The Valdosta Daily Times
Any military deployment is a mix of feelings and a mix of families.
This held true for the deployment of the 823rd Base Defense Squadron on Thursday. Some people were silent, some cracked jokes. Most were spending a few last minutes with family and friends.
Like Christian “C.J.” Bowlander.
Thursday was Bowlander’s first deployment. He spent the morning with his dad, Brian, a former airman himself, and his little sister, Gillian.
“I’m going to miss my family, but I’m ready for it,” said Bowlander. “It’s my first deployment, but I’ve been away a few times.”
You might expect Bowlander, a self-described “newbie,” to be nervous, but like many members of the 823rd, he credits his training with preparing him for deployment.
“We’re trained for any scenario. You obviously pray that you don’t experience worst-case scenarios, but we’re prepared. I take it seriously, and I take it personally.”
The 823rd is part of the 820th Base Defense Group. Consisting of the 822nd, 823rd, and 824th Base Defense Squadron, the 820th is known for its extensive preparations for any conceivable scenario. While each member of the 823rd has a specialty — medic, communications, security forces, they are trained a for a little of everything to make them more versatile, more prepared.
While this is the first deployment for Bowlander, it is the third for Andrea Jefferson. A medic with the 823rd, Jefferson spent the morning laughing and taking pictures with her daughter, Arianna, and her husband, Ronald.
“I’m nervous, but ready,” said Jefferson. “It gets a little easier. There’s less fear of the unknown. Every deployment, we have lots of checklists and we go down the line.”
“You want your spouse at home, of course,” said Ronald. “You become Mr. Mom, in a sense. But you have to let them go. We know she’s going to be protected and she’s coming back home.”
As a military spouse, Ronald has had to learn how to be both mom and dad while Andrea is deployed.
“It’s challenging, but no more challenging than it is to be a military wife.”
After a couple of deployments, Ronald and Arianna have learned to adjust.
“He had to learn how to do my hair,” said Arianna. “I actually got a lot of compliments on it; I couldn’t believe it.”
Jefferson, much like Bowlander, has faith in her training. When stateside, members of the Base Defense Groups train each day. Training becomes their day job — come to work, train, go home.
While deployed to an undisclosed location, the 823rd will be responsible for setting up perimeters, for securing bases, for defending, for protecting. As protectors, conflict will be a regular possibility, but the 823rd, some nervous, some not, some saying goodbye to families, some to friends, some to dogs, their attitude towards their job and deployment can perhaps best be summed up by the phrase someone wrote in the middle of a banner sending them off and wishing them well.
“Do Work. Come Home.”