Sixty Airmen with the 62nd Airlift Squadron based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord flew to the Middle East on Easter Sunday, beginning a 60-day deployment in support of the shrinking war in Afghanistan.
Family and friends gathered at the squadron’s headquarters ahead of the departure, acknowledging that after more than ten years of conflict, goodbyes have become nearly routine.
“The first one is harder,” said Dawn Simmons, “Now, 60 days is not as bad.”
Simmons’ husband is Lt. Col. Cory Simmons, who embarked on his sixth deployment.
“For 80% of the folks that are deploying with me, it’s all they know,” he said.
Others were deploying for their twenty-first time since the war began. Capt. Andrew Petersen did not have family to bid farewell, but friends in and out of the Air Force who held an impromptu picnic outside headquarters.
“We deploy every six months,” Capt. Petersen said, “So, it’s not a routine but it’s not that difficult.”
The deployment comes as the U.S. government draws down the war in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Simmons said even with the conflict coming to a close, work is still necessary.
“You can’t just turn the faucet off. It’s going to take a long time to get our stuff out,” he explained.
“I don’t think the general public knows that every sixty days, we still go out,” Simmons’s wife continued, “This is just life for us.”
In her case, life meant saying goodbye more than an hour before her husband flew out, then gathering their four kids and heading home.
“I don’t know that we’ll be here when he gets on the plane,” she remarked, “That’s still kind of hard to watch.”