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Senior airman Elizabeth Weir chats with her husband, Garrett, prior to departing RAF Mildenhall, England, for a four-month deployment to Qatar.

Senior airman Elizabeth Weir chats with her husband, Garrett, prior to departing RAF Mildenhall, England, for a four-month deployment to Qatar. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

RAF Mildenhall, England — A few days ago, Senior Airman Justin Allen had an open schedule for 2006. Then fate stepped in and he shipped out.

An airman he serves with who was scheduled to deploy Sunday had a family situation that prevented him from departing. That’s when the 25-year-old St. Louis native volunteered to take his slot.

“I told them, send me. I’m ready to go,” Allen said. “I always wanted to get some DCUs (desert camouflage uniforms), but you have to deploy to get some.”

Allen was one of dozens of airmen from Mildenhall’s 100th Air Refueling Wing who deployed for Qatar on Sunday morning. The airmen are scheduled to serve four months.

Many, if not most, of the airman at the base’s airport terminal Sunday morning had already deployed in the past. They drew on those experiences as they prepared to deploy again.

“That’s today’s expeditionary Air Force,” said Col. Michael Stough, commander of the 100th Air Refueling Wing. “You’re going to deploy.”

Stough had simple advice for his airmen.

“I tell them to take good care of each other,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Linda J. Schulze said that wouldn’t be a problem. She deployed with a handful of the airmen she serves with every day.

“It will be a good chance for us to learn stuff from other people who do similar things,” the 26-year-old Kingman, Ariz., native said. “We’ll work wherever they need us.”

While most on hand Sunday said they were excited to arrive downrange and get to work, many acknowledged the anxiety felt by their loved ones left behind.

“My parents hide their feelings,” said Senior Airman Elizabeth Weir. “They act like they’re elated, but they are sad.”

The 25-year-old Maryland native spent Sunday morning enjoying a few last hours with her husband, Garrett, before she shipped out.

“I’m a little nervous, but more excited,” she said.


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