Tight-knit community at RAF Croughton pulls together during deployment
April 1, 2005
RAF CROUGHTON, England — When Senior Master Sgt. Roy Lapioli discusses the base where he is first sergeant, he invokes the name of America’s iconic small town.
“We’re Mayberry, RAF-style,” Lapioli said of RAF Croughton. “Everybody knows everybody.”
The base, home for the 320 active-duty members in the 422nd Air Base Squadron, will soon deploy 53 airmen to ongoing operations in Southwest Asia, Lapioli said.
That’s “a significant number for a small base like this,” he said.
The deployment, which will get under way in May, will be both more difficult and easier because of the size of the communications base on the cusp of England’s Cotswolds region. It will be difficult because many positions are one deep, forcing some people to work longer hours.
The security forces, Lapioli said, are augmented by the communications flight. But with several communications people deploying, the cops will be forced to work 12-hour shifts.
Also, some of the volunteers on whom the base depends will be tied up with more responsibility at home while the spouse is away, cutting into their volunteer hours.
But the coziness of the base means no one in need will go unnoticed.
Shawnacee Hollander, wife of Staff Sgt. Joseph Hollander, who will deploy, learned a few weeks ago she is expecting the couple’s first child. But his impending absence doesn’t cause her concern. The last time he deployed, the couple was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
“It’s nice to be at a smaller base. You get to know everybody,” she said. “Everybody knows you and asks how you’re doing.”
The base has all the support programs of a larger base, only on a smaller scale. The Family Support Center, for example, is Lou Ann Witt, who wears the title family support coordinator. She’s helped by Gayel Lapioli, family readiness coordinator, wife of the first sergeant.
“It almost doubles our workload when we have a deployment going on,” Witt said.
But getting help is not a problem, she said, when she knows almost everyone on base.
Gayel Lapioli said it is not hard to spread the word if a spouse needs a hand — a ride to the doctor, baby-sitting help or the like.
“Word of mouth,” she said.
Tech. Sgt. Yoketha Mills, who orders everything from bandages to chairs for the medical flight, volunteered for the deployment.
“It gives me an opportunity, because I’m not in a deployable status, to do my fair share,” she said.
But she is the only supply person in the flight. Someone will have to step up and take the job during the four months she is in the United Arab Emirates.
“For every primary, there’s an alternate,” she said, quoting a well-used phrase.
Roy Lapioli said Mills is one of the base’s busiest volunteers, helping with everything from Girl Scouts to youth sports. She’ll be missed, he said, but someone will pick up the slack.
“It’s like one big family,” he said. “Everybody wraps their arms around each other.”