Seymour Johnson AFB airmen deploy for tour of duty
By Gary Popp
Published in News on September 11, 2011 12:58 AM
Jesus Caballero sat with fellow airmen on wide wooden bleachers with a relaxed, confident expression on his face.
The 22-year-old airman first class was one of the 270 servicemen and women who filled two large processing rooms at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base waiting to be loaded into a massive aircraft that will take them to Afghanistan.
Caballero said the deployment would be his first after serving in the Air Force for more than two years.
"I have been wanting to do my part for a long time," he said.
Caballero hopes to follow in the foot steps of his uncle who served in the Army and was later hired as a sheriff's deputy.
"My uncle has a great sense of pride, and a lot of people respect him," he said.
Caballero said he wasn't worried about his safety, and that he was ready for "anything and everything."
For Caballero, the toughest part of the deployment is already behind him, saying goodbye to "Daddy's little girls."
For the six-month deployment, Caballero will have to be without his 5-month-old and 2-year-old daughters.
Senior Airman Jasmine Palmer, a 20-year-old with three years in the military, said her family is more nervous than she is about her first deployment.
The only girl in a family with three boys, she someone has always been there to look out for her.
Ms. Palmer said her younger brother plays football, and when he gets nervous about going onto the field, she always tells him to just be confident. Now, she finds herself taking her own advice.
Ms. Palmer said her family didn't want her to join the military, but she couldn't pass up having her college paid for or the life experiences that will, for her, include a six-month stay in Afghanistan.
"Most people will never experience something like this," Ms. Palmer said. "Most people don't understand putting service before self."
Team Seymour and families said farewell to members of the 335th Fighter Squadron, 4th Medical Group, 4th Mission Support Group, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the Explosive Ordinance flight Saturday, part of a group of about 800 who will deploy before the end of the month.
Among those leaving Saturday were about a dozen servicemen and women from other branches, who were diverted to the flight.
One of them was Marine Leslie Capuano.
Ms. Capuano sat quietly reading a pamphlet titled "The Patriotic Rosary" as her thin fingers softly worked up and down a rosary made of translucent, light blue beads.
"I pray the rosary every day," Ms. Capuano said. "My faith is very important to me. I love our country and Our Lady."
She said she was more excited than nervous about her impending deployment.
"We have been in Afghanistan for 10 years. Now I get to go," she said.
She said she wanted to be a Marine since she was in middle school, and now she is glad to soon become part of the military's effort in Afghanistan.
"I want to be part of it before we leave," she said.
If things get difficult for the young Marine in Afghanistan, she will find comfort in the rosaries.
"I think it will be a bit overwhelming at first. I will want to make sure I am doing a good job of what I am supposed to be doing," Ms. Capuano said.
Those in the group that deployed Saturday around 11 p.m. represented the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, 4th Fighter Wing, 335th Fighter Squadon commander Lt. Col. Dave Moeller said.
Moeller said the majority of the troops deploying from Seymour Johnson are maintenance and medical personnel as well as pilots.
He said their objective in Afghanistan will be to support Operation Enduring Freedom, build partner capacity for the Afghanistan government and to assist with defeating counter insurgencies.