From the Frontlines: Senior Airman Sarah Gray

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Deployment and frontlines - these words summon images of battles, bullets and bloodshed. But deployments span further than the boundaries of war; they also spread across the globe in non-combat humanitarian efforts.

Senior Airman Sarah Gray, 509th Medical Support Group knowledge operator, left Whiteman in October 2010 for Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, for a six month deployment.

While deployed, the Air Force Global Strike member worked as an IT specialist for the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. She provided communication support for a Seabee unit who traveled areas of Africa building security, sovereignty and stability in the region.

"My job was to help people in the communications squadron forward deploy, so they could help with computer and communication issues downrange," Airman Gray said.
She said most people arriving at the camp stayed for about a month before being sent downrange for four months. They would then return to camp for the final month of their deployment. Unlike most, Airman Gray stayed on camp for the duration of her deployment.

"Because of the distance between the camp and most of the issues, usually separate countries, I always had to remote log in or explain how to fix it [to the owner]," Airman Gray explained.

The camp was made up of mostly Sailors, with a small amount of Airmen, Marines and Soldiers. Airman Gray said working with the Navy took some getting used to.

"It was different working with the Navy and learning their lingo," she added. "They had a different name for everything. We couldn't call a mop a mop, we had to call it a swab, and the bathrooms were called heads."

Airman Gray said her deployed work was similar to that at Whiteman, but the overall mission was different.

"Our mission helped the local people and made a positive impact on their lives," she said. "It was awesome! You got to see the difference you were making."
Work wasn't enough for this Tucson, Az., local. She spent a lot of her deployed time volunteering.

"They had a baby orphanage we visited and often helped," she said. "We also went to a boy's orphanage and spent time with the children. It was funny because these children were running around bare-foot and were only around 10 years-old, but they were beating Sailors and Marines in soccer."

Camp leadership encouraged everyone to go off base, according to Airman Gray. Many of the locals spoke English, but French was their native tongue. Everyone had to travel in groups and make checklists prior to leaving camp.

There were shopping sections, places to eat and hotels near the camp for servicemembers to spend their free time. Morale welfare recreation trips were taken to keep deployed spirits high.

"I had the chance to swim with whale sharks off the coast of Africa," Airman Gray said. "They were there during their hibernation season and we swam in the water next to them. They were huge and a little scary!"

Airman Gray said assisting a humanitarian mission for her first deployment was a great experience and one she would love to do again.