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Misawa officers going downrange for first time

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- No more war stories from others for one Air Force lieutenant. She doesn't want to hear it - not this time; she wants to experience it herself. This month, she will not have to listen to her Misawa peers who just returned home telling stories of experiences in war-torn countries, fighting the Global War on Terrorism, or learning about a new culture and helping rebuild a nation. She is packed and ready to go to Iraq. 

"I am looking forward to it," said 2nd Lt. Gisselle Gavidia, 13th Fighter Squadron adjutant, who is deploying for the first time. "It will be less of hearsay, more of visualization of what they are doing over there and more of reality." 

Leaving her first duty station here, Lieutenant Gavidia will experience her first deployment to Balad Air Base. She will be part of a small team that will serve as the 13th Fighter Squadron's command support staff, or a mini-military personnel flight. 

"It is essentially the same as downrange; however, we have less resources," she said. "What we do here as a command support staff is going to stay the same with additional duties." 

Some of those duties include overseeing administrative paperwork such as career enhancement, promotions, and evaluations. The lieutenant said she has been working with her counterpart downrange to find out what her staff will need. 

"We're essentially transporting the orderly room and commanders support staff," said Lieutenant Gavidia. "It's not what we are use to ... the support we have over there isn't the same as here." 

The lieutenant said she was looking forward to the higher operations and warmer weather. Her family on the other hand was less enthusiastic.
"They are mildly distraught," she said. "But with a little support and time to calm their nerves, I think they will be OK. They are supportive." 

Another lieutenant experiencing her first deployment, 1st Lt. Christina Sheets, 13th Fighter Squadron intelligence section chief, said her family is excited for her.
"I think they are excited I get to have this experience. My dad always wanted to be in the military but never was," said Lieutenant Sheets. "They are excited to hear about everything I do." 

On a daily training basis, the two-year veteran informs pilots on what kind of threats the pilots face, the adversary's capabilities, spin them up for a particular mission, then debrief the pilots when they get back, and then write a situational report that is forwarded to higher headquarters highlighting the mission. 

"Here we train and we practice," said the Indiana native. "We haven't actually done it - or proven all this training is going to pay off. So when we go there ... it's going to be a no kidding, we're doing our job as oppose to just preparing to do our job." 

Her transition from home station to a combat zone is being made easier by her counterparts in the 14th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. "We keep very close ties with 14th EFS," she said. "We talk about lessons learned, supplies, standard job issues ... they are sending us a lot of their information, so we can train and be more prepared than when they went." 

And while both lieutenants are energized about their up coming military experiences, they know it is Iraq - it is a combat zone. 

"It is reality rather living through the means (of someone else)," said Lieutenant Gavidia. "It's kind of exciting."