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NEWS | Jan. 25, 2012

From GITMO to Afghanistan: JB Charleston Sailors serve as Individual Agumentees

By Staff Sgt. Nicole Mickle

 The sky is blue and cloudless, waves slap against the side of a 650-ton aircraft carrier while a crowd of wives, children, mothers and fathers say their goodbyes to more than 5,000 sailors about to head off for a deployment at sea. Although this is the picture most of us have in mind when we think of a Navy deployment, Sailors leaving home as Individual Augmentees are in for an entirely different experience.

There were more than 8,000 Navy IA deployments last year taking Sailors to 14 different locations from Central America to the Middle East to serve in an array of different combat support roles. Sailors from Joint Base Charleston were among them and this year will be no different.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Frank Newsom is a Master-at-Arms assigned to the 628th Security Forces Squadron, at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station. He is only weeks away from departing for a year-long IA deployment to Afghanistan. He will be assigned to the International Security Assistance Force where he will provide protective services for a senior officer. This is a job that he has spent most of his career in the Navy dreaming about.

"Protective Services is something I have wanted to do since about two years into my career," says Newsom. "I found out there was a slot open in Afghanistan while I was still deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I volunteered immediately."

The process to get ready for an IA deployment differs from a traditional Navy deployment. After notification, the Sailor is required to complete an expeditionary screening checklist and then report to a Navy Mobilization and Processing Site in Norfolk, Va., San Diego, Gulfport, Miss. or Port Hueneme, Calif. Following NMPS, they report to an Army training site to complete basic combat skills training which can last three to four weeks.
Depending on the assignment, there may be additional training before reporting to their forward operating location.

Newsom will attend the Protective Services Specialist school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. which lasts 18 days. After graduating, he will attend Army Combat Skills training in Fort Bliss, Texas.

"The training I will receive at Fort Leonard Wood will open doors for me in my military career as well as after," says Newsom. "My ultimate goal is to become a protective service agent in Washington D.C. after completing my military service."

During his 10-year career, Newsom has had the opportunity to work with every military branch. While stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. as a Master-at-Arms, he got his first taste of working with the Air Force. His next assignment would take him to the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston where he worked side by side with Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors. So, he felt right at home working in a joint services environment at Guantanamo Bay which is where one of his co-workers, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicus Griffin just returned from a one- year IA deployment.

Griffin, a Master-at-Arms, has been in the Navy for 12 years and has completed three IA deployments, two in Afghanistan and his most recent, in Guantanamo Bay where he worked in Detainee Operations. All were one-year tours.

"Going on these deployments has been a great life experience for me," he says. "It has definitely helped me advance in my career."

Griffin's last deployment presented a new set of challenges to overcome because he was now a married man.

"On my first two IA's I wasn't married, so all I had was the deployment to focus on; this time was different," Griffin explains. "My wife and I had to learn patience and we communicated as much as we could. I think overall, though, this deployment made our relationship stronger."

The Fleet and Family Support Center offers IA services to deployed member's families which include deployment readiness briefs, IA family discussions, the Family Connection Newsletter and information on the Families of Warriors in Transition Homecoming. These programs are similar to others offered across the board in the other military branches.

Griffin is no stranger to working with joint forces. His first encounter with the Army was when he arrived at Fort Bragg, N.C. for combat skills training.

"Fort Bragg was my first training experience with the Army," says Griffin. "It brought back memories from boot camp. I had to adjust quickly and I learned a lot. "

Some of his fondest memories from his deployments were picking up the Soldiers unique lingo.

"I found myself saying things like "tracking" which means do you understand and "hooah" instead of "hooyah" which is what we say in the Navy," said Griffin. "Working with other branches really gave me a better understanding of what each service brings to the fight."

Griffin is back at JB Charleston - Naval Weapons Station and he is able to give advice to Newsom before he heads off to Afghanistan.

"Their IA deployments stand out to the other sailors and leadership," said Chief Petty Officer Vince Stephens, 628th SFS leading chief petty officer at JB Charleston - Weapons Station. "Their deployments really add a lot to their professional knowledge in the command. They came back charging hard and have set the example. They have shown that they are willing and able to go above and beyond their job. They have raised the bar for our guys."