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Members of the 52nd Security Forces Squadron of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, load gear onto a truck Monday as they get ready to deploy for at least six months as part of the next Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation.

Members of the 52nd Security Forces Squadron of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, load gear onto a truck Monday as they get ready to deploy for at least six months as part of the next Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

Members of the 52nd Security Forces Squadron of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, load gear onto a truck Monday as they get ready to deploy for at least six months as part of the next Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation.

Members of the 52nd Security Forces Squadron of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, load gear onto a truck Monday as they get ready to deploy for at least six months as part of the next Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

Kathern Javier, holding baby Annabella, and her children Levi, 9, and Joseph, 7, wave goodbye to husband and father Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Javier as a bus carrying members of the 52nd Security Forces Squadron drives away Monday at Spangdahlem

Kathern Javier, holding baby Annabella, and her children Levi, 9, and Joseph, 7, wave goodbye to husband and father Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Javier as a bus carrying members of the 52nd Security Forces Squadron drives away Monday at Spangdahlem (Marni McEntee / S&S)

Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base shake hands with base leaders before boarding a bus that will take them to the airport, where they will leave for a six-month tour to the Middle East.

Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base shake hands with base leaders before boarding a bus that will take them to the airport, where they will leave for a six-month tour to the Middle East. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

Staff Sgt. Sterling Fernandez kisses his 14-month-old son, Brandon, minutes before deploying Monday to the Middle East with 60 other 52nd Security Forces Squadron members. The airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, will be gone at least six months.

Staff Sgt. Sterling Fernandez kisses his 14-month-old son, Brandon, minutes before deploying Monday to the Middle East with 60 other 52nd Security Forces Squadron members. The airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, will be gone at least six months. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — Sixty members of Spangdahlem’s 52nd Security Forces Squadron said quiet goodbyes to families and friends Monday, before deploying to the Middle East for six months.

As the airmen waited for a bus to arrive at the base deployment center, they huddled with wives, husbands and children in a hushed atmosphere that a chaplain said was inspired by the uncertainty of what was to come.

“A lot of them aren’t real talkative right now,” Chaplain (Maj.) Dennis Saucier said. “There’s a feeling about it — a presence that speaks louder than words.”

Airman 1st Class Sean Davis, 21, is making his first tour downrange.

“We’ve got a job to do so we might as well do it,” Davis, of Dayton, Ohio, said quietly. “Right now, it’s time to get serious. We’re going down there and we don’t know what it entails.”

The airmen are among the first of 1,000 Spangdahlem troops who will leave between now and September as part of the Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotations. They will go to 21 locations around the world. Among them will be the highly deployed 606th Air Control Squadron and the 81st Fighter Squadron, which flies A-10 Thunderbolt II’s.

“This is only the beginning,” said Col. Tom Groznik, vice commander of the 52nd Fighter Wing, who showed up to see off the troops.

This is the first time most airmen are going on four-month tours — up a month from prior AEF rotations. Senior leaders added a month to the rotations to give combatant commanders, particularly in the Middle East and Afghanistan, greater flexibility to operate.

That means they’ll be deployed through Christmas and likely New Year’s. Security forces and other troops in hard-to-fill billets regularly deploy for longer periods.

Staff Sgt. Sterling Fernandez held his 4-month-old son, Brandon, kissing and hugging the child. His wife, Rebecca, is also on active duty, but she is staying home. She is pregnant with their second child. It’s the first time the couple has separated because of a deployment.

“Mentally, it’s hard,” Fernandez, 28, of Sunset Beach, Hawaii, said. “It’ll never be easy.”

Shortly before boarding a bus to Rhein-Main Air Base, the airmen were called into formation one last time.

“I just ask you one big favor: Come back,” said Senior Master Sgt. James Erwin, security forces manager for the squadron.


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