08/02/07 — Airmen prepare to deploy

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Airmen prepare to deploy

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 2, 2007 1:46 PM

Ashley Goins knows she will not make it home for Christmas this year.

So it hurt a little when her 3-year-old son, Jalin, asked when she would be back.

"I was on the phone with my son and he said, 'Mommy, when can we come get you?" she said. "I said, 'Baby, it's going to be a few months.'"

Goins was one of more than 70 airmen from the 916th Air Refueling Wing's Security Forces Squadron who gathered at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base this morning to gear up for war.

The entire flight is scheduled to deploy to Iraq early next week for what many expect will be at least a six month tour.

Unlike Goins, Master Sgt. Karl Wolf has been down this road before.

He said he has come to terms with not being able to take the boat out for awhile, but admits the only things he will truly long for while deployed are his family and friends.

"Obviously, you miss taking part in all the family stuff," Wolf said. "When you think about it, everything else is kind of relative."

Squadron Commander Maj. Jeff Poupart said he understands just how difficult the next few months might be for the airmen and their families.

"It's different for reservists," he said. "Their families aren't really used to the deployment side."

Even still, he added, the mission must go on.

"We're ready," Poupart said. "We're excited about the chance to do our part."

But that doesn't mean there are not things he, too, will miss -- having a cell phone, unlimited Internet access and the freedom that comes with being an American.

"I'll miss the freedom of not being trapped inside some compound," he said. "And the ease of communication -- having that cell phone on you at all times."

The major admits he has no way of supplanting those things.

But he remains confident that there will be plenty of "brothers and sisters" to draw strength from -- to fall back on -- when the hard days come.

"(The 916th), it really is like a family," Poupart said. "We're in this together."

By this afternoon, the airmen will have already gone through the processing line and checked to ensure their records are up to date.

And while some are anxious about their first tour, Wolf said he is certain that if the squadron sticks together and gets the job done, the deployment will have been worth it.

"You've just got to go," he said. "You suck it up and press on."