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40th Airlift Squadron returns

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A group of 194 men and women from the 39th Airlift Squadron and the 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron departed for Southwest Asia Feb. 15.

They will take the tactical airlift reins from their sister squadron, the 40th Airlift Squadron, and will do business as the 738th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

“They are truly a group of high-performing, self-motivated, mission-hacking professionals,” said Col. Kevin Jackson, 317th Airlift Group commander.

“I’m excited about the first (deployment),” said Airman 1st Class April Vollm, 39th AS. “It’s gonna be hot and I’ll sweat a lot,” she added, as a ready room, crowded with desert flight suits, added, “That’s the truth!” and, “You know it!”

“It’ll be very stressful. I’m worried about getting shot at,” she said.

Airman Vollm earned her wings about a year ago and recently qualified as a loadmaster.

She said she expects to return to her former career as a juggler, clown and magician’s assistant after four years in the Air Force. She plans to return to Las Vegas to perform on stage with her fiancé, Christian Augustine.

Other departing Airmen said goodbye to their families before they joined their fellow deployers at the deployment control center, adjacent to the flight line.

Technical Sergeant Michelle Hurst, wife of Master Sgt. Scott Hurst, 317th AMXS production supervisor, prepared herself to send off her husband and “be more independent around the house.”

“I had to learn to change a bike tire,” she said.

Sergeant Hurst said he has no doubts about the job he is going to do.

“This is what it is about for me,” he said pointing to his three daughters. “(So) they won’t have to live in fear of someone blowing up their school. I joined the military to defend this country, so whatever they tell us to do, we go do.”

Airman 1st Class Jacob Colon, 317th AMXS fuel cell technician and Chicago native, said his first deployment is also the first time he has left the United States.

“I’m looking forward to coming back and being in a country I’ve never been before,” he said.

Shannon Colon, his wife of one year, said she worried about “not being able to talk to him as much -- and his safety.”

This is the fourth deployment for Staff Sgt. Justin Carney, Airman Colon’s supervisor.

“I’m used to missing birthdays,” he said, looking down at his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters, Isabelle and Natalie.

Isabelle, 7, nodded when asked if she was proud of her father.

“He’s gonna fix planes,” she said.

“What keeps these kids goin’? I don’t know,” Colonel Jackson said. “(They are) absolutely second to none at generating and maintaining 30-plus year-old aircraft, and they are maintaining and sustaining a mission capable rate of 80 to 85 percent, which is phenomenal.”

Lieutenant Colonel Lee Flint, 39th AS commander, will lead the 738th EAS at their deployed location while they support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and operations over the Horn of Africa.

“We know we’re supporting freedom and the U.S. mission,” he said, but added that they do not forget the efforts of the Airmen left behind.

“Team Dyess does an incredible job making this deployment as straight-forward as possible,” he said. “We couldn’t do it as well without the team.”

First Lieutenants Eric Navarette, 317th AG logistics plans, and Rob Sprouse, 317th plans and programs, were two members of Team Dyess who helped process all of the deployers, about 350 pounds of gear per person, and the civilian charter flight.

“(Processing deployers) takes approximately three hours,” Lieutenant Navarette said. In the past, he said, when deploying personnel gathered at the base theater, rather than the DCC, it took about four and a half.

“I couldn’t be happier with this unit. They let their actions speak for them,” Colonel Jackson said.