DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (KRBC/KTAB) – We can now report that the latest deployments from Dyess Air Force Base are safely integrated into their new missions. It was one week ago that families said goodbye to The 317th Airlift Wing. Senior Airman Jessica Pritchard is one of the around 250 people that deployed to East Africa and Afghanistan on Sept. 9.
“That I was strong enough to do it, that I wasn’t scared. I want her to know that I did it for her and for everyone else, my family,” said SrA Pritchard.
This will be the first time she leaves her family.
“I am missing the major holidays that she can kind of enjoy now, so that does make me a little upset, but I am pretty proud to be doing this and so I hope she will be proud of me for doing this,” said SrA Pritchard.
Airman First Class John Koch is also deploying for the first time.
“It’s just me today,” said A1C Koch.
After only being stationed here for seven months, getting straight to work.
“I have talked to a lot of people on what to expect, but I am sure no matter how many answers you are going to get, you are not really gonna know until you are there,” said A1C Koch.
This is the first time since 2003 that The 317th Airlift Wing has sent out a whole squadron.
“Everyone knows they will be home for 12 months before they have to leave again. Under the old construct, it was about every eight months, but depending on scheduling conflicts you could be going sooner or later,” said Col. Jeff Menasco, Commander of The 317th Airlift Wing.
They sent out nine aircraft to be there for four months and Col. Menasco says when they get home it is back to training.
“We can focus on squadron vitality, resiliency of our airmen and the magic of deploying a full squadron at once,” said Col. Menasco.
While the families still have ways to stay in touch, it is still hard to say goodbye.
“I plan to FaceTime her whenever I get off work and I pick her up, and then probably around dinner time, FaceTime again,” said Cale, Jessica’s husband.
One mission, two stories, both focused on getting back home safely.
“I don’t think enough training can prepare you for the real experience,” said A1C Koch.
“Out of my uniform I cry like a baby but in my uniform, I know what I signed up for and I am kind of ready to take my role and do what I got to do,” said SrA Pritchard.