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Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK --

As most of us know as military members, a number of Airmen undertake challenging deployments in their career. Deploying members and their loved ones are the most heavily affected by these events, but it is something that will, to a greater or lesser extent, affect all of us in the 477th Fighter Group family.

My three deployments were some of the most special times of my life.  As I’ve reflected on them in subsequent years, there are three aspects of the deployment experience that I have come to remember and value.  These are the unique service that our Airmen and their families offer to our Nation and to the cause of peace and justice as a result of the deployment; the often great sacrifice that they make in connection with that service; and the opportunities that it presents for human growth and development.  These are shared primarily by our deploying members and their loved ones, but also in very real ways by the rest of us and our families at home.

                For an Air Force reservist and, indeed, for any Airman, deployment to an active area of responsibility (AOR) is a call to serve our Nation at the highest levels of responsibility and excellence.  Everything else that we do as members of the 477 FG is in some way directed at preparing us for that moment in which are tasked to pursue and defend the interests and ideals that we represent in the most direct ways possible, at the “tip of the spear,” sometimes in immediate contact with our enemies.  Upon our competence and character depend the success of our Nation’s vital missions and the lives and fortunes of many people.  The service of our deployed members in the AOR is made possible by the dedicated service of their loved ones at home, who adjust their lives in so many ways as they share in responding to the same call.  But this special service is shared by all our members, even those of us far from the AOR, and their families.  After all, during the deployment the critical activities of the 477 FG here at home must continue unabated, and this can happen only through the commitment of our remaining members to enhance and improve their efforts, adjusting roles and work schedules to account for the absence of those who are deployed.  This, in turn, can occur only with a similar commitment to service on the part of their families.

                This shared commitment to service necessarily entails a shared spirit of sacrifice, because the risks, the burdens, and the disruption that deployment brings to the lives of our members and their loved ones are very, very real.  Our members in the AOR offer these sacrifices to the maximum extent, in situations of risk and danger not only from the actions of our opponents, but from the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges that arise from highly demanding work in unfamiliar, unpleasant environments while they are separated from their loved ones and other sources of support.  For reservists, deployment can also require the sacrifice of civilian work opportunities, especially for those who own small businesses.  Their families and loved ones, especially their spouses and children, offer corresponding sacrifices arising from the absence of their Airman from their daily lives and concern for the risks and challenges that he or she might be facing in the AOR.  Sacrifices are also required of our members back at home, who must often work longer hours and undertake additional responsibilities in the place of those who are deployed, sacrifices that are necessarily shared by their families.

                But deployment also offers all of us outstanding opportunities for personal development and growth.  For anyone devoted to the service of our Country, the special opportunities for service that arise for those deployed in an AOR will almost always be sources of great personal satisfaction which can continue and inspire for a lifetime.  The physical, professional, emotional, and spiritual challenges that they encounter, as troubling as they might be, can, when confronted with dedication and commitment, help them grow in ways that would not have been possible at home.  For many, deployment offers an opportunity to pursue physical fitness goals, to attain new levels of education, or to explore the spiritual aspect of their lives through prayer and worship.  The emotional and practical challenges of separation can also be, for their families, opportunities to explore new roles and talents that would normally have been exercised by their Airmen, perhaps enhancing the quality of family relationships long after the deployment ends.  For our members at home and their families, the opportunities presented by deployment are less noticeable and direct, but no less real, as they expand their personal and professional horizons to deal with the needs at hand here at home.  For many, offering direct support and assistance to the families of deployed members can be a source of great satisfaction and give rise to lasting relationships.

                Service, sacrifice, and opportunity:  all of us in the extended family of the 477 FG are called to share in these as our brothers and sisters deploy to the AOR.  Let us resolve to support them and their families in the many ways that are necessary for the success of their mission; to pray for their safety and well-being; and to dedicate ourselves once again to the service of our Nation and the promotion of peace and justice throughout the world.