Thunderbolts support GWOT

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Brian Neumann
  • 56th Training Squadron commander
The 56th Fighter Wing routinely has approximately 300 Airmen deployed around the world in support  of the global war on terror. Though this number represents only about 5 percent of our total active duty force at Luke, the various missions performed by our Airmen down range are critical to the overall objective of putting a stop to terrorism. 

So what is the role for those of us who are "left behind?" Simply stated, our job is to make their deployment, mission execution and redeployment as seamless as possible. 

In the "good old days," every unit was specifically tasked with a particular Area of Responsibility. In theory, if your area was "hot," then your entire unit would pack up and leave. 

This concept was quite simple and effective during the Cold War when we had a known threat. However, now with a global terror threat, units and individuals must be ready to deploy to any AOR at a moment's notice. Though many units still deploy as a whole, we at Luke typically deploy as small teams or even as individuals that will augment teams or units already in place. 

For those that have been around for a while, you can probably remember the days of the deployment line. One-stop shopping for shots, wills, powers of attorney, briefings and the pot of money (finance) at the end of the line. This used to be a common practice for any large unit that was deploying, be it for two weeks or three months. 

However, we are frequently deploying as individual augmentees these days, so checklists have been  developed to ensure all of the required predeployment tasks are accomplished. Though this may seem simple, for those who have never deployed, it can be a stressful situation. 

I recently sent one of my first-term Airmen down range for a 120-day deployment. This young man was a strong volunteer for the deployment, even though he received less than two-week's notice prior to  deploying. He was deploying individually to augment an in-place, established unit. As you can imagine, he had a lot of questions in the days prior to departure.  Luckily, Luke had several other individuals who were deploying at the same time, so he had others with more experience to tag along with. 

What is our take away? Though we are all busy with the execution of our local mission, we must  maintain awareness of those that are preparing to deploy in support of the GWOT. As the Air Force continues to transition to "paper free," we must maintain the human element.
When our Airmen are preparing to deploy, every element must ensure that our focus is on taking care of our people -- from supervisors and commanders to every aspect of the mobility machine. We must  continue to ensure that we have the best interest of our deploying Thunderbolts in mind.
By making their deployment seamless, we provide them with more time to make sure their personal concerns (including family and friends) receive their  much deserved attention prior to departure.