01/17/06 — 200 Seymour Johnson AFB personnel deploy for next mission

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200 Seymour Johnson AFB personnel deploy for next mission

By Turner Walston
Published in News on January 17, 2006 1:45 PM

Airman Jeff Jamieson didn't have much time to be a newlywed before getting the call that he, along with 200 other airmen at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, would be deploying to southwest Asia.

The 19-year-old and his wife, Sarah, married this past June.

Monday night, they said goodbye as Jamieson prepared for his first deployment.

Sarah and the newest family member, Jaxson, the couple's golden retriever-mix puppy -- a Christmas gift, were on hand to see him off.

"I'm excited," Jamieson said. "I'm just waiting for it, I guess."

Mrs. Jamieson said she was a little worried. She had packed some cookies and batteries for him to take along.

She was among hundreds of family members who gathered at a flightline hangar as their loved ones processed luggage and forms and boarded the aircraft that in just a few hours would take them to southwest Asia early this morning.

By week's end, about 480 airmen from Seymour Johnson will have deployed. F-15E Strike Eagles from the 336th Fighter Squadron will join the deployed airmen later this week.

They will be away for about 120 days.

Susan Sperry is used to saying goodbye to her husband, Master Sgt. Don Sperry, a 25-year air force veteran.

This will be his 10th -- and, hopefully, final -- mission.

"I've been to the Middle East quite a bit," Sperry said. "But this should be my last one."

He said leaving home gets a little easier with each deployment. With one son in the Air Force and another a senior in high school, he said his children understand the nature of his job.

"In some respects, it gets a little easier," Sperry said. "They realize the threat and what's actually happening."

Shawn, 18, who was also on hand Monday to say goodbye to his dad, said they would stay in touch with e-mails and phone calls.

"I'm pretty much used to it," he said. "He's been going ever since I was born."

Even though Sperry has been on missions before, leaving his family is never easy. They will never be far from his thoughts -- even though he will be thousands of miles away.

"The phone calls help," he said. "Lots of mail and phone calls makes it a little bit easier."

Mrs. Sperry said she will rely on her husband rather than the media for information from overseas.

"When he was over there in 2003, it was better not to watch the news," she said. "It was better to get the phone calls than see the war on TV."

Capt. Clint Cash oversaw the deployment process. He said the deploying airmen were anxious to get started.

"Most of them are just ready to get doing their jobs," he said. "They're eager to go serve and protect."

Cash said the airmen deploying for the first time would experience some nervousness. But for the most part, they will be doing the jobs they perform day-to-day at Seymour Johnson. That, and working with familiar faces, help ease the transition, Cash said.

"Definitely, going with a few of the folks you know helps put the mind at ease," he said.

Technology is in place to allow the airmen to contact family and friends, Cash said. "Some sense of normalcy comes with being able to communicate with folks back home."

Cash said the airmen would "hit the ground running," so they would have to be alert. "The best thing they can do is sleep on the plane."

Sgt. Ronald Ortiz, 30, waited to weigh his luggage before deploying for the first time.

"It's exciting. I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I've only heard good things about being over there."

Ortiz said he spoke with his mother over the weekend.

"She wished me the best, to be safe and call when I get a chance."

An avionics engineer, Ortiz said he will be doing the same jobs he does at home while he is serving in Asia. He will be repairing and maintaining the electrical systems in the cockpits of aircraft.

"I know exactly what it is I'm going to be doing," he said. "I think it's going to be a good experience."