Getting ready with a couple hundred of your best friends

Lt. Col. Raymond Lopez

It’s that time in the AEF cycle; the taskings are flowing fast and furious. By now the majority of folks for Air Expeditionary Force 3/4 have been tasked. If you are in the bucket and haven’t been tasked, don’t let your readiness level lapse as you may still be called and the tasking will most likely be short notice.
There are some things you can do to make your deployment processing go more smoothly. Specifically, complete your outprocessing checklists in a timely manner, understand the movement process and ensure that you and your family are ready for this deployment.
Let’s say that you and a couple hundred of your closest friends have been tasked to deploy to Baghdad, Iraq. Your best source of information will be your Unit Deployment Manager (UDM). Your UDM will be able to give you the following information about your deployment: location, date required in-place (DRI), security clearance required, unit line number (ULN), estimated tour length and any line remarks. This information will be important later.
Your UDM will also give you theater reporting instructions and an outprocessing checklist. Take the time to read the theater reporting instructions, for Air Force Central Command it’s 77 pages. It contains a lot of good information you need to know. The reporting instructions will tell you what is required to deploy to each location. For example, passports, international driver’s license, M16, or “C” bags, may not be required for each deployment location.
All required actions must be completed before orders can be cut by the personnel readiness unit, specifically the medical and dental clearances. Outprocessing takes time and is normally not a one-day event. Manage your time accordingly.
The installation deployment officer will host several Combat Symposiums for the wing Southwest Asia deployers which will combine the CENTAF checklist with the classified location specific intelligence brief and a “boots on ground” discussion with Airmen who recently returned from those locations. Legal, Military Equal Opportunity, Family Support Center and Office of Special Investigation briefings will satisfy the outprocessing checklist requirements. The Combat Symposium is intended to provide “one-stop” outprocessing for deployers. If you need specific help from these agencies for items such as wills or powers of attorney, go to the appropriate agency for personalized assistance. Your UDM will schedule you for a Combat Symposium.

So now you and your friends have completed all the outprocessing items and you are ready to deploy. How is the Air Force going to get you there? It takes a highly coordinated effort to smoothly and efficiently move personnel from bases worldwide to the numerous deployment locations. To do this, maximum use of all airlift is essential. We live in a time of limited airlift resources and a dwindling movement budget. Therefore the Air Force cannot afford to send personnel from home station directly to the deployed location. There will be at least two transportation hubs or aggregation points that you will have to go through. These points are known as the aerial port of embarkation (APOE) and the aerial port of debarkation (APOD).
Aggregation gets Airmen coming from different bases to a central location who are going to the same APOD with the roughly the same DRI. It is a cost saving and ride sharing program. You may depart the local area individually or in small groups using commercial airlift. For larger groups, the installation deployment officer works with Transportation Command to provide airlift from Cannon. This allows deployers the ability to fly directly from Cannon to aggregate locations without the need of flying commercially. It eliminates the inconvenience of navigating larger groups through commercial airports and the possibilities of having baggage lost or misplaced.

Every effort is made to move as many deploying personnel as possible from our doorstep at the 27th Fighter Wing to the launching point of the aggregation bases then to their final destination.
So there you have it. That is how the movement process is supposed to work. But we know things don’t always go as planned. This is where knowing a few pieces of critical information will help you out if you get stuck enroute. You need to remember your ULN, DRI and location of your deployment. This information helps you get moving again.
Here are a couple of thoughts on personal readiness. It is your responsibility to make sure your dependents are financially taken care of during your absence. This can be done in a number of ways: Sure Pay, joint checking accounts and/or allotments. Consider your need for a will and power of attorney.
If you are single, take special precautions when giving powers of attorney to friends. There have been instances of bad things happening between good friends during deployments. Thoroughly discuss these matters with the legal office. Think through how you are going to pay your bills and your government travel card.

Execute your dependent care responsibilities. It is your responsibility to make adequate dependent care arrangements in advance. Airmen with dependents have the primary responsibility for ensuring they fulfill both their personal obligations to their dependents and their professional obligations to the Air Force.
Your dependents/family should know the location and have access to the following documents: birth certificates, marriage license, divorce decree, will, powers of attorney and insurance policies, account numbers for checking and savings accounts and any other important documents such as vehicle registration or school papers.
The base Family Support Center can provide your family with financial planning, employment, relocation information and referral assistance. Advise your dependents to contact the local American Red Cross representative if any emergency arises which necessitates your return. The American Red Cross will contact the appropriate commander.
You are the Air Force’s most important asset. This information will help you and your family while you are take care of our nation’s business.
Stay safe and see you on the return trip back home.