Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Dual-military families

By Georganne Hassell
Air Force spouse

Even before my husband and I met, people called us by the same name: lieutenant. When you wear a single bar on your shoulder, there’s not much else to call you by anyway. My then-fellow lieutenant and now husband, Jonathan, was a pilot in the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., when we met. I was a public affairs officer for the same wing, and each of us was living the dream we had worked toward for years. While Jonathan worked on his tactics as a new pilot, I tried to shed a shade of green working with reporters covering the military beat. In between his upgrade rides and my airshow travel, we had the opportunity to take a temporary duty assignment, or TDY, together to South Korea. Apparently, flying for 13 hours in coach class without annoying each other gave us enough confidence to think about a future together. Less than two weeks later we had no doubt — we would someday be called husband and wife.

The day after Jonathan and I decided we wanted to get married, I received an assignment to move from Virginia to California within four months. Sometimes orders come at the least convenient times, but we both knew that living in the same place was more of a luxury than a guarantee. We were unsuccessful in trying to turn off the assignment, and so a few months after our engagement I settled into life with a new duty Air Force Specialty Code at a recruiting squadron, while Jonathan continued flying at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. Just three weeks after I arrived at my new base, I received another set of orders — this time with Afghanistan as my new destination. These orders caught me even more off guard than my recent permanent change of station for two reasons: recruiting squadrons didn’t traditionally deploy Airmen, and I would be working again as a public affairs officer, which was the career field I was just moved out of so I could work in recruiting. As confused as I was about this recent turn of events, it left Jonathan with a clear mindset. He would volunteer to deploy to Afghanistan.

We didn’t take this decision lightly. My deployment was inevitable, and in truth I was glad to be back working as a PAO and even excited to deploy, but Jonathan would be stepping out of his hard-earned seat in a dual-engine fighter and into a dual-prop aircraft, which is not normally the path of choice for his career field.

Before we took off on our own separate paths to the desert, we got married. We chose to say our vows in the place that brought us together, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis’ base chapel. We welcomed family and friends to Virginia for our wedding ceremony, but asked just one request of them: not to talk about our upcoming deployments. You could read the unease in many of their eyes about a young couple getting married and then going to war, but we didn’t need to discuss it then. We wanted one day of being present and at peace.

I flew back to my recruiting squadron after the wedding and saw Jonathan three more times before I left for my deployment to Zabul province, Afghanistan. He deployed just a few weeks after me to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and our fourth meeting as husband and wife came not long after. Work brought me to his base a few times during our deployment, but even those visits were overshadowed by military protocol and mortar attacks. My deployment only lasted a few months, and though I traveled through Kandahar on my way out, Jonathan was only about halfway through his tour. War brings many burdens. Leaving my husband behind to complete his duty was just one of them.

Thankfully, Jonathan’s deployment ended safely. He returned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis and to his role as a fighter pilot while I continued working in the recruiting squadron. The difficult decision for me to leave the Air Force was made soon after my husband’s redeployment. We knew that the best choice for our family was to only have one of us on active duty, and since he had several more years to go on his service commitment, I would have to be the one to drop papers. My time as a military officer ended later that year, and though my service was brief, it gave me a strong sense of purpose and the honor of working with some truly fantastic people.

The transition to civilian life was not an easy one, especially because of the near-pulseless job market. I looked forward to continuing in the field of public relations and putting my communications skills to work, but opportunities were scarce. Freelancing as a writer and editor offered a good transition, but I did miss many aspects of the service: camaraderie, structure and a fast-paced workplace, to name a few. Luckily, I found a new mission with my current work in academe, but I don’t believe there’s anything that can compare with wearing the uniform every day. I’ve come to accept that my career path will continue to look very different from what I imagined when I first said the oath of office as a new college graduate.

Though life as a spouse challenged me greatly in terms of my career and will continue to do so in the future, I have been overwhelmingly blessed with support of my husband, his squadron and our military community. I have found my fellow spouses to be gracious and caring; I am honored to know them and proud to call them friends. Jonathan and I both knew the day would come when one of us would have to leave the service, and even though it came sooner than I hoped, I look forward to being a part of the Air Force community for years to come.

Through her eyes: Afghanistan

by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

Adjusting to different cultures is often part of the job during deployments. For Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rosato, these adjustments include learning to navigate a foreign culture in which women are not always treated as their male counterparts’ equals.

Staff Sgt Rosato

Rosato, a truck commander for the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Reaper Team 1 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is the only female on a team that conducts counter-insurgency missions “outside the wire” and frequently interacts with the local population.

While she has encountered some gender-based barriers while building a rapport with the villagers, Rosato is grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Afghanistan.

Read more about Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rosato’s experience in Afghanistan.

TBI and PTSD: ‘There is no shame in getting help’

by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
edited by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

As high profile cases have emerged about National Football League players and other athletes sustaining brain injuries, and as the nation has watched veterans return home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder have become hot topics.

Allara2

Master Sgt. Jennifer Allara, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader at Dover Air Force Base, has experienced both.

In Sept. 2009, Allara’s EOD team at Provincial Reconstruction Farah, Afghanistan, was ambushed while out on patrol. A teammate, Staff Sgt. Bryan Berky, was killed by a sniper during the attack. For Allara, it was a wake-up call.

