitive service, ensuring military service obligations and determining age limit considerations.

Through years of questioning, revising, brainstorming and defending, Lingelbach never dropped the ART cause. Despite long odds, he continually forged ahead. He fervently believed that the ART program was the best way the Air Force Reserve could provide a stabilizing force for a part-time military organization. He was relentless in his journey.

Final program resolution came about on Jan. 10, 1958, during a swearing-in ceremony at Headquarters ConAC, when Lt. Gen. William E. Hall, ConAC commander, enlisted Master Sgt. Samuel C. McCormack and Tech. Sgt. James W. Clark as the first two Air Force Reserve ARTs.

In the years since 1958, the ART program has required some necessary tweaking. But, today, it remains the stabilizing force--nearly 10,000 strong--that Lingelbach and others envisioned it to be.

Determination against strong outside forces, persistence to a cause that some would think unwinnable and the fortitude to see a seemingly impossible dream come true: these are characteristics that are truly worthy of emulation.

In 1998, the Professional Development Center at Robins AFB was dedicated to Lingelbach's lasting heritage. His career accomplishments spanning 48 years of civil service were highlighted at the ceremony along with his crowning achievement, the ART program. As a testament to Lingelbach's resiliency and stalwart dedication to the Air Force Reserve, the narrator commented that during his lengthy years of service, "he used a total of four hours of sick leave!" He never left his post.

What Lingelbach left the Air Force Reserve was much more than the ART program. He left behind a legacy of service before self.

(A frequent contributor to Citizen Airman magazine, Van Deventer is assigned to the Expeditionary Combat Support Division of the Installation and Mission Support Directorate at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, Robins AFB.)
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Author:Van Deventer, Gene
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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