Thirty-nine Airmen from the 115th Force Support Squadron, the 115th Logistics Readiness Squadron and Volk Field temporarily deployed for training (DFT) to Mildenhall Air Force Base, England, in support of the Air Force active-duty component Feb. 12-27.
The deployment allowed Airmen to integrate themselves and train alongside active-duty forces overseas, gaining vital experience they can implement at their home stations and on future deployments.
"This DFT gave our Airmen a chance to see how the active-duty side works," said Maj. Michael Dampf, DFT troop commander. "They change stations all the time so are always restarting their processes everywhere they go. We stay in the same place and have people executing similar jobs on the civilian side. The experiences we were able to share with each other were priceless."
Airmen were spread throughout the base. They worked at the fitness center, the dining facility, lodging, and other locations.
"Everyone has slots they fill at home, but we didn't necessarily put them there," Dampf said. "We put them in positions where they either had experience or needed experience, depending on where they were in their career."
Some of the Airmen went to Mildenhall to train, others to be trained. Airman 1st Class Molly Kallenbach, 115th Fighter Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron administrative specialist, came to be trained.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Kallenbach said. "As an admin, we don't deploy as much as the maintenance Airmen or others who go with the jets do. It was really great that our commander found a way to get us on this deployment."
Senior Master Sgt. Richard Breister, 115th Fighter Wing Force Support Squadron superintendent, started the search for a DFT location long before it became a reality.
"There's a system out there that active duty uses to say they need help during a particular block of time," Dampf said. "Rich goes on that system and sees who needs help and when. Then he communicates with them and once that's confirmed, he looks for airlift. You don't just get to call up a base and say 'hey, I want to come there.' They need to have a legitimate training need."
This particular time Mildenhall was looking to get ready for an upcoming management internal control toolset (MICT) inspection, so some of their noncommissioned officers were pulled out of the office to work on their checklists.
"We've been working on our MICT checklists back home, so we brought a lot of valuable experience with us," Dampf said. "As I passed one of the windows our Airmen were in, I thought I was passing a meeting. Turns out it was one of our Airmen training an entire class."
According to Dampf, there was only one struggle the group came across during the entire deployment.
"Communication," he said. "We are so cell phone dependent that not having service made it a challenge to communicate with each other."
The challenge gave leadership a chance to develop new communication strategies. They used various wi-fi enabled applications and a Google document to keep track of everyone's work schedules and extracurricular activities.
The best part of the trip was spending time with the Airmen, Dampf said.
"We got to know our troops better in this scenario," he said. "Two days a month isn't enough time to get to know people on a first name basis because you're busy the entire time. Here we're kind of bottled up together, and it gives us a chance to get to know everyone better."
By the time the DFT came to an end, the active-duty supervisors weren't ready to let the Airmen leave.
"The dining facility noncommissioned officer in charge said she wasn't encouraging us to count heads before we left," Dampf said. "She'd like to keep a couple of our Airmen."
This was the first DFT the Force Support Squadron has had since 2008. They are looking to get another one scheduled for next year.