Tag Archives: deployed

Military Appreciation Month: Spotlight on an Airman Week 5

Warrior of the Week: Senior Airman Kelly McGrathby the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Editor’s note: May is Military Appreciation Month, and we’ll highlight a different Airman and his or her job once per week for this month. We’re truly grateful for the hard work each Airman puts forth each day, and every job — big or small – contributes to the U.S. Air Force being the best Air Force in the world. Is there a military member you appreciate? Tell us in the comments below.

Meet the Transit Center at Manas Warrior of the Week: Senior Airman Kelly McGrath, a contracting officer from the 376th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron. McGrath is deployed from 92nd CONS at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and is a self proclaimed “military brat” who hails from Livingston, Texas.

What do you do on a daily basis at the Transit Center at Manas?
I’m a contingency contracting officer for our one-person commodities flight. It’s my responsibility to oversee the government purchase card program for the transit center. I also support and procure entertainment contracts and procure all commodities as needed by our many customers.

What do you enjoy about being at the Transit Center at Manas?
What I enjoy most about TCM is that I’m in a completely different country and I get to experience a new culture. I also get the opportunity to meet new people. This is my first deployment, so I also like that I’m getting to be part of a very unique experience in helping to shut down the base here.

Why did you choose to serve in the military?
I was at a point in my life that I felt like I was just spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere fast. So, something drastic needed to change. I always knew the military was an option for me coming from an Air Force military family background, but I didn’t give it much consideration in the past. Initially, I thought I would never serve, but it’s funny how life goes. Now that I’m in the Air Force, I wish I would have decided to join sooner.

How do you feel about your contributions to the Transit Center at Manas mission and current operations in the AOR?
I feel like I’m making a daily impact on the mission through all of the purchases I make for my customers as well as the contractual and shipping issues that I work through on a daily basis. It’s been a very rewarding experience being a one-woman show for the commodities flight, and aiding my customers in meeting their purchasing requirements.

Time at the Transit Center at Manas:
4 months and 3 weeks

Time in Air Force:
3 years and 2 months

Greatest accomplishment:
Receiving the 2013 Air Mobility Command Contracting Airman of the Year Award.

Goals you want to achieve or meet while at the Transit Center at Manas:
I wanted to experience the local culture and make an impact by spending time at many of the local orphanages and the American Kant Corner School. I also would like to bench press 150 lbs. by the time I leave Manas. I’m current lifting 135 lbs. so I’m on my way.

Reading, sewing, quilting, arts and crafts, cooking/baking, exercising (weight lifting and boxing/kick-boxing), photography and traveling.

Your best habit:
My attention to detail.

Favorite quote:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

Favorite movies:
Beauty and the Beast, Wall-E, Star Wars, Star Trek, Wreck-It Ralph, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Twilight.

Who is your favorite mentor and what did you learn from him/her:
My parents. They’ve always supported me in everything I do and pushed me to better myself. They helped shape me into the person I am today. I couldn’t have asked for any two better role models and mentors in my life.

If you could spend one hour with any person, who would it be and why:
It would be my grandpa. He passed away when I was about 4 years old, so I didn’t get to really know him and have him be a part of my life. What little I remember of him he was a great loving grandpa and his time here was too short.

PHOTO: Senior Airman Kelly McGrath, 376th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron contingency contracting officer, writes a contract for a customer at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, March 22, 2014. McGrath’s responsibilities include overseeing the Government Purchase Card program here and supporting and procuring all commodities need by customers as well as entertainment contracts for the Transit Center and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman George Goslin/Released)

Deployed mother keeps the bond from 8,000 miles away

By Tech Sgt. Colleen Urban
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Deployments are different after you have a kid. I just never realized how different deployments would be once I became a parent.

This deployment I am a mother. Sometimes I wonder how a mother could leave her 1-year-old baby like I have done, as if I am abandoning my child in some way. Then, I remember the reason why I do it.

It’s not just for me anymore, but for my son. I get through the separation by remaining focused on why I am here.Tech Sgt. Colleen Urban kisses her son.

It all began when I sat at my desk, nine months pregnant, reading the email informing me I would deploy in a year. I hadn’t even had my child yet and already had to think about leaving him. On top of that, my husband was deploying at the same time.

How was I going to do this? How would I be able to handle leaving my new baby boy? How would I physically be able to get on a plane and not look back? More importantly, I asked myself how was I going to ask someone else to care for him.

I didn’t have a choice. I had a duty and obligation I was not backing out of.

Even knowing a year in advance could not prepare me for the emotions I would go through during this deployment. I was just getting the hang of being a mom and I felt as if I would have to start over.

When I saw my son during one of our video calls, he held his arms out as if I was just going to scoop him up. As my son reached for me through the screen of the tablet, whining for me with desperation in his voice, I did everything I could to fight back my tears, but it was no match for the feeling of helplessness that overcame me.

The helpless feeling comes from not being there. I can’t scold him when he does something wrong and I can’t teach him how to do something right, I can’t make him feel better when he is sick or put him to bed at night. Most of all, I can’t hold him, hug him or kiss him — all I can do is keep loving him from 8,000 miles away.

