Return of the 606th
Good to be home
Gainey: A husband, a father
Bigler: An Airman’s best friend
Bigler: Life through a deployment
Barron: A family that deploys together, stays together
Briscoe: ‘Each folder is a person — it’s a snapshot in their warrior life’
Walking into Tech. Sgt. Tena Briscoe’s office, you might first notice the vast collection of file cabinets behind her desk.
Despite any detached exterior of a cold drawer system where information is stored into a mass collective, she remained adamant about what the files represent.
“Each folder is a person — it’s a snapshot in their warrior life,” Briscoe said.
As unit deployment manager for the 606th Air Control Squadron, the Baltimore native is responsible for ensuring her fellow Airmen are trained and prepared to deploy any time, any where the Air Force needs them to be.
“As UDMs, we get people in the positions that they need to fight,” she said. “Without UDMs, there would be no people or equipment to deploy. We’re constantly making sure their training is updated and to make sure they’re updated to keep fighting the fight.”
Given her history in the job, Briscoe has been to several squadron returns at the base’s terminal – no matter the hour or the weather.
“The tears and everybody coming to see each other and especially the ones who are meeting their baby for the first time — those moments stand out to me a lot,” she said. “It’s a rewarding job.”
Each homecoming — including the Jan. 14 return — she said, serves as a reminder of why she does her job.
“It is nice especially when they come home—it’s even better,” she said. “It’s kind of sad sending people out the door some times when you know they have a pregnant wife home who may be giving birth while they’re gone and stuff like that. But I do it to help ease the process so that at least they’re worried about a million other things. So, at least, I can get this process—it could be smooth for them. That actual process of working and actually get out the door—they should have no problems with it.”
As for the families now complete after months apart, Briscoe said she welcomed her fellow Sabers back home, but she said she’s always mindful of how the work of being a UDM — like the 606th ACS’s mission of being the inspector of the skies — will always stand ready.
“I’m glad to see them come back and everyone is safe,” Briscoe said. “But we’re always ready for the next time.”
Bigler: Bittersweet Moment
The last goodbye.
The final farewell before he leaves.
This may be one of the hardest parts of a deployment. Melissa just endured this pain as her husband, Staff Sgt. Tyler Bigler, left July 8 with the rest of his 606th Air Control Squadron brethren.
He’ll return six long months from now, and that’s what makes those final moments together such a bittersweet experience.
Barron: The Hardest Thing
Jeremiah and Brittany Barron set up a family care plan far in advance and are confident that their children will be well taken care of in the capable hands of their grandparents, but all the planning and preparation in the world can’t distract them from the feelings that come along with having to leave their children for the first time. They both agree that this is the hardest thing they have ever had to do.
Briscoe: The Way Out
It was early when the first Airmen showed up at the 606th Air Control Squadron; it was 4 a.m., to be exact.
Some were accompanied by loved ones, others stood there alone or mingled with coworkers.
As the sun rose and illuminated the sky, the deployers start roll call to make sure everyone is where they need to be.
One Airman clenched his newborn daughter as names were called. He reluctantly raised his voice as the master sergeant gruffly called his name.
“Here, sir,” he replied.
The Airmen began organizing and loading luggage after roll call.
Some Airmen scoffed at the semi truck that pulled up to transfer their luggage to the passenger terminal. They one-by-one climbed into the trailer and the loading process began.
Some struggled with the 70-pound “weight limit” of these oversized deployment bags, but managed to budge their way onto the trailer.
The trailer quickly filled and, within a matter of minutes, all the bags were ready to ship.
The deployers embraced their loved ones, said goodbye, loaded into buses and transferred to the holding terminal, where within a couple of hours, they boarded a plane and left Spangdahlem.
Tech. Sgt. Tena Briscoe looked on as the buses departed the squadron. A once-buzzing parking lot was now empty and the familiar faces gone. It will be six months before they meet again, but for Briscoe, her job was successful.
Bigler: Packing Together
Packing for a deployment is always a sobering activity. How many uniforms? Extra socks? Enough deodorant?
Luckily, Staff Sgt. Tyler Bigler had help from his wife, Melissa, to make the process go a little more smooth.
Briscoe: The PDF Line
It all comes down to this. The brown deployment folders, filled to the brim with information ranging from emergency contact information to weapons qualification forms, are prepped for the PDF line.
The PDF line, or personnel deployment function, is a rite of passage for any unit in the Air Force that deploys. Specialists from personnel, finance, medical, and other agencies look over every single folder for completeness and accurate information.
For Tech. Sgt. Tena Briscoe, all of her efforts from previous weeks — the late hours, the coordination, the communication with base support systems — come down to this moment on the line.
Each agency inspects the folders and makes sure each deploying Airman is prepared to deploy and support their country.
It doesn’t just stop there for Briscoe. She doesn’t push them out the door and leave them to sink or swim on the line. She’s there as well, running from table to table and Airman to Airman making sure the process is as smooth as possible for her deployers.
They don’t need the extra stress of worrying about whether their records are complete or not. She takes it upon herself to do that part for them.
At the end of the day, every Airman is ready to go and another successful deployment is well under way.
Briscoe and her team of unit deployments managers at work
The 606th Air Control Squadron is an enabler force. This means that when the Air Force says it’s time for them to go, they’re able to drop everything they’re doing and deploy.
Briscoe and her team make sure that these folders are up to date at all times. It’s important because they may be instructed to convoy to Base X within 24 hours of notification.
Regardless of whether the PDF line is a real-world scenario or only for an exercise, Briscoe makes sure everything is in order.
Barron: What are Toys without Children
The Barron Family
Brittany and Jeremiah walked into their children’s empty playroom as their dog Jackson trailed along to lend a helping paw. He couldn’t exactly lift up any toys or fill boxes, but his rambunctious and playful demeanor made the task less difficult. They packed the toys up since they will be of no use while the kids live with their grandparents in Iowa for the next six months.
They made light of the situation, joking about how they regretted buying some of the louder toys that don’t have “off” buttons–especially the toy race-track that sometimes goes off without any warning.
The moment briefly interrupted the difficulty of the situation at hand.
Six months is a long time to be without the children you love.