From the Frontlines: Tech. Sgt. Lisa Castillo

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- With more than 10 deployments under her belt, seasoned deployer, Tech Sgt. Lisa Castillo recently returned from yet another overseas tour.
This time her assignment did not include living in a tent or packing sand bags, Sergeant Castillo was deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia providing support to transitioning servicemembers from various locations in the U.S. Air Force Central Command area of responsibility.

Deployed as the flight chief for the 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron Community Service Flight, Sergeant Castillo was charged with supporting the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing mission and its Airmen by enhancing their readiness, productivity, fitness, deployments and quality of life through customer service, and community support.

"Our goal was to keep people's morale up," said Sergeant Castillo. "We wanted to do everything we could so that they didn't miss home as much. We held events every night, and did what we could to help keep them motivated."

Working with her team of seven military members and 70 civilian contractors, the Santa Barbara, Calif., native, maintained the base's two recreation centers, base pool, base theater, media center, and other recreational centers and fitness facilities.

"There were more than 10,000 people there, trying to keep them all 'entertained' and happy was difficult at times," she said. "However, I enjoyed the challenged of coming up with new ideas to help increase morale, so people weren't so homesick or miserable, but you still got those who complained."

Keeping a positive attitude, in midst of this challenge, Sergeant Castillo said she tried to help people keep things in perspective.

"It was easy for people to lose sight of why we were deployed," she said. "Because of the amenities we had and the fact that we were not (physically on the frontlines of war), really seeing what was going on.

"I used to encourage people come out with us to the Fallen Warrior details so they could see 'what was really going on' and maybe they would stop complaining about how bad they thought we had it," she continued. "It's difficult to complain about a lumpy mattress when our fellow servicemembers are putting their lives on the line every day. "

While deployed Sergeant Castillo volunteered to help during more than 100 Fallen Warrior ceremonies, helping in the transportation of those servicemembers who had made the ultimate sacrifice get home to their families.

"It was very rewarding for me because I got to play a small part in getting our fallen warriors home ," she said. " I loved the feeling of doing something to make a difference."

A familiar phrase to the 509th Force Support Squadron here, "Without food you die," Sergeant Castillo said she often thought of it while deployed to also help her keep focused.

"It is our job in force support to provide our Airmen with everything they need for sustainment," she said. "Food and lodging are basic necessities, without them you cannot function. The fitness center provides the physical and to some extent the mental well-being aspect to keep people motivated. Literally, without FSS you can't do anything."

In her experience during her recent deployment, Sergeant Castillo said although she did encounter many who were "disconnected" from the reality of war and their reason for being deployed, it was not necessarily the norm.

"There are a lot of good people deployed who are trying to do good things," she said. "It is difficult when you have people with a negative attitude about being away from home, but that is where keeping things in perspective comes into play.

"No matter where you're deployed or what you are sent there to do -- every place has a mission and every mission is important," Sergeant Castillo said. "Do not lose sight of that."