JOINT BASE CHARELSTON, S.C. –
As any military family knows, trials come with deployments.
Joint Base Charleston’s Fatjo family is no different. Being high school sweethearts and dating several years before joining the Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Jason Fatjo, 14th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and his wife Stacey, have experienced five deployments together, each one different than the last.
“We were still dating when he went on his first ever deployment,” said Stacey. “The first one after we were married was kind of hard. I had just arrived in Charleston and was still trying to make friends and find a job, so I really didn’t know what to do.”
Growing up the daughter of a career Airman, Stacey was familiar with the unique lifestyle service entails but she had never experienced a deployment until Fatjo’s first in 2007.
“You have to rely on family,” said Stacey. “If I ever need something, I can call my dad for military-related help and I call my mom every day, she’s my biggest support system. You also have to rely on your military friends, put your pride away and ask for help when you need it.”
As much as Fatjo doesn’t like leaving his family, he knows that the mission comes first. Fatjo has a direct impact on supporting Air Mobility Command’s global mission.
“Whether we’re stateside or going on missions,” said Fatjo. “We’re moving people and equipment where it needs to go so we can get warfighters in and out so they can complete the mission.”
Although deployments become more routine over time, the circumstances surrounding each creates its own unique set of challenges. Between his third and fourth deployment, the Fatjos had their first child, Hailey.
“This is Hailey’s second deployment but the first where she’s actually aware of what’s going on, so it was a little hard,” said Stacey. “She would cry because I’d have to tell her ‘dad can’t FaceTime tonight because he’s out flying.’ It was tough.
“This last one has been fairly easy. Our daughter is in school now, so when he told me he would be gone for the summer I kind of had a sigh of relief because we could leave here and visit my parents for a few weeks.”
Staying in contact while deployed has become easier for the Fatjo family. Because of advancements in communications, Fatjo was able to talk to his wife and daughter often being able to tell his daughter a bedtime story or sing her to sleep.
“We’ve been able to Skype, FaceTime and e-mail if needed,” said Fatjo. “It’s just much easier to stay in contact.”
Everything seems to go wrong for the Fatjos during deployments when Stacey’s trying to manage the responsibilities of both parental roles. She takes their daughter to school and fixes things around the house. Stacey has handled various challenges during most of the deployments they’ve been through, with the most recent one being an exception to the rule.
“For us, there’s a term called the ‘deployment curse.’ If something can go wrong it, will,” said Stacey. “Every deployment so far either something has broken or completely gone wrong. Luckily, this last deployment was a piece of cake.”
After returning from his four-month deployment to Southwest Asia, Fatjo is grateful to be back with his family. Being able to see his wife and daughter was something he thought about throughout his time away.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Fatjo said. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for the past few months. Since I left them, I’ve been waiting to see them again.”
Deployments create circumstances requiring an Airman to grow and adapt quickly to a new role. This is similar to the challenges faced by the families left behind. Stacey, and those in her position, must figure out how to manage the roles usually handled by both parents to keep their household functioning. However, the experience and bond of the family growing stronger makes it all worth it.
“Deployments suck, honestly,” said Stacey. “But they show you how strong you can be. They show you what you’re capable of doing. You do things you didn’t even know were possible.”