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Air Force Reservist balances deployment, family and highway patrol duties

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ray Bowden
  • Senior Editor, Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa Public Affair
Any Air Force Reservist who has visited Death Valley may as well have spent time in Djibouti, Africa, as the two locations, though thousands of miles apart, share many characteristics: blistering year-round temperature, a climate dry enough to suck moisture from a rock, annual rainfall of less than five inches, and insufferably harsh terrain.

Unlike Death Valley however, Djibouti is home to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, the only U.S. military installation on African soil and the nexus of all U.S military operations on the African Continent. Since January, Djibouti has been the temporary home of Master Sgt. Dawn Price who serves her country as a military journalist, and her home state as a California Highway Patrol Officer.

As superintendent of the CJTF-HOA public affairs office, Price assists in managing the day-to-day operations of a staff of nine military journalists assigned to cover U.S. military operations promoting regional stability in the Horn of Africa. She has just entered the last week of her six month deployment.

"It's been an unbelievably rewarding deployment. I believe in the mission 100 percent," Price said. "Traveling through Africa is has been an awesome experience."

While a deployment to Djibouti offers amenities a service member might not find in Iraq or Afghanistan, the heat can be overwhelming, the electrical power and water pressure often fluctuates without notice, and service members live in tents or large metal storage containers converted in living units called "CLUs," short for containerized living units.

As a master sergeant, Price is afforded the relative luxury of having her own CLU. All junior-enlisted service members share living space with a roommate or reside in tents which regularly house upwards of 50 service members. Price has decorated her CLU with photographs of her children, Nicole, 23, and Chase, 14.

"Their support is vital to my ability to successfully complete my deployments," Price said. "Without their love, understanding and patience, I wouldn't be able to so what I do. Both Nichole and Chase know that I don't leave for any reason other than to defend their future and the future of all Americans."

Price says her CHP family has been supportive as well. "They understand the importance of service and of my obligation to my country," she said. "They know that I'm not on vacation."

While fully admitting that it takes a certain level of dedication to balance her military and CHP commitments, Price said that being a member of the Air Force was not something she could walk away from. "You really have to be committed to juggle it all and do it to the best of your abilities, but it can be done."

Price began her military service in 1980 when she enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following basic training, she was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., for nearly eight years and later, after graduating the California Highway Patrol Academy in 1988, became an Air Force Reservist.

Immediately after her graduation, Price promised to be a positive influence in the lives of those she serves, whether her fellow airman or the citizens of California. "What I strive for and enjoy most about being a CHP officer is community service: making a difference in the lives of those who depend on us to enforce laws, investigate crime and ultimately save lives," she said. "As far as the Air Force is concerned, I get to capture images of our military in action wherever the mission takes us. I couldn't think of two better careers. To be able to do them both has been extremely rewarding. What could be better?"

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Director of Public Affairs, Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt gave high marks to Price's contributions. "She's a PA Swiss Army knife, and can handle any assignment," he said. "In addition to being a stand-out leader, manager and supervisor, she's an especially gifted photographer and journalist. Her phenomenal photos tell the story of US efforts in Africa in a way nothing else can."

When not deployed, Price is assigned to the 4th Combat Camera Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, Calif. According to a recent Congressional report, more than 240,000 reservists have been activated to support U.S. Overseas Contingency Operations, formally known as the Global War Against Terrorism, since 9-11.