KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
He may be drinking from an informational fire hose right now, but as the 403rd Wing’s first of three traditional reserve group superintendents, he has embraced his new role as a proponent for the enlisted force.
“I have been learning a lot very quickly,” said Chief Master Sgt. Darren Bannister, who started his new job with the 403rd Operations Group in September.
As the group superintendent for the 500-person organization, Bannister will add value to the group’s leadership team and the Air Force Reserve enterprise by providing the commander with information regarding the operational effectiveness of the group as well as the training and equipping of Airmen to carry out the wing’s mission, said 403rd Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Amanda J. Stift. She added that the 403rd Mission Support Group and 403rd Maintenance Group are in the process of hiring someone into these positions.
In his new role, Bannister works with squadron superintendents, career enlisted managers and first sergeants to oversee the readiness, training, health, morale, welfare and quality of life for 403rd OG Airmen. He is also responsible for the professional development of Airmen to include supporting military education, retention, and professional enhancement programs.
“I’m the voice of the enlisted to the operations group commander,” said Bannister. “I’m also his voice to the enlisted.”
“He has the professional knowledge and depth of experience that goes with the rank of chief master sergeant, and he has a true desire for developing young Airmen personally and professionally to prepare them for their roles as noncommissioned officers,” said Lt. Col. Ivan Deroche, 403rd Operations Group commander.
This is what made Bannister stand out among his peers, according to the command chief.
“His focus was on motivating the Airmen, elevating their skillsets at all levels and developing them for the future,” she said. “He’s a great addition to our wing leadership team, and we are sure the Airmen will see the value he adds.”
Bannister enlisted in the Air Force in 1995 and was a dental technician until he transferred to the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing in July 2000. He became a loadmaster in the 815th Airlift Squadron and was their first sergeant during their 2013-2014 deployment to Southwest Asia. He also served as the group’s interim first sergeant this year. In his civilian capacity, he works as a contract simulator instructor for Joint Maintenance Aircrew Training Systems program on base.
As a reservist, he is well aware of the challenges with balancing military, civilian and family requirements.
“I’m a big believer in taking care of your family, taking care of yourself, and taking care of your civilian employer,” said the chief who is married with a child. “If those three are not in line, it is difficult to give 100 percent to your Reserve duties. It’s a balance; it’s busy, but possible.”
He is also an advocate of force development and civilian education.
“I was a terrible high school student,” Bannister said, who grew up as a self-proclaimed ‘Air Force brat’ and enlisted in the Air Force out of high school. “In basic training I still remember (my military training instructor) Sergeant Boudreaux at 3 a.m., scraping his taps against the floor … I laid there in my bunk and said to myself, ‘I’ve got to go to college.’
“I realized the importance of education; it will never close a door,” he said, adding he likes to help other Airmen with their career progression and educational pursuits.
During the chief’s 24-year career, he has earned two Community College of the Air Force degrees, one in dental technology and another in aviation management, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of Southern Mississippi and a Masters of Business Administration from William Carey University.
Because he is still in the learning phase of the job and with his passion to help others, he said he wants to get to know the Airmen who work in the group’s squadrons and flights and become better educated about their missions.
“I want them to know who I am, and that I work for them,” he said, adding that his door is not just open but off the hinges, and he is always there to listen. “My focus is to make sure they are all trained, career progressed, and ready to deploy in 72 hours, but I also want the Airmen to know we care about them and appreciate what they do in accomplishing the mission.”