KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Reserve Citizen Airmen and C-130J aircraft assigned to the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing here returned after a deployment in Southwest Asia where they supported Operations Freedom Sentinel and Inherent Resolve.
The deployment package consisted of aircrew and aircraft from the 815th Airlift Squadron “Flying Jennies” and maintenance and support personnel from throughout the wing, where they were assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait.
The 386th serves U.S. Central Command, which consists of a 20-nation area of responsibility in Southwest Asia. The role the 815th fulfilled was that of providing airlift and airdrop functions in a combat setting as well as aeromedical evacuation support throughout the command.
“We moved a lot of cargo, personnel, and we worked with several different units, branches, and countries,” said Lt. Col. Brad Boudreaux, who was the deployed director of operations. “We even had some operations that got a lot of visibility from wing-level all the way up to the Secretary of Defense, so that was great for our crews.”
This deployment was the first for the 815th since 2018, and Boudreaux said that this one, his eighth in his 31-year career, was especially difficult.
“The Airmen did outstanding considering all of the challenges in our way,” said Boudreaux. “It can already be hard to keep morale up in a deployed location and the COVID restrictions compounded that, but they made it through and executed the mission.”
Just as well, families of deployed Airmen have a lot to overcome at home, and that was true for Melissa Rivera, wife of pilot 1st Lt. Ryan Rivera, who spent the months of his deployment caring for their now 8-month-old daughter.
“Deployment is difficult, but I would say keeping an attitude of gratitude is key,” said Mrs. Rivera, “We’re so fortunate to have had technology like FaceTime to see and speak to him on a regular basis, so he could see our daughter grow. We’re so grateful they all stayed safe and made it home safe.”