Know Before You Go
(June 26, 2010)
Master Sgt. Rodolfo Gamez and
his wife, Tech. Sgt. Christina Gamez, hold their
children, Tomas, 4, and Eva, 3, for a portrait
outside of their home on May 26, 2010. The
Gamezes are set to deploy to two different
locations for year-long deployments later this
year. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J.
|SAN ANTONIO (6/22/2010 - AFNS)
-- The first time Tech. Sgt. Christina Gamez's
husband deployed, she wanted to do everything
herself, frustrating friends who wanted to help
her. This time, she knows she will need her
support network. She too is scheduled to deploy
soon after her husband leaves this fall.
Master Sgt. Rodolfo Gamez of the Air Force
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
Agency at Lackland Air Force Base plans to leave
next month for combat skills training at Fort
Polk, La., before a 365-day deployment to
Afghanistan. Christina, a financial analyst
here, is scheduled to follow her husband for her
own 365-day voluntary deployment in December.
The Air Force couple plans to blog about their
experiences during their dual deployments to
help prepare other Airmen so that they can "know
before they go" on their own
Christina said she expects to encourage future deployers to
"be prepared and even over-prepared; to look at every
possible angle and to have a backup plan for everything that
could possibly come up.
"I don't think I was prepared at all that first time," she
said. "I didn't know how hard it was going to be. But, you
can adapt. It's going to be tough and you never know what to
expect. You just get through it because everything becomes
routine and there are so many resources out there for you if
you're just willing to accept them."
In her blog, Christina said she plans to share how her
family prepares before deploying and how they cope with
separation from each other, as well as their two children --
4-year-old Tomas and 2-year-old Eva.
She says the children have become accustomed to their father
being away for work, with two of his five previous
deployments coming during their lives.
Rodolfo also is away on temporary duty assignments from 10
to 14 days a month. But this time will be different, with
both mom and dad on extended assignments simultaneously.
Christina's parents will take the children when she follows
her husband to Afghanistan in December. In addition to
completing the Air Force's deployment checklist and having
an updated family care plan, the parents said they also
continue to prepare Tomas and Eva for the transition to a
year with their grandparents.
Rodolfo and Christina are also keeping a journal for their
children to read, "so they will know what we were thinking
and feeling leading up to the deployment and while we were
away from them," Christina said.
They've also established "goal dates" to give the children
days they can mark off the calendar to work toward various
rewards, and have started gardens they will help to tend at
Once the couple learned Rodolfo was set to deploy again,
Christina had her chief call to find out where she stood on
the deployment roster. She learned the Air Force Personnel
Center already knew her name, and she was on the short list.
She would more than likely be tasked in the next two to
three months, and there were several more deployment slots
coming down the pipeline. It was at that point the couple
decided to take positive control of the situation and lessen
the time the family was separated.
They said they decided she would volunteer for her own
365-day deployment to lessen the impact on their family,
especially on the children. They believe their experience
shows the importance Air Force families should place on
knowing where they stand in the deployment cycle.
The 365-day non-volunteer deployment schedule is based on
each Airman's short-tour return date.
AFPC officials said several factors are considered when
tasking members for a 365-day deployment.
"Vulnerability to be selected as a non-volunteer for a
365-day deployment is based on the number of short tours and
an Airman's short-tour return date," said Jeffrey Gatcomb,
the AFPC officer assignments policy and systems chief.
"Enlisted members can check the EQUAL listing for their
overseas vulnerability, which will give them a better idea
on how vulnerable they are for an overseas assignment or
deployment. Officers are encouraged to talk to their AFPC
The Gamezes used those channels to help prepare and make the
best decision for their family.
"The last thing we wanted was to be unaware and to get
caught off guard with me deployed and then find out she has
to follow shortly after," he said. "So in the interest of
being proactive, we found out she was No. 2 on the list and
we had a difficult decision to make.
"We chose the better of the situations to have some type of
positive control in our hands to see where we wanted to be.
That was to remain together and have the most minimal time
away from our kids."
As the time nears, the Gamez family is spending as much time
together as possible. They recently took a trip to Disney
World in Orlando and are already planning a return vacation
to Florida in the spring after the sergeants return from
Rodolfo and Christina said they're confident their
preparations will ensure that their children are in the best
possible situation while they're away.
This is just one reason why having an updated Air Force Form
357, or family care plan, is important, they said.
"It's vital," Rodolfo said. "It's no different than a will
because you never know when you're going to get caught in a
situation. Fortunately for us, we've got a great supporting
cast. Those people outlined in our family care plan are
there and we've got more people volunteering to provide that
"Good planning meets opportunity and that's how you achieve
success. I think we've done so with our family care plan and
we're well-prepared to make this transition," he said.
Christina said she hopes her blog will help her fellow
Airmen make those hard choices and follow through on their
preparations -- to "know before they go," making sure their
families and homes are properly cared for while they fulfill
their responsibilities during deployment.
By Randy Roughton
Defense Media Activity - San Antonio
Air Force News
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