From the Frontlines: Master Sgt. Mona Wendzillo

  • Published
  • By Heidi Hunt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Far removed from this Air Force Global Strike Command base, Master Sgt. Mona Wendzillo, 509th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of the Airman and Family Readiness Center, deployed to Southeast Asia for six months and returned here June 9.

While in Southeast Asia, she aided in creating a self-sufficient and mission ready community through individual and family preparedness.

During Wendzillo's deployment she performed a number of tasks and provided classes in reunion and reintegration, building healthy relationships and preparing for marriage and improving communication at home.

"I worked with the chapel, mental health, sexual assault response coordinator, inspector general, equal opportunity through base-wide briefs and projects," said Wendzillo.

In addition to the classes she facilitated, Wendzillo activated the traumatic stress response team. She provided outreach to the different units on base, as well as to other branches of U.S. services, civilians and French, Australian and British military members.

"We distributed care packages to Southeast Asia personnel as well as packaging and mailing items to those forward deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan," she said. "We supported the in-theater patients that were recovering from injuries when forward deployed. We provided them with morale activities and support services. We also provided briefings for right start and right finish to everyone on the base.

"I also helped with Eskan Village Air Base's efforts to set up a "mini" A&FRC for their personnel by providing all of the same resources, books, pamphlets and class materials," she added.

Working with the civilian community readiness consultant, her team was able to provide a multitude of classes, counseling services, financial and personal, as well as morale and media support.

"Oftentimes members came in very distraught," she said. "Some were not comfortable going to see a chaplain or mental health, but needed to talk to someone," Wendzillo said. "Sometimes we would encourage further assistance through these agencies and would reassure them and actually walk them to the agency to meet the point of contact."

Wendzillo said it was heart-breaking to have those not handling the deployment well and those in financial despair come into the office.

Wendzillo's duties at home are similar to those in deployed, but the major difference was that they didn't see any family members.

"As a deployed readiness NCO you are dealing with the active duty, guard, reserve members and civilians only," she said. "We saw a lot of people that just needed to come in to vent or get in touch with resources we ourselves couldn't provide."

Wendzillo said she enjoyed the integration with people from other bases all across the Air Force and said the best thing about the deployment was undoubtedly the people.

"We're all in the same boat and could provide empathy and support to each other," she said. "It's so easy to get in that different environment and get either burned out or shut down and get negative about everything.

"I was blessed to be able to meet people that were helped by just having a new friend or someone to talk to," she said.

Like many deployed members, Wendzillo said she missed her children, Michael and Shelby.

"I was so happy I was able to Skype them," she said. "I missed my co-workers too. They are an amazing support system and I am blessed to have them."

Glenda Alexander, A&FRC chief, said Wendzillo is a compassionate and caring leader that is always looking out for the needs of others.

"She gives openly and freely from the heart," Alexander said. "I can honestly say that she truly loves the military and is quick to volunteer to serve when and where needed."

This was the sergeant's first deployment and said she enjoyed it.

"Anytime I can do even a portion of what my fellow active duty members do, I want to help," she said. "My heart and respect go out to those patriots and their families that are in a revolving door of deployments and put in harm's way on a daily basis.
"Being deployed, no matter where you go is different than being at your regular duty station," she said. "But, being gone for those six months really made me feel an important part of something."