Getting personal: Readying the wing
Stars and Stripes March 19, 2008
As the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath readies to deploy as part of the upcoming air expeditionary force rotation cycle, base officials are ensuring both airmen and their families are prepared.
From fighter pilots and security forces to support personnel, several hundred servicemembers are set to go downrange in about a month. Standard Air Force deployments are four months, though some career fields require six-month tours.
Two experts — one from the operational side and the other focused on the home front — explained how the wing is preparing.
Sgt. Danielle Hirvela, unit deployment manager for the 48th Services Squadron:
What do you do as the UDM? I’m responsible for making sure our personnel have all the training and equipment ready to go. … There’s a group of ancillary or computer-based modules that must be completed by the members. Part of it prepares them for the location. … Some of it is force protection and law of armed conflict. As far as force protection, they’re always prepared and thinking about that obviously, but this training brings it from the back of their head to the front of their head so they’re even more cognizant of it downrange.
Another thing is making sure their personal affairs are in order so while they’re deployed they can focus on the mission and not worry about things on the home front. That’s something the first sergeants help a lot with. [Airmen] need to make sure their credit cards are taken care of, their mail is forwarded or put on hold, and if they have a car that someone is taking care of it and the tax doesn’t lapse while they’re gone. Power of attorney is another big thing that they need to think about before they go.
What is most commonly overlooked? It’s the small things that get overlooked. Things like the road tax. We have a base out-processing checklist to help. But training and equipment wise, we make sure they’re squared away before leaving.
Sgt. Merlin Choice, readiness noncommissioned officer for Airmen and Family Readiness Center:
How does the AFRC reach out to spouses and family? Our role is to be an advocate for the families. … We provide activities and services to help with the challenge of being separated from their loved ones. … We’re the first ones they can contact if they have questions or concerns. … That’s what the socials and things like that are designed to do, to bring about that camaraderie and that openness so they’re confident enough to share what their concerns are, and then be an avenue to help meet their needs.
What is the most common issue for families who are overseas for the first time during a deployment or for those who have never experienced a deployment?It’s the fear of the unknown. … That pre-deployment phase always has the most anxiety because you’re gearing up for the process. … It can be very intense and overwhelming. … And that’s why agencies are set up … to help with that process.What’s your advice for people who have that anxiety?Communicating is the key. Allowing yourself to tap into the resources that are available. Sharing with others and allowing them to share with you. The more you do that, the more you realize you’re not solo in your plight.