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NEWS | Aug. 17, 2006

Expeditionary Airmen: Are you ready?

By Lt. Col. Jeanne Hardrath 437 LRS/586 ELRS commander

By now, most have heard about the Air Force's shift to a more expeditionary force. From increased and longer taskings, expeditionary combat skills training at home station and a new deployment focus to our basic training, expeditionary Air Force is not just the cool new phrase of the day. It is our new way of doing business. While the warrior in us is eager to jump in and tackle any mission, each of us needs to ensure we are really ready to go. 

Being really ready to go took on a new meaning for me in April as I began packing my bags to deploy. All of the last-minute details seemed to grow exponentially as I got closer to my deployment. While I have been deployed, I have been extremely impressed by the superb job our Airmen are doing in the deployed environment. We are certainly impressing our sister services. However, I have also seen some extremely stressful situations that could have been prevented with a little additional pre-deployment planning. Here are a few things to keep in mind now as you prepare for future deployments: 

Be in shape! Notice, I did not say use your deployment to get into shape. A deployment is a great time to improve your fitness level, but you need to be physically fit before you start pre-deployment training. The first time you can't haul your body weight with 40 extra pounds of individual body armor and a Kevlar helmet into a five-ton truck cab, you will know you should have been focusing on your fitness level much earlier.
Complete normal pre-deployment checklist items well in advance. Most of our deployment checklist items are simply common-sense items that we should always have complete - having a will, being up-to-date with all medical and dental requirements and having completed all of the computer based training requirements we love to put off. 

Ease the workload for those who will be looking out for you. All of us rely on friends and family to take care of the things we used to do while we're deployed. Make this as easy as possible for them. Provide clear instructions for your bills, car, home and pets. Get applicable powers of attorney from the legal office, and clear up any pending financial issues ahead of time. 

Remember, now is the time to take care of your friends and family. Give them plenty of notice that you will be deploying and provide them with any details you can share. Make sure your spouse is aware of the support our Family Support Center, first sergeants, commanders, supervisors and spouse groups provide. Get your children signed up for extra activities. Just as we have found here, staying busy is the easiest way to make the time pass faster. Most importantly, spend quality time now with those you care about. Those memories and the strong relationships you forge now will keep you all going during the separation ahead. 

Finally, step up when you are called. Some of us volunteer, some of us go when we are asked, but all of us need to be ready to go. Not playing is not an option. I see examples every day of vehicle operators, security forces, EOD troops, etc., who have taken on more than their "fair share," yet they stay motivated and take a great deal of pride in what they do. I see examples from every career field of troops who go out of their way to improve operations or take better care of their customers. These troops are making a difference and bringing their best to the fight. They make our Air Force shine in a joint environment. Those not willing to bring their "A-game" let everyone down. Those not willing to come, need to form a line at the gate. 

This is a very exciting time for the members of the USAF -- OEF/OIF operations do not allow for training spin-up time; we have to hit the ground running. By preparing early, you can ensure you are really ready to go - a true Expeditionary Airman!