By Staff Sgt. Eric M. Hamilton
/ Published March 26, 2009
MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- The three people currently assigned to the 129 Logistics Readiness Squadron, Plans and Integration Office, or 129th LRS/LGRDX, might be responsible for anything from handling war reserve materials to working out various support agreements for the wing.
However, for the hundreds of Airmen deployed by the 129th Rescue Wing over the past year, this shop was what got them deployed and back again, according to Senior Master Sgt. Alicerose D. Messina, superintendant of the Plans and Integration office.
"We manage, from start to finish, the deployment process for not only federal deployments like Iraq or Afghanistan, but deployments for state emergencies as well," said Sergeant Messina. The person who drives that process, she said, is the installation deployment officer, Capt. Mario Montero.
This part of the wing is devoted to getting the unit member and his or her equipment deployable, Captain Montero said. "We're the facilitators, ensuring compliance through the Unit Deployment Manager and the commander," he said. The UDM handles most of the day-to-day tracking of deployable assets and requirements, but the 129th LGRDX office maintains oversight for all the moving parts involved in any deployment.
For those who've frequently deployed, there may not be many surprises about how this process works, but Sergeant Messina and Captain Montero have heard all the questions from those new to the deployment process. For starters, each group of deployers is called a "chalk." Each chalk is headed by the most senior individual assigned to that chalk, called the troop commander.
Some of the most common questions have to do with the process, such as "why do we have to deploy or why do we have to be in a sterile environment apart from our families," Captain Montero said. He pointed out that guidance for deploying comes from AFI 10-403, and follows set checklists. When a member of the chalk needs something from outside the sterile environment, the UDM has to get it, preserving the process, which is essential for the deployment to be on time.
Captain Montero said the UDM has a vital role and is responsible for outlining and ensuring not only the processes of deployment, but the requirements for members themselves. For example, members must have appropriate medical and dental clearance, must have completed their CBTs and ancillary training, and must have completed weapons training. If this process isn't well underway before the deployment tasking arrives, the member might not deploy on time--and that can have severe consequences.
For example, if an individual is traveling with more than one weapon, certain paperwork is needed to verify that this is part of that person's duty assignment--and neither the weapons nor individual carrying them can move without that paperwork.
In these cases, the UDM must move quickly to prevent the whole flight from being delayed--because the aircraft carrying a deploying chalk might well be waiting on the runway, burning fuel until the issue is resolved. It's always better when these problems are anticipated and resolved long before then, Captain Montero said.
Other common questions might have to do with voluntary deployments versus involuntary deployments--both have the same requirements, but voluntary deployments also require the supervisor's and commander's approval, Captain Montero said. For volunteers seeking deployment, it's possible to get an answer back the same day.
For involuntary deployments, selection and notification follows a different standard. It's possible, although unlikely, that a member could be called up to perform a function completely different from his or her duty AFSC. "Involuntary deployments are used to meet the needs of emergency situations or vital requirements," Captain Montero said.
Some of those "emergency situations" might surprise new members here because of how frequently the California National Guard is called into action for state emergencies, like the forest fires last year, Sergeant Messina added.
With state deployment, some of the assumptions about pay and benefits are completely wrong, Sergeant Messina said. "State deployment pay is based on the type of job each specific deployment requires, and is a daily wage," unlike federal deployments.
Finally, it's important for members to be aware of their response time requirements, also known as "DOC response time." DOC stands for Designated Operational Capability, and refers to each unit's established standards for deployments. For example, a unit might have a 72-hour DOC response time, meaning that the members of that unit should be ready to report for deployment within 72 hours of initial notification, Sergeant Messina said.
Captain Montero said his best deployment advice was to maintain situational awareness, not only for yourself and your training, but of your unit's mission and history. "You never know when you might be needed. Ask about your unit's deployment history and their mission," Captain Montero said. "Be ready."