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Ninetieth Force Support Squadron‘s spin on deployments

  • Published
  • By Maj. Ricardo Garcia
  • 90th Force Support Squadron commander
When I took command of the 90th Force Support Squadron this past July, we had more than 30 Airmen deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Over the past several months, my Airmen have slowly redeployed home to join their families, friends and to reintegrate into the squadron. It was at the Cheyenne Regional Airport where I have met more than 25 percent of the military assigned to the squadron.

The last nine-man team returned home from Afghanistan in mid October, which brought the squadron back to full strength. This group was a services team that deployed to Bagram Air Base. However, many of those Airmen were forward deployed to different operating bases where they were imbedded with the Army -- otherwise known as a Joint Expeditionary Tasking.

These types of deployments are non-traditional type deployments. What I mean by this is the Airmen are performing any and all duties required to get the mission done, not just those of their Air Force Specialty Code. Eight of the Airmen were a part of special operations teams. Not only did they provide and perform food service duties for as many as 60 joint special-forces warriors, they also provided rear security on missions when convoys had to be done. The food was airdropped near the camps due to the austere and remote locations. Then, out-side-the-wire missions were conducted to go and retrieve the pallets of food.

My Airmen were a part of these missions and when the camps came under attack, they would grab their weapons and pull security in the camp towers. As you can imagine, these types of duties are not common place for Airmen. The "all in" philosophy is what the Chief of Staff of the Air Force has conveyed to us and our sister services as we continue to fight wars overseas, which I completely understand and support.

I've deployed several times myself, most recently to the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan. My last deployment, to Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2009 to March 2010 was a JET, and as a support officer I would have never thought I would be running conveys. It was the nature of my duties of which gave me the opportunity to perform over 200 conveys and I'm happy to say every member of my team returned safely, each and every time.

The 90th Force Support Squadron's facilities and supervisors have become accustom to operating at less than 100 percent manning due to the nature of what we do. We deploy personnel support for contingency operations and services teams all around the world each and every year to support the combatant commanders.

My Airmen do this with pride, dedication and honor. One of the many things I enjoy as a commander is recognizing them with the decorations and awards they have earned that summarize their accomplishments while deployed. There is not a prouder moment for me then to pin that medal on their uniform in front of their peers and the entire squadron at a commander's call.

As the squadron reconstitutes and resets for the next round of deployments, we take this time to tighten our programs and provide world class customer service to all our patrons and families here. However, it will only be next month when I will be sending my first Airmen back to Afghanistan. As the squadron receives these taskings, many of my Airmen volunteer and want to deploy to be at the "tip of the spear." So again the energy and dedication to duty is high.

The 90th FSS will deploy possibly 20 to 25 percent of the military strength over the next several months. As we draw down our numbers in Iraq and close the bases by the end of the year, this should have a direct impact on the deployment taskings we can expect to receive to Iraq as an Air Force, as a base, and as a squadron. As the deployments continue to come for other parts of the world, we will continue to take care of the many families left here at home using our Key Spouse Program. This program is a communication network between unit leadership and families. It serves as a link for families to aid them during the deployment timeframe.

Even with decreased manning, the 90th FSS will continue to provide the best customer service possible. As you can imagine this has its own unique set of challenges. The Airmen and civilians left in the squadron not only have to continue their duties, but have to pick up the duties of the Airmen who have deployed. Many times the only way to do this is to work longer hours each and every day. I'm proud to say that this is the culture of the 90th FSS and we will continue to persevere.