Airmen take time to take care of each other amidst Haitian chaos

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- I've been in the Air Force for about six months. Of those six months, approximately four have been spent TDY for training, so really I only have two months of on-the-job experience.

Now, I'm in Haiti.

As a new second lieutenant in public affairs, I never expected to deploy so early in my career. I figured I'd get settled in my office, learn my job and do my best to lead and make a difference while under the guiding eyes of my boss and NCOs.

Instead, I got notified Jan. 22 that I was going to Homestead Air Reserve Base in Miami, Fla. I didn't know when or for how long, but I knew I had to pack my bags and go.

On Jan. 23, I was on an MC-130H headed for Homestead. Well, it was headed for Homestead, but we ended up going straight to Haiti to offload the supplies we brought as well as a few other 1st Special Operations Wing Airmen who were deploying to Haiti.

Ten hours later, I boarded a C-130W to take me to Homestead, for real this time. I rode back with about 25 American citizens who we were bringing home.

I arrived at Homestead around 11 a.m., Jan. 24, with no clue what to do or where to go.

But then came help. The Air Force really does take care of its people, and that's what inspired me to write about this experience.

I wasn't at Homestead for more than a minute before I was approached by a major who led me through the customs process and made sure I got a boxed lunch. Then he hooked me up with a chief master sergeant who dropped everything he was doing to drive me around base and get me where I needed to be.

The chief took me to get in-processed with the PERSCO representative in their emergency operations center, then to the Special Operations Command-South building, where I was supposed to be working for their public affairs shop, then to billeting where I got set up with a room off base and then all the way to the hotel off base. The whole time he was making calls, trying to get me set up and giving me contact numbers in case I had any trouble.

And the Airmen at Homestead weren't the only ones who helped me through this new ordeal. I realized that throughout all the chaos of this deployment, my fellow Air Commandos from Hurlburt Field were doing everything they could to assist me as well.

My unit deployment manager constantly updated me on my status, working extra hours and showing me where to go and who to talk to before I deployed.

The Airmen at the clinic made sure I got all my shots and medications and even enabled me to get my personal health assessment done in just a few hours.

A group of logistics Airmen took care of me during the 10 hours I spent at the Port-au-Prince airport, getting me supplies, an MRE and a seat on the next flight to Homestead.

And now I'm back in Haiti. That's right, about 15 hours after landing at Homestead, I was on another C-130 back to Haiti where I'm currently working with my Army, Navy and Marine brothers and sisters in the Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command.

So now I am learning my job and doing the best I can to lead and make a difference while under the guiding eyes of my new joint bosses and NCOs. The U.S. military is doing amazing things to help the Haitian people recover after the Jan. 12 earthquake, and I'm proud to help get the word out.

Now that I'm starting to get settled, I look back at everything it took to get me here and I realize that no matter where I was or what everyone else had going on, all of these people went above and beyond to help me. For that I am eternally grateful, because a short-notice deployment for an undetermined length of time can be pretty stressful for a new lieutenant who's only been on active duty for six months. But instead of getting lost in all the chaos, I was put at ease because I got to see first-hand how Airmen take care of each other.

With all these Airmen looking out for me, I know I'll be just fine.