Valdosta Daily Times

March 27, 2013

350 Airmen deployed

Families bid 74th FS goodbye

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

MOODY AFB — It was a hard goodbye for families of the 74th Fighter Squadron, which deployed in its entirety — about 350 airmen — from Moody Air Force Base Tuesday afternoon.

The men and women of the squadron began the deployment process by assembling in a few hangars, with most of the personnel in building 774, an ammunitions hangar. They held their spouses and played with their children, and exchanged plans for the long six months they will spend doing their duty in Southwest Asia.

Airman First Class Alex Newport and his wife Melissa, hometown sweethearts from Chandler, Okla., plan to use Skype and FaceTime to visit during Newport's deployment—his first in four years of marriage.

“I have mixed emotions,” Newport said. “But I'm going over there to do the job that I'm trained to do. The hard part is the feeling of not being in control. I have to put a lot of trust in my family, and faith in God. There are a lot of unknowns, but I'm really excited about this job.”

Melissa Newport said she isn't worried about her husband's safety during his deployment, but she will be excited to learn that he has landed. She will care for their three-year-old son Beau and their baby boy, Jett.

Newport, an A-10 service chief, joined the Air Force to earn his bachelor’s degree in management. He and his wife agree that six months apart is sad, but with video phone and video chat technology, it won’t be as hard as it was for military in previous years.

“Our grandfathers in World War II only had carrier mail, and we’ll be talking instantly overseas,” Newport said. “The kids are too young to understand, but I'll be missing a huge portion of time with my family."

Newport expects his kids to be a little more grown up when he returns, and “a lot of hugging and kissing," he said.

For the family of Master Sergeant Matthew Harris, the deployment is hitting a little harder. It has been 10 years since he was last deployed, but he is no stranger to being sent overseas. It will be his fifth deployment.

"It hasn't gotten any easier," his wife Brenna said. "But it has gotten easier with the kids. I know it's going to be hard getting the kids where they need to be, but they're able to do a lot more now than they could."

Brenna plans to lean on family to maintain business-as-usual as best as possible. Their daughters, Mackenzie, 13, and Madison, 6, and their son Caleb, 11, were stoic as they waited with their dad, and they agreed they would miss him.

"I went to Korea once," Harris said. "That was a long trip. But last time it was email, and this time we'll have Skype."

The airmen said their good-byes at the hangar, then were bused to a different area to go through security check and begin the boarding process. They waited a few hours and then boarded a single 747 airliner chartered through Atlas Air.

Vice Commander Colonel Steven E. Ramer and the Moody Honorary Commanders shook the hands of each airman to wish them good luck as they boarded the flight.

The 74th FS was deployed along with support elements from maintenance personnel and members of the 23rd Logistic Readiness Squadron. The 74th FS is charged with directing flying operations for the USAF's largest A-10C fighter group, one of two A-10 squadrons located at Moody.

Most of the personnel deployed are support staff, but a few pilots were included, according to Moody Public Affairs. This is the first deployment from Moody in the last six months, according to Public Information Officer Lt. Cara Bousie.