News>Security forces: Coping with demanding duty, deployments
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas--Chaplain (Capt.) Kip Averett, 17th Training Wing Chapel, offers encouraging words to deploying 17th Security Forces Squadron members as they finish out-processing at Vance Deployment Center May 26. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Michael Smith)
SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Senior Airman Alexander Brill, 17th SFS, bids farewell to Maj. James Masoner, 17th SFS Commander, at the San Angelo Regional Airport. Airman Brill deployed with fellow security forces members to Iraq Sunday. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kent Cummins)
SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Senior Airman Vernon Boyd, 17th Security Forces Squadron, says goodbye to Maj. James Masoner, 17th SFS Commander, at the San Angelo Regional Airport Sunday as (right to left) Col. Thomas Geary, 17th Training Wing Commander, Col. Paul Bugenske, 17th Mission Support Group Commander, and MSgt. Christopher Norci, 17th SFS First Sergeant, look on. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kent Cummins)
SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Airman 1st Class Nancy Holguin, 17th Security Forces Squadron, takes a quick photo with Senior Airman Angelo Colon at the San Angelo Regional Airport Sunday before Airman Colon boards a flight for the long journey to Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kent Cummins)
6/1/2011 - GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- During the Memorial Day weekend many people spent time with family and friends. But, for some Goodfellow members, it was a time to say goodbye.
On Sunday, about 20 members of the base gathered at the San Angelo Regional Airport and said their farewells as the first of many teams from the 17th Security Forces Squadron boarded an aircraft for the arduous journey to Iraq.
These treks are a common occurrence for Air Force Security Forces members. Their career field is one of the most heavily tasked for deployments.
According to Maj. James Masoner, 17th SFS Commander, about half of the deployable Air Force Security Forces personnel are deployed most of the time.
One of Goodfellow's Security Forces NCOs has deployed six times during his 14-year career, with each deployment lasting six to eight months, sometimes longer.
"You learn to cope with it," said Tech. Sgt. Chris Wright, 17th SFS unit deployment manager. "It's toughest on brand new Airmen. I have talked to deployed Airmen overseas who found out they were coming back in four months before they even left to return home."
Sergeant Wright and his spouse, Staff Sgt. Jamie Wright, who works for the 17th Medical Group as a resource manager, have two sons aged three and 10.
Deployments have caused Sergeant Wright to miss birthdays, Christmas and numerous other holidays.
When he deploys "the first month is chaos and the last month is the hardest," Jamie said.
The frequent deployments take a toll on family members at home. It also negatively impacts retention rates in the security forces career field...but it has not changed Senior Airman Rashad Staffard's plans to reenlist.
Airman Staffard, 17th SFS, was in an economics class at Rowlett High School, Rowlett, Texas, as events on Sept. 11, 2001, transpired.
"That's when I decided to join," the Airman said. "I wanted to be a cop."
Airman Staffard deployed to Iraq in 2009. He is married and has four children.
He said he is reenlisting because "I enjoy what I am doing. My kids salute every Airman they walk by. Some people say they can't continue doing it (deploying) because of their family, but I do it because of my family."
When security forces members return to home station after a deployment they face more tough duty.
A standard work day for a security forces member at Goodfellow is 13 hours.
"They have to accomplish everything else during their off-duty time...medical appointments, physical training tests, and 400-plus hours of annual training," said Major Masoner. "Most people can take time away from work to do these things. We can't."
"It is hard for some people to understand the job of security forces," said Airman Staffard. "We can't take time off to do those things most can, like taking kids to the doctor."
Goodfellow's Security Forces members stand tall with pride and professionalism as they cope with numerous deployments, a high operations tempo, manning constraints, and demanding duty hours, said Major Masoner.
Sergeant Wright summed up what keeps defenders pressing on with their mission. "What we do keeps me going."
The teams that recently deployed won't be home for Thanksgiving. They won't be home for Christmas. In about six months, family and friends will again gather at Mathis Field as more SFS teams prepare to leave and again weeks later as the others return.