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Historian's deployment brings new perspective

Tech. Sgt. Eugenie Hinson is assigned to the 445th Airlift Wing as the wing historian. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Elizabeth Caraway)

Tech. Sgt. Eugenie Hinson is assigned to the 445th Airlift Wing as the wing historian. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Elizabeth Caraway)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Tech. Sgt. Eugenie Hinson, 445th Airlift Wing historian, was attending the Air Force Reserve Command's Historian Basic Course at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, when she met another Airman due to deploy for six months to the Middle East. The Airman was facing numerous challenges at home but was poised to depart despite them. That, Hinson says, is when she felt convicted to volunteer to go instead.

"I'd served in the Air Force for almost 20 years and never deployed," said Hinson. "It had been a void that I felt I needed to fill. I'd always been ready to deploy--physically and financially--but I'd never had the opportunity."

Hinson admits that the first part of her deployment was difficult. Her transition time in the one-person office was brief and the learning curve was steep.

"I take my work as an Air Force Reserve historian seriously--the information I record and the supporting documents that I preserve could end up in history books in 25 years. If I miss a fact, it could be forever lost to future generations," she said.

Initially working 14-16 hour days, Hinson said she had to learn how a deployed historian writes, which is "100 percent different deployed vs home station." She was responsible for recording the history of five area bases and would download more than 100 files daily to archive. The mission, she says, became her primary focus and she appreciated not feeling as though she was being pulled in a thousand directions, which, she believes, is common for Reservists. She worked with commanders to appoint unit historian POCs and established office procedures to aid future historian appointees.

"I know a lot more now about the job and what needs to be done. I was always thinking about how to make the work more efficient for those who would come behind me as well," she said.

She also got the office its first-ever air conditioner unit, which arrived two weeks after she left for home.

"It may seem minor back home, but when it's 120 degrees in Kuwait, an air conditioner is much appreciated," she emphasized.

Although she worked long hours, Hinson still found time for other pursuits. She ran 456 miles, taking part in many of the 5K and 10K races. The Force Support Squadron ensured the Airmen had many activities to enjoy, including movies and concerts. Most of all, though, Hinson said she found fulfillment in volunteer activities on base.

"As a one-deep office, I had to volunteer to get out there and get face-to-face time with others."

Hinson found opportunities for service at the base's 24/7 chapel, where she became the chapel greeter and baked and served communion bread. She also began painting ceiling tiles for the local Kuwaiti children's hospital. She enjoyed painting the geometric designs in her downtime and imagining the measure of joy they would bring to sick children.

"Finding ways to serve others really helped me deal with deployment stress," she reflected.

Hinson also helped the chapel sort through items donated by the American people--cards, clothing, toiletries, snacks. She was overwhelmed by the generosity.

"The love that the American people have for their soldiers was evident, and I wouldn't have fully appreciated that if I hadn't deployed."

Hinson returned home with a new perspective on her military service.

"A deployment is definitely a situation where you see the Air Force core values come to life. It was a good experience, extremely rewarding," she said. "I went as a single office member and left as a team member. 'Look out for your wingman' isn't just something you say when you're deployed, it's something everyone does. I miss that feeling of deep camaraderie."

The experience had such a profound impact that she plans to volunteer for another deployment in the near future.