“We are trained to accept a certain amount of danger with our job,” she said. “I always thought in terms of me; what if something happens to me? What if we get blown up? I wasn’t thinking in terms of losing a team member in a turret.”

Upon her return from Afghanistan, Allara went to mental health and sought therapy when she began experiencing symptoms of TBI and PTSD. For her, it seemed to bring about more questions than answers.

Determined to heal, Allara recently began treatment at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md. She will undergo four weeks of analysis and leave the center with a care plan designed to meet her needs.

Allara hopes that her example will compel others to seek help if they are experiencing problems when they return from deployment.

“There is no shame in getting help,” she said. “There is no shame in recognizing what is going on with someone and being able to reach out and help. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your Airmen.”

For more on this story, click here.

Combat couple: staff sergeant reflects on trading drink orders for deployment orders

by Staff Sgt. Shaun Hostutler
edited by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

(Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. Shaun Hostutler is a broadcaster and her husband, Marine Sgt. Aaron Hostutler, is a photojournalist. Shaun is on her first tour in Afghanistan as a combat correspondent. While the couple and their children have been separated by prior deployments, this is the first time Shaun has deployed while Aaron remained stateside. Shaun and Aaron have agreed to share this unique military experience with Air Force Live.)

It all started with a Q-tip.

Well, actually, the Q-tip is the beginning of something else (we’ll save that story for later). I suppose the best way to start this story would be to share how I came to be a member of the world’s finest Air Force in the first place.

That’s why you’re here after all, isn’t it?

When I first started out in the Air Force, I was determined to stay focused. After dropping out of college and moving home to Austin (I couldn’t pay for tuition on my own after a year and a half at Baylor), I had spent a few years bartending. While the job was fun, it was just that – a job. I had always promised myself I wouldn’t settle into a job; I would establish a career in a field that I had genuine passion for. I wanted to be a journalist.

In bartending, there was free booze but no benefits and no health insurance. I had barely enough money to pay bills, feed my dog, buy some ramen noodles and send the rest to family who needed it. And sometimes, there was barely enough for the ramen noodles.

I can’t tell you how creative cooking can get when you’ve got next to nothing in the fridge and your power is cut off.

After two years of cleaning crusted puke and urine from bathroom stalls, being grabbed at by frat boys who couldn’t hold their liquor or control their bladders, and having to force a flirtatious smile all the while (because a sour face makes no money), I was convinced that I had failed. Some friends had graduated from college, others were starting careers. They were moving forward and I was going nowhere.

How would I find a way to finish school, land the perfect job, do what I love, make a good living, and establish world peace before I turned 21? My standards were high and unrealistic at times, but I held onto them.

I determined the easiest way to get to a combat zone and begin my career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist – without having to pour coffee for some editor while scraping together enough money to live – would be to enlist in the military. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

I went to the first recruiting office I could find. I grew up an Army brat and figured, why the hell not? The Army office was closed that day, but the Air Force recruiter was in his office. From what I hear, it’s usually the other way around. I have never regretted walking into that office.

The life that the Air Force promised seemed to be so much more.

They emphasized education, encouraged independent thinking, and rewarded hard work. Not only did I find that I would be able to deploy, but I could also guarantee a job as a news broadcaster if I could pass a voice audition. I jumped at the chance. Maybe I wouldn’t be the next Eddie Adams right away, but I could go for being the next Christiane Amanpour or Lisa Ling. A few short weeks later, I was on a blue bus, on my way to basic training at what was then called Lackland Air Force Base – the “Gateway to the Air Force” – in San Antonio, Texas.

When I first enlisted, I had no idea how hard it would be to volunteer for a combat deployment. My military training instructor at basic nearly spit his coffee in my face, laughing when I asked during the second week of training how soon would it be before I could get an assignment to Afghanistan. I had to get in country before the war was over, because I knew that even though the war had reached its seven year mark and the nation was preparing to send in a surge, it could end at any moment and I’d miss my chance.

It would be five years before I would finally deploy.

It seemed to me that I was always in the right place at the wrong time. No matter how often I raised my hand to go, there was always a roadblock. I think it was fate’s sense of humor. It wouldn’t be until I stopped waving my hand like a six-year-old with a pressing question that I’d actually be able to go.

I thought it was never going to happen.

I guess that brings us to where we are now. Five years passed. In the time it took for me to finally get orders to Afghanistan, I was promoted, got married, moved across the world, was promoted again, had a baby, was tasked for two deployments that were canceled, had another baby, and returned to the States.

Just as my husband and I were getting settled in at my third duty station and looking to buy a house, he received orders to Afghanistan. And I was staying home with the kids. I wanted to be happy for him. Secretly, I was annoyed.

But life has a funny way of working things out. After all, I am writing to you from Afghanistan. Must be that funny sense of humor fate has again. Call it luck or pure coincidence, but this time his orders were canceled and mine finally stuck. I call it fate. It’s hard not to, when it was something as small as a Q-tip that got us to where we are now.

But like I said, that’s a story for another day.

Week in Photos, Jan 4, 2013

Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick

Air Force Public Affairs Agency

This is how our Airmen across the globe ended 2012 in the new year’s first Week in Photos.

 

A C-130 Hercules taxis to its parking spot in Southwest Asia, on Dec. 28, 2012. Snow removal teams used specialized equipment to clear the runways and taxiways after an overnight snowfall covered the flightline with more than three inches of snow. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Willis)