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Undisclosed location, Middle East Asia— Every few months a new rotation of airmen say goodbye to their loved ones, to their friends, and the comforts of home to live in other than favorable conditions for the next 6 months to a year. These Airmen understand the risks they took when raising their right hand and swearing to defend their country at all costs. They understood it meant the very high possibility of having to part from their families for extended periods of time. Having that knowledge and actually doing it are two different things altogether.
Two men speak of their very different experiences since the start of their deployment to the present time. Both have reached the mid-way point of their respective deployments and both have insight to give for those back home who know little about what it is like to deploy.
Technical Sergeant Aleem King enlisted in the United States Air force in 2007 as active duty Security Forces. Throughout his career, he received the chance of a life time that not many others would experience. He was able to see the world. From the beginning of his Air Force career, King got to see the world. His first duty station was in Guam. Later on, in his career, he went back to Guam. King also lived in Turkey, Iraq and Portugal. Not many people can say that they got to see the world, but King can.
King says, “The hardest part about being deployed is missing your loved ones.”
King arrived at his deployment at the end of summer. He spent this past Thanksgiving away from his wife and two boys and will go on to miss Christmas and New Year’s. This is something that King already expected while being away. Knowing does not negate the fact that it is challenging and stressful being away from one’s family, especially during the holiday season.
Senior Airman Brandon Walker, like King, has reached the middle of his tour. This is the part where complacency is known to set in. This fact is widely known, and leadership will send out emails and continually brief their airmen to remain vigilant. The common thread for mid-tour is that airmen begin to cut corners. In a deployment, cutting corners can lead to detrimental results.
Walker says that it is the little things that add up when it comes to complacency. That light at the end of the tunnel cannot come fast enough.
One of the hardships of deployment is missing the holidays with family and friends. Although Walker missed out of spending Thanksgiving with his wife of five years, he did not miss the holiday itself.
“The dining facility they kind of decorated the place and made it feel homey. And leadership served us, so it was kind of a cool opportunity for them to do that,” Walker says in answer to how leadership made the team’s holiday experience.
A job that falls on leadership is keeping up the morale of their troops, especially during the holiday months when troops may feel the loneliest or most vulnerable. It is not uncommon for military members to take their own lives during the holiday seasons. When the stresses of deployment get placed on top of that loneliness that comes from being away from home and family, emotions can rise.
“It is a great opportunity to serve and definitely the freedoms that we have, I do think that we take it for granted,” says Walker. “You know, being in different countries and experiencing their hardships, just appreciate our own freedoms.”