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'Spirit of Airman's service' represented well in deployed area of responsibility

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
On my first deployment in 1997 to Southwest Asia, a chief master sergeant who was on his last deployment there with me said, "You know the spirit of an Airman's service when they're willing to go away from home and serve in a far-away land."

That chief, who was finishing a 30-year career and had joined the Air Force during the Vietnam War, had deployed more times than I can count using all of my fingers on both hands. But 13 years later, I still find what he said to hold true.

On my current deployment, my seventh, I've had an opportunity learn more about today's Airman and why they're serving in the military. The people I've come across have a wide array of experience and reasons for serving. Let me tell you about a few.

First, I'll go back to when I was on my way to my deployed base on Christmas Day in December. I flew on a C-130J Super Hercules manned by an Air Force Reserve crew. Our flight took us through Afghanistan and then on to a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. During the flight, I got to know one of the loadmasters, a Reserve master sergeant who'd said, "What a way to spend Christmas...hey?"

After getting to know each other a bit, he told me about the plane and its capabilities and finally I asked him, "Why are you here, doing this?" His answer is one I won't forget. He said, "All my life, I've felt like this has been my calling -- to serve in the Air Force. Even though it's Christmas, I wouldn't have it any other way."

Soon after I arrived at my deployed base and was up and running, I came across an active duty airman first class on her first deployment. Talking to her reminded me of my first deployment. She too had an interesting answer to the question, "How do you feel about serving in the military and being on deployment?"

"It feels good to be here, knowing I'm making a difference," said the traffic management Airman of being deployed to Southwest Asia. "Even at times when I think that I'm not contributing to my country, I sit down and really think about it. I'm here, helping each and every one of these people get the supplies they need."

The Airman knew that even from her position, she had an effect on the overall deployed mission. To me it's nice to see one of our Airmen of today not losing sight of that fact.

In another setting, I talked with a first lieutenant. This lieutenant is unique. A prior enlisted aircraft mechanic with the U.S. Navy for 10 years, he got his degree and joined the Air Force as an officer and made his way to being an E-3 Sentry air weapons officer. On his first deployment with the Air Force after many with the Navy, he told me he serves wherever and whenever the call comes for a deployment.

"I believe what we fight for out here, giving these nations a chance to have a say in how they live and to feel true freedom, will only solidify the freedoms we enjoy back home," the lieutenant said to me. "When a free world stands together against terrorism and tyranny, as it is beginning to do now, progress towards a safe and united future for our loved ones and future generations will start to shine through. Hope for a better future and the safety of my family is why I serve."

Another officer I met, this one a captain and a KC-10 Extender pilot with more than 100 combat air refueling sorties, joined the Air Force for many reasons. Her reason to serve, however, was quite personal. It goes back to the days of her working as a flight attendant on Sept. 11. 2001.

"I was working for United (Airlines) on Sept. 11 when the airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and crashed in the field in Pennsylvania. The people on those planes were my co-workers. My whole world changed," said the captain. "I am incredibly proud to be able to serve in our nation's Air Force. This is my fourth deployment to the Middle East, and each time I am out here, I am reminded of how good we have it as American citizens."

All of the people I've met and talked to while deployed are just a small sample of the overall deployed force. It seems everyone I talk to, after finding out what unit or base they are from, or what their hometown is, the question of why they are serving comes up and I always get an honest answer. They are all proud to serve in the military.

The Air Force's core value of "service before self," or as the chief said it to me years ago, "the spirit of an Airman's service," is alive and well with deployed Airmen all across the deployed area of responsibility. I know the chief, like me, would be proud to be among them.