WICHITA, Kan. – February 5, 2016 – “The Air Expeditionary Force deployments are the reason that we wear the uniform,” said Lt. Col. Brock Sissel, commander, 184th Civil Engineer Squadron. “It is a great opportunity for the guys to see how other countries live and operate, and it gives them the understanding of how they fit into the Air Force mission.”
That opportunity was one many Airmen from the 134th Air Control Squadron, Civil Engineer Squadron, Logistics Readiness Squadron, Security Forces Squadron, Comptroller Flight and Communication Flight had this fall. This is the largest mobilization that the wing has seen in recent years, with approximately 250 Guard members deployed to several locations bringing the knowledge and training to successfully complete the mission.
“They are responsible for the air picture and they have numerous radars piped in to their facility,” said Lt. Col. Richard Young, commander, 134th ACS. “They are basically the command and control of multiple areas of responsibilities. Everything that is happening in the air in the Middle East, our people are probably controlling the air picture.”
“I know that we are sending our best and brightest,” said Maj. Janell Blaufuss, commander, 184th Comptroller Flight. “I am very proud of all the people that serve in the finance office.”
As with every deployment, Jayhawks are being mixed with their active-duty counterparts and excelling.
“Lt. Col. Alan Docauer, 729th Air Control Squadron, an active-duty commander, is extremely happy with the leadership team over there and the capabilities of all the young Airmen,” said Young. “His comment was ‘You can’t tell who’s who on scope, it is pretty seamless. It is invisible on who’s active duty and who is Guard.'”
Home station missions have been a concern for many squadrons with the amount of personnel deployed. As with any challenge, the wing has come together and is helping fill the gaps. Some Airmen have shifted into new offices, gaining new responsibilities, and others are working in previous Air Force Specialty Codes to ensure that the mission doesn’t fail.
“We have had to shift some additional duties around to cover and also have had the opportunity to use some manning resources to bring some of our traditional Airmen out to work full-time,” said Lt. Col. Jesse Sojka, commander, 184th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
“I have about a third of my manning deployed with more drill-status Guardsmen than full-timers,” said Capt. Jeremy Cook, commander, 184th Communications Flight. “When you take four or five full-timers away for six months, it is a hit, but I am really impressed with the folks that have stepped up and the level of expertise of the people that are backfilling the positions and how they have handled it.”
Airman care is a priority for the wing and even with being 60 percent undermanned the comptroller office is keeping up with one of the most important aspects of deployment being paid. But the process can get complicated.
“When folks are deployed overseas, we can’t just push a button and they get paid,” said Blaufuss. “Anyone who is mobilized or deployed overseas right now is entitled to certain pay and allowances. Those require individual inputs by our office, every single month for every single entitlement that we give them. That produces hundreds, if not thousands of transactions every month.”
Even though deployments leave gaps in our squadrons, the experience that these Jayhawks will gain and share with their fellow Airmen when they return will make the 184th IW that much more prepared for any future taskings.
“I am extremely proud of them,” said Young. “We pressed hard prior to their deployment with getting their qualifications and training up to speed, and everything that I hear from their commander is that they are performing exceptionally well.”
“This is a great opportunity for the guys that went to practice the skills that they have been honing for the last four years,” said Sissel. “They will see stuff in their career field that they won’t see back home. They will have to improvise, adapt and overcome to complete that task that they are assigned over there. They will be able to get signed off on a lot of their core tasks and hands-on training. I should see them come back fully upgraded in their AFSC. It is a great thing this for the squadron and the guys.”