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HIANG’s 292nd CBCS has aloha-filled departure to AFRICOM
Story by TSgt Alison Bruce-Maldonado on 02/19/2019
Maui based Airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard [HIANG] 292nd Combat Communication Squadron [CBCS] departed Hawaii, Jan. 24 for a deployment within the AFRICOM area of operations.
The HIANG members mobilized to provide communication support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel at several bases in Africa.
“We’re getting the bases ready for operations,” said Maj. Jessie Park, commander, 292nd CBCS. “It’s a proud moment to see them go out there and it’s also a little bit of concern because you want them to be safe.”
Many of the Airmen, like Senior Airman Jordan Gines, 292nd CBCS cyber transport technician, the deployment is their first since joining the Air Force.
“My parents have some concerns,” said Gines, “so I made the extra effort to spend time with them. I’m just excited and nervous because this is my first time out of country too. It’s the unknown.”
As with all deployments, the well-being of family and friends can be a concern for the deployers.
“First time, it’s the uncertainty not knowing what to expect,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Agapay, 292nd CBCS power production technician. “This is the unit’s first time to Africa. There’s a lot of support out there for our families, but there’s always that question of is my family going to be okay?'”
Deployments affect the families and friends left behind just as much as the deployers themselves.
For Tech. Sgt. Cherrie Ann Kawachi, 292nd CBCS client systems and cyber operations technician, who is a military spouse herself, the deployment is her second. Just as in the previous deployment, she began her preparations months in advance to make sure her child-care arrangements are in place.
It was a team effort to ensure a smooth departure. On the flight-line, departing members were joined by non-departing members who helped to build up several pallets containing communication equipment and personal belongings.
“It’s the preparation, making sure we meet the deadlines because there’s a lot of requirements,” said Master Sgt. Jose Dino, 292nd CBCS command support staff NCO-in-charge. “We make sure everyone is complete. It’s a year-long preparation to get to this point and everyone here is involved in ensuring the deplorers’ departure runs smoothly.”
“This is really a team effort,” said Park. “For me, this is why we are here.”
The “spirit of aloha” or “affection and love towards others” is common in many HIANG squadrons. Many family members waited outside the fenced area near the flight-line, braving the heat for several hours for a chance to spend more time with their loved ones.
It’s normal for family members to endure overwhelming emotions when speaking about their service members leaving for deployment; many fighting back tears and choked voices as they spoke about their loved ones.
“I asked him why he keeps going?” said Robert Tomlinson, father of Chief Master Sgt. Charles Tomlinson. “He gave me the only answer he knew, he said I want to make sure my people are taken care of.'”
When aircrew signaled it was time to board the C-17 Globemaster III, the flight-line erupted into an atmosphere of farewells and aloha, as the deployers received a bevy of long-bear hugs and brotherly handshakes filled with laughter and more tears.
The deployers boarded the aircraft, flown by active duty and air guard service members from the 535th and 204th Airlift Squadrons out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
Many 292nd squadron members remained on the flight-line until the aircraft took off from the airport, watching in silence and waving solemn goodbyes as the C-17 sped up the runway, eventually lifting into the Hawaii sunset, headed on the long journey to Africa.
“Our training prepared us for this,” said Kawachi. “We are prepared to do our share over there and support the mission. But we want to get back to our families too. Get in, get out, get back home safely”.