SOUTHWEST ASIA --
The room became quiet as an Airman revealed how her unfortunate troubles surrounding a deployment came to exist. The audience seemed to understand her pain and empathized with the emotional Airman as she shared what she was to expect when she returned home from an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Top III council recently organized a "real talk" forum for Airmen preparing to return home from deployment for the first time. The event was an opportunity to hear candid, first-hand accounts of reintegration deployment experiences from a panel of senior noncommissioned officers. Members from the audience had sincere questions and expressed their concerns in hope of discovering answers to prepare themselves for their transition home.
“I came here today with an open mind and heard real life situations that come along with deployments,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Sherard, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge. “The audience knows you aren’t the only one going through some type of positive or negative stressor.”
The panel delivered their own lessons-learned experiences, answered questions, and provided a glimpse of what Airmen can expect to see when they return home to family and friends. Sherard and Senior Master Sgt. Roshad Mays, 386th Expeditionary Communication Squadron flight chief, came up with the idea to provide perspective for Airmen and the foresight to plan ahead.
The attendees were a mixture of Airmen from various age groups and ranks, as well as experienced deployers to first-timers.
“What I would offer anybody, regardless of rank is make sure you are doing this [Air Force career] for the right reasons,” said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Pachasa, 386th AEW command chief, to the attendees. “I absolutely love what I do, but it has come at a cost. Only you can be the measuring stick of how much you are willing to sacrifice.”
Staff Sgt. Brittany Edwards, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group mental health technician, was present at the event to provide her expertise if needed.
“This event was another valuable resource provided to Airmen to show that they are not alone in the process and there are many people out there who care and want to help,” said Edwards. “People are sometimes going back to a completely different life than they were living months ago. This is why it is vital to know your resources if you are having difficulty adjusting."
The Top III council plans to continue the “real talk” forum for future rotations two months before the expected departure dates to ensure all Airmen are given the opportunity to attend.
“I definitely will speak to someone when I get back home because there will be very major changes in my life,” said Senior Airman Darby Kanter, 386th EMDG radiology technician. "This was the perfect deployment and I met lifelong friends here. I think I’ll have a positive outlook in any future deployments.”
The U.S. Air Force offers resources and programs for Airmen transitioning from a deployment at their local Airman and Family Readiness office. The Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard offer Yellow Ribbon
events for service members and families before and after deployments. For more information, please contact your local Airman and Family Readiness office.