I have watched my son learn to talk, express his emotions and throw a ball all through a small hand-held screen. And, in that tiny box in the top corner, I have watched myself grow.

As each day goes by, it never gets easier, but I get stronger.

The bond that I have with my son is not broken from this deployment, our bond is greater than ever and it will only help me to cherish the moments I do have with him and help me to become the parent I want to be.

My son won’t remember this time, but I will. As long as I am in the Air Force, it is something I could face again. Many parents also face this every day.

So when you look back upon these days, don’t think about what you missed, think about what you gained and what lessons you will be able to pass on to your child. Your strength and determination will make your kid proud to call you mom or dad. That reason is enough to keep me going.

Whatever your reason is, keep doing it, because you are doing something greater for yourself and the future of your child.

PHOTO: Tech. Sgt. Colleen Urban, a 380th Air Expeditionary Wing broadcaster, kisses her son. Urban is currently deployed from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (Courtesy Photo)

Taking the oath

Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Re-enlisting in the Air Force is an honorable and celebrated occasion for many Airmen. It signifies their continued commitment to serve and protect the nation from all enemies who threaten our democracy. Federal law actually requires all service members who enlist or re-enlist to take the Oath of Enlistment, which states:

I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (So help me God.)

I spoke these words for the first time in 1997. I was going through the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS, in Salt Lake City, Utah, just before I made my journey to basic military training. Over the course of my 16-year career in the Air Force, I’ve re-enlisted four times, and each time I took the oath and reflected on its meaning and on my commitment to serve.

These photos of deployed pararescueman Senior Airman Kristopher Tomes re-enlisting aboard a HC-130 really impacted me because he took that same oath. It is what sets us apart as military members. Taking the oath instills a sense of pride and camaraderie for everyone who wears the uniform. We understand what it’s like to serve something greater than ourselves, and it’s our privilege to be a part of the world’s greatest Air Force.






PHOTOS: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kristopher Tomes, a pararescueman with the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, re-enlists aboard a HC-130 minutes before jumping near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Nov. 19, 2013. Tomes is deployed from the 308th Rescue Squadron and has performed more than 150 jumps. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/Released)

Manas sentinels pay respect to fallen warriors

Dawn treading: KC-135 takeoffs and landings at dawnBy Lt. Col. Panos Bakogiannis
466th Air Expeditionary Group

It is overcast this early morning at Manas, but familiar. I’m joining other comrades-in-arms to pay respects to a few Fallen Warriors.

I felt this same way years ago while standing in formation as a first lieutenant anxiously waiting for my first Honor Guard detail at Bourne National Cemetery, Mass. It was a moment that connected me directly to our calling, a powerful sense of commitment and duty that framed my expectations for service afterwards. Above all, I was now part of an inseparable bond with an Airman who served years before me, and now his responsibility was mine and all who wear the uniform.

The morning air is already chilly, just like a late summer or early fall evening, the wind a bit crisp and surprising as it blows past me and sways the trees at the bus stop.

Fellow military members and I boarded buses and headed to the flightline, along with other vehicles with their hazard lights on. The vehicles line up to to pass through the serpentine guard lanes. We pass refueling aircraft from another era, KC-135s, designed with paper, pencils, and slide rules and flying before I was born, now silent sentinels watching the motorcade pass by. No telling how many conflicts or such formations they have witnessed, and their mute stares won’t give up any secrets either.

We pull up to a modern C-17 cargo plane, taking on fuel, with more vehicles surrounding it, hazards on. Airmen are moving around, checking lines and speaking to aircrew. The flightline is a magical and ethereal place at night, especially as we line up in a V formation at the tail end of the C-17.

Off in the distance is the horizon, blue and deep, and the pathway for our three warriors heading home to loved ones for one final reunion.

Three special purpose utility vehicles, each carrying one passenger, are lined up underneath the massive tail of this plane, its cargo lights from within its hold and underneath its massive whale tail illuminating the detail unfolding.

As the chaplain asks us to pray, a light mist drizzles slowly, and the massive grey hulk now shimmers with a moist sheen. The smell of fuel, exhaust, and brake lines stay present, and in its own right are the perfect incense for the moment.


We salute three times, as the Honor Guard purposefully moves our warriors onboard for home.

Through the cold mist, they remain covered in their sleep by our flag, the canton of blue over their hearts. It has been so for over 237 years as it is right now. The chill felt earlier is still there, but now somewhat welcomed as we are dismissed.

And once again, we board vehicles with hazards on, lined up, and pass by the same cold sentinels as before, still as silent and brooding, awaiting their next mission.

The plane slowly yet loudly powers up, preparing to taxi and launch for home. We pass through the gates, guards checking ID cards and waving us through. The flightline is now behind us, and with our brothers safely on board, we return to where we began. At a quiet bus stop, with a slight drizzle, a cool breeze, and a quiet walk back to our dorms.

For a brief moment, I was once again that first lieutenant, standing proud knowing I was with my fellow warriors, all united in a common cause – sending Fallen Warriors home.

May we never forget.

PHOTO: A KC-135 Stratotanker prepares to land in the early morning sunrise at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Aug. 22, 2013. Flight operations run seven days a week at the transit center to meet mission demands providing support for operations in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)

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)