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Some civilian Stars and Stripes reporter doesn’t need to tell you that it’s a tough time to be in the military. In the midst of two wars, this isn’t a slow time for the men and women in uniform. Troops are tested daily, and limits are pressed.

Take Mildenhall’s Senior Airman Alicia Goetschel of the 100th Security Forces Squadron. The 22-year-old Missouri native works pass and registration here in England, but from June 2006 to March 2007, Goetschel deployed to Camp Bucca, Iraq, guarding prisoners, running patrols and even discovering an escape tunnel.

For her efforts, Goetschel was named as one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year throughout the Air Force. That’s worldwide, folks. So, give her props when you see her, or buy her a beer in the off hours.

Congrats on such a distinction. When did you find out?

I found out on July 3. It was a Thursday, and every Thursday we do a weekly newcomers briefing. We give them a rundown on what to expect with vehicles because I work with pass and registration on base. So I was doing my briefing, doing my normal routine thing, and [100th Chief Master Sgt. Michael Warner] and [wing commander Col. Eden Murrie] came in and announced it.

What’s your take on it?

I’m still extremely shocked. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but to me it just feels good to be recognized amongst the talent that I was put in with.

Did you get any prizes, a BX certificate or something like that, maybe a plaque?

I’m not sure. I’ll find that out when I get to Washington, D.C. [in September]. The recognition is prize enough for me. My husband was extremely excited, so that was a good prize, a reward.

Part of this had to do with your time in Iraq. Was your deployment what you expected?

To me, when I first deployed, of course, there were fears because it was your first deployment. But for me I don’t think you can really expect what a deployment is going to be like. It’s how you approach it and what you make of it. There’s going to be hardships you’ll endure, but it’s what you make of it and how you put a positive light on it. It’s always going to be challenging, but I never went into it thinking "this is how it’s going to be." You have to be able to face what hardships may lie ahead.

Did your duty surprise you?

I had an idea what operations I was going to be performing. We had a month of pre-deployment training, so that prepared me very well for my tour in Iraq. It was the best training I ever had. It prepared me physically, mentally and emotionally. It was still a different aspect of my job, but I felt prepared.

I understand you discovered an escape tunnel at Camp Bucca. Can you tell me a bit about it?

There’s going to be escape attempts. ... It was a tunnel that had been buried over and the sand and dirt were soft there. My fellow QRF (quick reaction force) members [and I] noticed the dirt was a little soft, and we discovered the tunnel. We reported it, and it was good to go.

Why did you join the Air Force and how long have you been in?

I’ve been in just over three years. I have a twin brother, and I’m very strongly … linked to him. He was my mentor growing up. My father was in the Air Force as well. I was looking for a more independent adventure to branch off and do my own thing, to discover how I could endure my own challenges. I had never really done anything without my twin brother or my family.

What would you say to a young’un considering joining the Air Force?

I would definitely encourage them because it’s definitely an experience that has opened my eyes up to a lot, both in everyday life and to what it is to defend and represent your country, what we stand for"

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