301 FW warriors complete deployment despite pandemic

  • Published
  • By SrA William Downs, 301st Fighter Wing public affairs

Nearly one hundred 301st Fighter Wing Airmen have returned home from deployment, starting on October 11, 2020. Despite unfamiliar challenges of deploying during the pandemic, these warriors were able to push forward and safely accomplish the mission. One of the units directly charged with navigating a COVID-19 environment was the 301 FW Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Logistics Readiness Officer Captain Petra Reid, 301 FW LRS, said, “It has been quite the challenge having to facilitate deployment endeavors during the times of a pandemic due to a rapidly evolving guidance and rules of engagements; however, our Installation Deployment Readiness Cell managed to overcome those obstacles rather beautifully and deploy our members safely, efficiently, and without any major hiccups.”

For example, many deployers were mobilized with the 380 Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, executing a multifaceted mission. Initially, the primary mission was to provide logistics for the various bases in the area, moving personnel and resources such as fuel and aircraft.

Midway through, personnel from surrounding bases were reassigned to Al Dhafra for quarantine before being forward-deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, or elsewhere. The 301 FW deployers were tasked with providing logistical support for members who were coming through, getting them checked in, and having them quarantined for two weeks in designated areas with tents and dorms.

As Airmen arrived at Al Dhafra, they met Senior Master Sgt. Nathan McReynolds, 380 AEW LRS first sgt. who was instrumental to that transition process.

“[As soon as they departed the plane] I would reach out to them, communicate with them, get good contact information and relay that information to their work center,” McReynolds said. “I would also check on them while they were doing their two weeks of quarantine to make sure they had things that they needed: able to get in touch with family back home, needed anything from the base exchange, or anything from the chow hall.”

It’s not uncommon, especially among first time deployers, to feel stressed being away from home. When something happens back home it can impact the deployer causing feelings of stress and loneliness. To aid First Sergeants in recognizing stressors and mental health red flags in their Airmen, there were a multitude of resources available to them to help keep their Airmen in the fight.

McReynolds says a big part of his job downrange was telling his Airmen, “Hey, I’m hearing all these things from you and this is a normal feeling to what’s going on so don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you. You're a normal human being and we’re just going to work through the ways to reduce that stress on you and keep your head in the game.”

In light of the deployers coming home, Captain Reid said, “It always feels amazing to welcome our members home from a deployment; it never gets old to see their smiling and excited faces exit the carriers as they land at home station hoping to resume their “normal” lives after a contingency tour.”

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