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DoD civilian finally gets to deploy

SOUTHWEST ASIA - Mitch Hebert takes part in the weekly retreat ceremony at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing April 27, 2012. Hebert, the deputy commander of the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, is on the first deployment of his 31-year career as a civil servant. The Biloxi, Miss., native has held a variety of Air Force Services positions at bases all over the world, but deploying with Airmen to Southwest Asia has long been a career goal for him. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA - Mitch Hebert takes part in the weekly retreat ceremony at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing April 27, 2012. Hebert, the deputy commander of the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, is on the first deployment of his 31-year career as a civil servant. The Biloxi, Miss., native has held a variety of Air Force Services positions at bases all over the world, but deploying with Airmen to Southwest Asia has long been a career goal for him. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA - Mitch Hebert takes part in the weekly retreat ceremony at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing April 27, 2012. Hebert, the deputy commander of the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, is on the first deployment of his 31-year career as a civil servant. The Biloxi, Miss., native has held a variety of Air Force Services positions at bases all over the world, but deploying with Airmen to Southwest Asia has long been a career goal for him. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA - Mitch Hebert takes part in the weekly retreat ceremony at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing April 27, 2012. Hebert, the deputy commander of the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, is on the first deployment of his 31-year career as a civil servant. The Biloxi, Miss., native has held a variety of Air Force Services positions at bases all over the world, but deploying with Airmen to Southwest Asia has long been a career goal for him. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA - Mitch Hebert takes part in the weekly retreat ceremony at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing April 27, 2012. Hebert, the deputy commander of the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, is on the first deployment of his 31-year career as a civil servant. The Biloxi, Miss., native has held a variety of Air Force Services positions at bases all over the world, but deploying with Airmen to Southwest Asia has long been a career goal for him. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA - Mitch Hebert takes part in the weekly retreat ceremony at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing April 27, 2012. Hebert, the deputy commander of the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, is on the first deployment of his 31-year career as a civil servant. The Biloxi, Miss., native has held a variety of Air Force Services positions at bases all over the world, but deploying with Airmen to Southwest Asia has long been a career goal for him. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- As a civil servant with the Air Force, Mitch Hebert has been all over the world. But there was one thing he hadn't done in his 31 years of service: deploy with Airmen.

All that changed in February when the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron needed a new deputy commander. Hebert finally had his chance and jumped at the opportunity.

"I've had jobs in Korea, the Philippines, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Panama, Japan ... but now I've finally had the chance to work with Airmen at a deployed location," the Biloxi, Miss., native said. "This has been a career goal of mine. It's provided me a chance to learn more about our national defense and expose me to a different part of the world I have never experienced, to include a very interesting culture."

As the deputy commander of the 380th EFSS, Hebert helps oversee several services and support functions for the wing, including the dining facilities, fitness centers, lodging, personnel accountability and recreation events.

"He is a tremendous asset to my unit and the wing," said Lt. Col. Kelly Sams, the 380th EFSS commander. "He truly focuses on our deployed warriors, taking the initiative to make sure we're doing everything we can to take care of our troops while they're here.

"Mitch is great at his job because of the experiences he has achieved throughout his civil service career. He cares so much about the people deployed here," she added. "He has the biggest heart and sincerely wants to make sure everyone has what they need. Because he's looking out for them, they can keep their mind on their mission."

Hebert has a long history of serving in various support roles in the Air Force, holding positions in a variety of offices within the Air Force Services world.

Before volunteering for the six-month assignment in Southwest Asia, Hebert was the business and recreation branch chief at the Air Force Services Agency, Port San Antonio, Texas.

The 380th EFSS dining facility manager, Tech. Sgt. Janna Gustin, didn't even know civilians could hold positions within the chain of command. For the Minnesota air national guardsman, however, working together has been a rewarding experience.

"Whenever I see him, he's always encouraging the people around him," said Gustin, a Sioux City, Neb., native deployed from the 133rd Airlift Wing. "If civilians are serving within the military in a position a military member could fill, it makes sense they have the chance to deploy. Especially if they're as knowledgeable as Mr. Hebert."

While the experience has been something Hebert has always wanted, he said he wouldn't be able to do so without the support of his wife and kids back home.

"I've had several assignments where we've been separated for a year or two at a time, but my wife understands how important this is for me," Hebert said. "Ever since 9/11, I've wanted to do my part to contribute. Taking care of deployed Airmen is one of the most important things we do.

"I'm lucky to have had this opportunity," Hebert added. "When you put together an event where people can relax for a few hours or solve an issue with their lodging, it really makes the long hours worthwhile."