DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
Five U.S. Air Force Reserve defenders are heading out from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., to the Dominican Republic next week, in support of a Operation New Horizons, a 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) humanitarian mission to build churches and schools.
Their role as part of a 13-person team there is to provide security so that the humanitarian efforts are seamless.
“It may sound like a resort vacation, but we will be hours away from resorts, living in host nation barracks, sleeping on the floor, and eating MREs,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Castorela, 720th Security Forces Squadron fire team leader. “It’ll be like a long camping trip.”
All five of the 720th SFS members volunteered and were chosen based on their Spanish-speaking abilities. They are all also stepping away from their normal, full-time careers elsewhere to deploy – an additional sacrifice Reserve Airmen regularly make to serve their country.
“I’m excited to experience another culture,” said Castorela, a Tucson Police Department patrol officer whose family is all from Mexico. They are excited for him to become more fluent in their family’s native tongue as well.
“We’ve taken a lot of cultural awareness training in preparation for this deployment, which has been really helpful,” he said. Although computer-based, the training helps prepare Americans for the intricacies of host nation cultures so that Airmen don’t accidentally offend the native people.
Another Mexican-American deploying from here is Staff Sgt. Jose Flores, a 720th SFS fire team member who said this is definitely no typical “Air Force” deployment.
“I work with a lot of Army and Marine Corps veterans, who tease me a lot [about being in the Air Force],” said Flores, who works in the Boeing Global Security Operations Center doing dispatch and alarms in Mesa, Ariz. “When I told them what our living conditions would be there, they said, ‘Oh, so like, a real deployment!’”
Flores spent eight years in the active-duty Air Force before transitioning to the Reserve, but he was guarding nuclear weapons and therefore not deployable. This Reserve deployment will be his first, and he is leaving his wife behind and taking time of school and a pay cut to go; but, for him it’s all worth it.
“I never dreamed of going anywhere like this before,” said Flores, who looks forward to being in a predominantly Catholic country and said the only things he is wary of are the wildlife and vegetation, which can be dangerous. “It’ll be a big change, but I can finally do the kind of security forces work I have always wanted to do.”
The 720th SFS is a geographically-separated unit of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., attached to the 943rd Rescue Group. Read more about the Air Force Reserve Command’s premier combat search and rescue wing at http://www.920rqw.afrc.af.mil