Deployed Airmen find hope, resiliency through wingmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

As COVID-19 continues to impact deployments around the world, Airmen down-range found hope in their wingmen and showed true resiliency when challenges were thrown their way.

Due to the unforeseen mission impacts due to COVID-19, the 729th Air Control Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, was unable to replace the members of the 726th ACS on time. This pushed back the 726th redeployment date by almost a month.

As COVID-19 began to ramp up, Airman 1st Class Barbara Miller, 726th ACS surveillance technician, knew her homecoming would not be the same.

“During month seven we still didn’t know when we were coming home,” Miller, a first-time deployer, said. “Our leadership was transparent and they were doing what they could to get us back.”

Despite their best efforts, the delay was still disheartening to many. But Miller found ways to stay positive and keep pushing forward.

“We got to work with our coalition partners and the Marines,” Miller explained. “I couldn’t have asked for a better support system; they make the job easier. We knew there would be a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere.”

Positivity in the midst of hardship can be difficult but as it took root in the squadron people began to notice, including Lt. Col. Richard Barber, 726th ACS commander.

“There were many mental and physical challenges that they had to go through with this deployment,” Barber said. “These Airmen adapted so well with the changes that were thrown their way.”

Not only did the Airmen come together during this time of uncertainty, but so did their families back home.

“We definitely saw a mutually beneficial camaraderie with families and spouses of the deployed Airmen,” Barber said. “They were hosting virtual coffee hours or virtual trivia nights to break away from the monotony and maintain a social life while physically distancing.”

Both Airmen and their families proved to be prioritizing their mental health during these trying times. Thankfully, that keeps their minds sharp so they can take care of each other and the mission.

“The Airmen that deploy from the 726th ACS and all the ACS’s from across the Air Force are the theater air control for the entire theater,” Barber said. “They have a large weight of responsibility and their ability to be resilient with the changes and the daily missions was incredible.”

The Airmen of the 726th ACS were faced with the uncertainty of the current times and met it with resiliency and camaraderie.

“It was a crazy, eye-opening, and exciting seven months,” Miller said. “I learned a lot about myself and my job and I would do it all over again.”