An interesting thing about being deployed is the number of people you meet. The length of AF deployments are usually 4 months, 6 months, or 1 year. The 6-month deployment is now the most common of the three. Since I’m here for a year, I’ll watch the people that were here when I arrived depart, I’ll greet their replacements and also see them leave, and I’ll see the replacements’ replacements arrive. I’ll be happy to see them though because I know they will be here until I leave.
So I’ll work with more people than at a usual assignment because of the frequent rotations. On the plus side I get to meet a lot of people. I love hearing people’s stories. We have young enlisted Airmen who man a desk at the entrance to our building. One day I talked to a young woman who is currently a dental assistant (they pull people from across the AF to do various security details). She plans on getting out of the AF in the fall. She will then use her GI Bill benefits to go to school full-time to finish the last year of her Bachelor’s degree. Then she will go to dental school and become a dentist. That is just one example of the quality people here and everywhere in the military today. A negative of the constant rotations is I say goodbye to a lot of people that have become good friends. Just last week a friend I made since getting here left. She plus two others are the people I usually go to meals with. The other two are leaving in the next couple of months. That will be tough. When a friend is leaving, there is a moment I wish I could be leaving too. But the moment passes because there is still a job to do and there are new people who are counting on you and you are counting on them.
A definite plus is running into people I knew previously. In May there was a ceremony to mark the change in command of one of the squadrons on base. An Academy classmate of mine who is deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq unexpectedly showed up for the ceremony. We were in the same squadron at the Academy and I hadn’t seen him since we graduated in 1992. Another classmate who was in our squadron was also at the ceremony. So out of roughly 25 people who graduated from our squadron that year, three of us were at this ceremony in Iraq. As we looked around we realized three more of our classmates (but from different Academy squadrons) were there. Pretty amazing. Other people I’ve seen since getting here include a good friend I worked with at the Pentagon, a former squadron commander of mine (who is now a general), and someone I met on a previous deployment. As big as the AF is, about 330,000 people on Active Duty, sometimes it can seem like a small community.
I say this at the end of every assignment, and I’m sure this one will be no different, it is the people who make an assignment special and memorable. The details of the job fade pretty quickly from memory. I tend to remember more about the location, but even a great location (such as my assignment in Alaska) doesn’t mean as much as the people I work with. The camaraderie, the shared experiences, and getting to know people are all things I treasure. So even though I know I will say goodbye (or at least, until next time), it is well worth it to say hello.