By Staff Sgt. Laura Fleenor, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing
/ Published January 29, 2016
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- As I reflect on my South Carolina Air National Guard career thus far, I am in disbelief with how quickly my first four years have gone by. I have been able to accomplish so many things in such a short period of time. Never did I imagine how I would be on my second deployment in less than four years and in a second Air Force Specialty Code.
I was deployed two years ago to this same location as a fresh-out-of-tech school security forces member. This time, I am serving as a Chaplain Assistant alongside my Religious Support Team (RST) member from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, SC., Chaplain (Capt.) Benjamin McEntire.
Upon arrival, we were informed that we would be working with different RST partners. I was paired with an active duty priest from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Being paired with a different chaplain has allowed me to gain a whole new perspective. This can only give me more tools to better serve our Airmen and leadership at McEntire.
The great thing about being integrated with active duty is that I have more responsibilities and duties that I otherwise wouldn't have as a traditional guardsman. I have also been working on upgrade training in the active duty world, which has given me a better understanding of my career field in the "Big Air Force." It is also nice to talk to Airmen on a regular basis instead of once a month. Being able to speak with the Airmen more frequently allows for a deeper understanding of their morale and resiliency, resulting in a more personal relationship.
When it comes to contributing to the mission here, we are extremely busy. This is a big joint base with many groups. My chaplain and I are responsible for the 380th Expeditionary Mission Support Group. We contribute by unit visitations, advisement to leadership, sponsoring morale trips, briefings on resiliency and Islam 101 (for Mosque trips), post visits and distributing items received in care packages.
I believe the most important contribution to the mission is getting out to the Airmen and making those personal connections. This is so important because even though things may be going great in their lives at that particular moment, issues may come up later and they need to remember they aren't alone.
This was evident a few weeks ago when I was requested to escort an Airman back to their home station. I had made a personal connection with this person previously and when needed, I responded. It was not an easy trip, but one I won't soon forget. I am still thanked by that Airman to this day.
There are definitely highlights to this deployment thus far. First of all, I have been ever so fortunate to work with an amazing wing staff. The comradery here is very similar to the McEntire family. I have been able to eat dinner with diplomats, ambassadors and local community members. Visiting schools and seeing numerous local landmarks has been rewarding as well. I have enjoyed taking Airmen on morale trips, which allows them to get off base when they might not have otherwise been able to.
My favorite thing to do, however, is delivering needed items to the Airmen that make the mission here so successful. Every job here is extremely important and I am truly blessed to work with each and every one of them.
Thank you McEntire Family for your support!