Strength, sacrifice, resiliency; the Gamblers return

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman
  • 20th Figther Wing
After kissing loved ones, embracing their children and saying goodbye for six months to serve the United States in a country more than 7,000 miles away, Airmen from the 77th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Gamblers, set off for their journey to Afghanistan October, 2017.

In the weeks leading up to their departure, the Gamblers mentally prepared themselves for Operation Freedom's Sentinel, which supports the Afghan government by training and advising their military while assisting counter-insurgency operations.

Throughout the deployment, Airmen had to adjust to their new way of life.

"I was already used to transforming my mind and preparing for mortar or rocket attacks because you never know where they are going to land and that could be your last time," said Senior Master Sgt. Larry Tate, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent. "You have to prepare yourself in being right within yourself and being right with other people."

Many were deployed for the first time and had to work together to overcome bumps in the road.

"Being that this was my first time deploying, in the beginning it was hard to adjust, but once you get the feel of where everything is and how the work day is supposed to go it becomes normal," said Senior Airman Illian Milligan, 20th AMXS weapons load crew member.

As the six-month deployment came to an end, just as they mentally prepared themselves for the deployment, they had to bring themselves back to the reality of being home.

“Honestly, when I landed it was mixed emotions because I was like 'oh finally we are home, but then I realized I also had to go back to doing (regular) life now,” said Milligan.

Both Milligan and Tate agreed deploying can be a life-changing experience that teaches the beauty in the little things in life, creates growth in oneself and helps one better appreciate family and friends.

The Gamblers were welcomed home to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina by leadership, spouses, children and friends, May 2018 and to enjoy well-deserved rest and relaxation before returning back to work to support the country once more.