Faced with challenges, first-time deployers seek growth

  • Published
  • By Mastre Sgt. Tamara R. Dabney
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

In May 2021, members of the 103rd Air Control Squadron deployed to multiple locations in Southwest Asia and the United States in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Mission Resolute Support. Despite being faced with challenges, first-time deployers Staff Sgt. Jalisse Vazquez and 2nd Lt. Ryan Ordille see their deployment as an opportunity for professional growth.

In 2016, while working three jobs and attending pre-medical school, Vazquez decided she would join the military. She was familiar with the military, as some of her closest family members had served in the active duty components of the Marine Corps and Air Force. However, Vazquez was not aware of the Air National Guard until she researched military opportunities on the internet.

“I always wanted to be in the military, because my family has a military background,” said Vazquez. “I didn’t even know there was an Air Guard, but I did my research and it worked out for me.”

Vazquez met with a Guard recruiter with hopes of working in aerospace medicine, which would complement her college major and allow her to stay within her comfort zone. The recruiter instead convinced Vazquez to accept a position in a field unrelated to medicine where she would also be one of very few women in her squadron.

“I’m a radar technician,” said Vazquez, followed by a smile and a short sigh. “And I’m the only female in my shop. I'm like the epitome of a woman in a man's world in that section sometimes. It can be a bit challenging, but I really like it.”

Air Control Squadrons provide real-time detection, identification and surveillance of air traffic, and command and control (C2) of joint operations. Radar specialists, like Vazquez, install and maintain the equipment utilized by air traffic controllers and pilots.

As Vazquez packed her deployment bags, she wondered what new challenges she would face while deployed. The uncertainty was reminiscent of how she felt when she initially joined the Guard. She had no idea what she would be faced with in her new working environment. However, stepping outside of her comfort zone five years ago to become a radar specialist enabled Vazquez to learn new job skills. Also, being the only woman in her duty section enhanced her ability to work with different types of people. She hopes that stepping outside of her comfort zone to deploy will yield the same benefits.

“I'm excited, but I'm also kind of nervous because it is my first one, so I don't really know what to expect,” said Vazquez. “But I did choose this job because they told me this is a job that frequently gets deployed. So, the [challenges] were something that kind of factored in to me wanting to deploy.”

Ordille, a cyber operations officer with the 103rd ACS, joined the Guard in 2017. Like Vazquez, he was uncertain of what to expect on his first deployment.

“I'm a bit nervous, but I’m excited and ready,” said Ordille who works as a software engineer outside of the Guard. “This is my first time deploying, so I don't know what to expect. Also, I’m the only commissioned officer from our unit going to a location within the continental United States, so yeah, some challenges are there.”

Before Ordille received his officer commission, he was an enlisted command and control battle management operator assigned to the 103rd ACS. Having come from a family with several military veterans, Ordille was inspired at an early age to join the military.

“I come from a military family, so it’s always been something in the back of my mind,” said Ordille. “I knew I didn't want to just sit at a desk for the next 40 years. I wanted to do something to contribute back to the community, my family, and do something interesting, which is why I joined the Guard.”

While enlisted, Ordille volunteered to deploy numerous times, but no deployment opportunities were available. He would not be offered a chance to deploy until a few months after he became a commissioned officer. The timing of the deployment allowed little time for Ordille to become comfortable in his new role as a commissioned officer. The timing of Ordille’s wedding added to the time constraint; he got married less than a month before he deployed, which meant Ordille and his new wife had a limited amount of time to spend together before he departed. Despite the difficult timing, Ordille looks forward to working with more experienced members of the 103rd ACS and developing his leadership skills while deployed.

“I wanted to get experience as a lieutenant going out there,” said Ordille. “I wanted to get to know the people who I’ll be working with for the rest of my career and learn a lot. On the civilian side, I'm an engineer, so I really like to like see how processes work. I’m excited that we have a great crew that's going with us with a lot of experience.”

Approximately 100 members of the 103rd ACS are supporting Operation Inherent Resolve and Mission Resolute Support. 103rd leaders expect most of the deployers to return home to Connecticut by Fall 2021.