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In 2002, William Etter, a Brigadier General with the 134th Fighter Squadron of the Vermont Air National Guard, became one of the first reservists called up as part of the so-called War on Terror. For Etter, it meant hanging up his wings–at least in terms of his schedule with his full-time employer, Delta Air Lines Inc., where he has worked as a pilot for the past 19 years.

For Delta, it would mark the beginning of a period in which its pilot roster would be seriously challenged by the ever increasing demands of the Pentagon for fliers in Iraq and elsewhere. Over the past four years, Delta has been losing between 150 and 200 full-time pilots annually to some period of military service. “We’ve had to add 90 to 100 extra pilots to our roster, at a cost last year of $13 million, to be able to handle all the active-duty call-ups of our pilots,” says Steve Dickson, director of flight operations at Delta. Despite the financial stress that the company and its industry have endured since 9/11 and the run-up in the cost of fuel oil, Delta was more than willing to accept the challenge–explaining why the Pentagon recently awarded Delta a Five-Star Employer Award for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

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