LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 944th Civil Engineer Squadron take some time to hang out with their families as half of the squadron prepares to deploy downrange during the September unit training assembly.
“We have such a heavy lift and there is more work to do than there is time in a day for a reservist,” said Reserve Citizen Airman Stephen Hunter, 944th CES Explosive Ordinance Disposal superintendent. “We sacrifice ourselves and our family working so hard to make sure nothing is forgotten. This is a time to pause and think back to why we joined and why we have stayed in.”
In preparation for the deployment, Hunter along with other senior leaders in the unit thought it would be best to take a break and strengthen the unit’s resiliency.
“In the past year, we’ve had to deal with COVID-19, social unrest, losing an amazing Airman, and half of the unit being tasked to deploy,” Hunter said. “We aren’t robots, we are human beings even though we are in the military. We have stressors in the military and in our civilian life. It is vital to take care of ourselves. So the purpose of the event is to pause and connect with each other. Recognize that we have a lot more in common than different.”
To make sure the Airmen clearly knew who their leadership was trying to target this event was open to the Airmen and their families.
“Our family and friends are our support system,” Hunter said. “They sacrifice for our drill weekends and now as we are gone for six months, we need them to know the unit cares about them not just their significant other. We want them to trust us when they call and ask for help.”
Hunter explained that the 944th Fighter Wing knows it’s tampering with their normal lives and the unit values them and their support as they would any other family member.
“This was a great event,” said Stacey Libuit, wife of Reserve Citizen Airman Staff Sgt. Andrew Libuit, 944th CES, HVAC. “Being able to bring my four kids out to see what their dad does and to know that they aren’t the only ones going through this will help them with cope a little better when he is gone.”
Libuit felt the same way but was comforted by the fact that his wife could put faces to names.
“Putting a face to a name for the people that she can contact to get information about different things in case she runs into an issue and may need help is what I was looking forward to,” Libuit said. “I want her to know who she can call and rely on to help her out when she needs it.”
To help pull off the event, Hunter reached out to the 56th Force Support Squadron.
“The host/tenant relationship with the 56th [Fighter Wing] is amazing,” Hunter said. “The 56th FSS has really taken care of us and I am so thankful for them bringing us into the fold and treating us as one of their own.”
The 56 FSS directed Hunter to the Unite Program.
“The Unite Programs is a well thought-out and established program that has provided the funding, logistics, pretty much everything we needed today,” Hunter said. “They provided the activities, food, the support we needed to make our Airmen feel special and there is no way we could have pulled this type of event off without them.”
Hunter and other senior leaders in the unit couldn’t be more thankful for the 56th FW and 944th FW support as well as Airmen turnout.
“I am so thankful for the 56th Force Support Squadron opening their doors to us without making us jump through a bunch of hoops and for my leadership at the squadron level and wing level that had our backs 100 percent of the way,” Hunter said. “Our Airmen and their families are worth all of the effort and we hope they took that away from this event.”