Story by SSgt Darby Arnold on 07/09/2019ANCHORAGE, Alaska (June 24, 2019) When Airmen go on their annual deployment, the focus is on training. But, what do Airmen do during their off-duty hours?
Airmen from the 134th Air Refueling Wing Medical Group conducted their annual deployment for training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson where they trained along-side active duty members. However, during their off-duty time they had the opportunity to explore a bit of "the Last Frontier" here, June 16-29.
Airmen had the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities such as hiking, kayaking, fishing and culinary tastings in and around the city of Anchorage.
"I'm an outdoor fanatic, so I brought a lot of my hiking and water sports gear. Many of us went on about 12-15 miles worth of trails and glacier climbs," said Senior Airman Chris Ray, 134th public health specialist. "We also kayaked in 40-degree water across an inlet carved out by a massive glacier in Whittier, Alaska."
For some of the 134th MDG Airmen, including Ray, this was their first deployment for annual training as a group.
"These types of trips made me realize how much I didn't know about my team. I thought I knew them relatively well when we would work together during drill, but during our off time we were able to get to know one another, discovering similarities and differences that would make us a better team when we returned home," said Ray. As a young Airman, I learned a lot from people who I now would call career and life mentors. They shared their past experiences with me to help me in my future plans based on their mistakes and successes. I have connected with my team more than I thought I would."
Maj. Sarah Combs, 134th certified registered nurse anesthetist, planned the Matanuska Glacier hike during some group down time that ended up being a crowd favorite. The Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier in Alaska and is approximately 26 miles long and four miles wide.
"My favorite part of exploring around Alaska is sharing these new experiences with my fellow wingmen," said Combs. "The scenery is stunning and completing a challenging hike or checking off a life-long bucket list item truly unifies us as a group."
The Airmen accomplished a lot of valuable training and honing of their skills during the deployment for training at JBER, as well as learned some new team-building skills, making it a win-win for all.
"Spending time together enhances the camaraderie. It gives us a chance to get to know the newer members of our unit. It really builds that interpersonal relationship," said Chief Master Sgt. Jana Johnson, 134th MDG superintendent. "If we ever have to deploy with each other, these activities help to build and establish trust beforehand since they are having to work with each other as a team."
Developing relationships and creating stronger bonds helps Airmen to become "Volunteer Ready" by making teamwork a core component in their lives.