Amid tears, reservists deploy from Maxwell AFB for support mission
Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.
On a runway under a gray sky Thursday, with a scent of diesel fuel in the air, Staff Sgt. Charles Doucet hugged his wife Becky and his 14-year-old son, Asher, before walking to a C-130 that would take him overseas for four months.
“It’s a big load of feelings,” said Doucet, a reservist who works as a letter carrier in Prattville. “You’ve got sadness for leaving your family, but you’re proud to go serve. Compared to the sacrifices that came before us, it’s nothing.”
Doucet is one of 60 reservists from the 908th Airlift Wing, based at Maxwell Air Force Base, who are traveling to a country in southwest Asia to provide support operations for U.S. military in Afghanistan. The military would not disclose which country will host the reservists.
The 908th Airlift Wing faced possible inactivation under an Air Force plan proposed last February that called for cuts at several locations, including Maxwell Air Force Base.
Outcry from lawmakers led to a second plan that would add an eighth C-130 to the unit and approximately 60 jobs. President Barack Obama has signed the bill, although some lawmakers are looking to delay its implementation.
The reservists left after speeches from U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, and Mike Rogers, R-Anniston. Both representatives pledged to do all they could to support the soldiers during their deployment.
“Martha and I are going to do what we can to make sure that when you get over there, it’s not going to be a fair fight, and you get home safe and sound,” said Rogers in a packed room on the base Thursday morning.
Roby praised those going abroad and their families.
“We’re here for you during this deployment, and we want you to call on us if there’s anything we can do to make this time easier for you,” she said.
Roby and Rogers, both members of the House Armed Services Committee, fought to keep the unit in place. The White House and Congress still need to negotiate a sequester that could bring up to $500 billion in cuts to the Defense Department. Rogers and Roby said after the event that it was still unclear what effect, if any, such a cut would have on Maxwell.
Roby said she wanted specific information on what cost savings would result from cuts.
“We’re not trying to micromanage our commanders,” she said. “We just want to know where the savings are.”
Those debates were far away from the minds of those leaving Thursday. All who went said they were proud to do so. Some were excited.
“I’m very positive and optimistic,” said Master Sgt. Quintin Rudolph, who was heading to his fourth deployment Thursday. “I’m ready to go over and make my country proud.”
There were many hugs and tears on the runway before those being deployed boarded the C-130s. Jennifer Harper, the wife of Capt. Jacob Harper, said her family tried to prepare for the departures as best as they could.
“This is just part of the job, and it’s what you’ve got to get used to,” she said.
For the Doucets, preparations involved powers of attorney and, for Charles, a round of shots for smallpox, anthrax and Hepatitis B.
Becky Doucet said her husband handled many items at home that she will have to take over in his absence. “But I have a lot of support, and I’m pretty satisfied,” she said.
With a strap holding a black duffel bag around his neck, Charles Doucet walked toward the plane. “Seeing him walk out there, I started tearing up,” son Asher said afterward. “But now I’m alright.”
Still, Asher added, he was ready for his dad to come home.