News>Feature - Parent shares deployment experience with child
Master Sgt. James Wooding,379th Expeditionary SecurityForces Squadron, got the unique opportunity to be deployed with his daughter Senior Airman Michelle Gay,
379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, in early September. (U.S. Air
Force photos/Senior Airman Katie Gieratz)
Master Sgt. James Wooding,379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, got the unique opportunity to be deployed with his daughter Senior Airman Michelle Gay, 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, in early September. (U.S. Air
Force photos/Senior Airman Katie Gieratz)
10/15/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- The drive from Dyess Air Force Base to Lackland Air Force Base is scattered with miles of wild, rugged and beautiful Texas countryside, with little variety in the scenery. It's a four-hour drive that Senior Airman Michelle Gay has made many times when visiting her father, Master Sgt. James Wooding.
But when he deployed, there were no four-hour drives that would result in a visit with him. So instead, she got the opportunity to be deployed with him, and made the 7,500-mile trip seeing her dad six weeks after he arrived.
"Knowing that my career is possibly coming to an end in the next five to six years, this was possibly a once in a life time opportunity," said Sergeant Wooding, a flight sergeant with the 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. "I was excited that we could deploy together. Not many dads can be deployed with their daughters."
Sergeant Wooding was anxiously awaiting his daughter's arrival.
"I was pulling my two large bags, looking down on the ground because my backpack was weighing me down, when I heard (someone) tell me my dad was here waiting for me. I looked up, and there he was. Instant excitement," said Airman Gay, 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "It was definitely a relief to see him. I had a lot on my mind. I was thinking about how this will be the longest period of time I won't see my twin sister. I was also nervous about how my job will be different here, and getting everything situated and finding my way around."
After her arrival, Sergeant Wooding showed his daughter around her living quarters, the base and then they had their first meal together at midnight. He said when he left her for the evening he knew she was going to be OK.
"This deployment is unique and will definitely be a bit easier for me with my dad here, especially because it's my first deployment," Airman Gay said. "I am going to miss my twin and mom, and although he can't fill their shoes, I know he will do his best. I'm sure my home sickness won't be as bad as I expected with him around."
Airman Gay, who is deployed from the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB, is also thankful for her dad's experiences from his career and past deployments.
"He will have great advice on me making this the best experience possible and taking advantage of all the opportunities we have here," she said.
Sergeant Wooding said he has been happy to offer a little fatherly advice.
"I talk to her about things like professional development, college, physical training and I try to help her eliminate the mistakes that were made in my career ... hopefully my experiences will lead her to having just as a successful career if not a more successful career as I have had," he said.
Airman Gay said although she might not have always seen eye-to-eye with her father, she is starting to understand that he only wants what is best for her.
"Not only is he a great dad, but he is a great mentor," she said. "Now that I'm in the military, I understand his way of thinking. The quickest route isn't always the smartest route. We also have a lot in common now. Our relationship is stronger than most father-daughter relationships. We share the love of family, and the passion for our careers, our second family, the United States Air Force."
Sergeant Wooding agrees.
"We are very close. I get to wear two hats now that she has joined the Air Force," Sergeant Wooding said. "I get to wear the dad hat every day, and when she needs to talk about the military, I get to wear the mentor hat. Sometimes the hats are worn at the same time."
Sergeant Wooding said he is proud to be part of so many first experiences with his daughter on this journey, and while they might have different jobs, they are both working toward the same goal within the Air Force.
"From the time she graduated basic training and I saw her walk down the bomb run at Lackland, I knew the end of my career was going to be special," he said. "After 18 years, you start to get tired and deployments wear on you along with the long work shifts. But now that I have Michelle around, I know I can't lower the standards or expectations at the end of my career."
Editor's Note: Master Sgt. Rafael Pena-Perez, 7th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, contributed to this article.