AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
For a young Airman, heading out on a first deployment can be a stressful time. You’re tasked to go to an unfamiliar place, usually halfway across the world. There are new climates, time zones, and cultures, all which require acclimation. You’re separated from your pets, friends, and family. There’s always the opportunity to pack small mementos that remind you of home, but it’s not like you could pack a friend or parent in your carry-on, right? Well, almost right. That’s nearly what one young Airman had the opportunity to do.
Senior Airman Derek Gibb, 968th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron computer display maintenance technician, is an Air Force Reservist deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Derek was excited when he found out at the end of 2020 that he and his father, Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Gibb, 968th EAACS aviation resource manager, would be heading out in the same rotation.
“It definitely made it a lot easier knowing that my dad was coming as well,” Derek said. “I’m newer to the unit, so my dad has exposed me to many people that I otherwise wouldn’t know. I get out and do many things, and that’s because I’m with him.”
Derek and Daniel have always had a close relationship. They enjoy weekly family dinners, sports games, and hunting together. This being the first deployment for both men has made it a special experience, but Daniel had his doubts about coming here with his son.
“I think it would have been easier if we weren’t both here together,” said Daniel. “This deployment has been great, but I’d also feel good knowing one of us was home helping his mother wherever she may need it.”
Derek shared the same sentiment after hearing his father’s concerns.
“My mom does tend to worry about us quite a bit,” he said. “A part of my decision to join the reserve component instead of active duty like my older brother was because my mom worried it’d be difficult to get all the family together at one time. I want to be there for her as much as I can.”
Derek and Daniel’s love for their mother and wife is one of their many shared commonalities. Some of their other mutual loves include the Chicago Bears, outdoor activities, and, of course, their love for the Air Force community.
“There was a ten year gap between my separation from active duty and eventually joining the Air Force Reserves,” Daniel said. “In that time, we always stayed connected to the base community. So much so that when my friends that were reservists recommended I join, it just made too much sense not to.”
“Growing up in the military community helped shape me,” said Derek. “It’s always been a family for us, and they really helped raise me and shape me into what I am today. I grew up watching my dad work in the Air Force, and now I work for him.”
Derek teased that one way or another, whether here in an E-3 Sentry aircraft or at home mowing the yard for his mom, he’s always being put to work by his dad.
“This will be something we look back on forever,” said Daniel. “Not the typical family trip but enjoyable all the same.”
They both agreed that upon returning home they’d be sure to spend some quality time far, far away from one another before reuniting for a hunting trip.