There's a first time for everything

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Timothy Leddick
  • 934th Airlift Wing

 With eyes as bright as her smile, a shade of praline that matches her hair, Senior Airman Tess Dickey, a 934th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment specialist, finds herself in a new and exciting world from home-station during the 934th Airlift Wing’s Viking Shield readiness exercise.

There are norms that Airmen come to expect for those who have already been deployed or involved with a flyaway exercise, but for someone fresh to the experience, those expectations differ.

Expectations for someone like Dickey involves absorbing real-world war environments and balancing them with her day-to-day job duties.

“Some of the expectations I have for this exercise is obviously to learn more about real-world [deployed environment],” said Dickey. “If we ever do go into any Alarm Red, [Mission Oriented Protective Posture] gear, learning about [Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear] — we don’t have as much training in our job field because we’re doing maintenance.”

Dickey stresses the importance of balancing duties with real-world precautions, and doing so without fear, she said. Being able to perform with maximum efficiency while in MOPP gear or carrying a weapon are just the tip of the spear.

 “I think it’s the importance of having enough experience,” said Dickey. “Being that this is my first exercise, [I must] learn what to do so when I go on another one I would know what I’m doing. When I get higher in rank I can help those under me so that they’re not just lost, they have more guidance.”

“Excellence in all we do” is a value Dickey holds true to under these conditions, she said. This is something she feels is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome while on an exercise.

“The biggest conflict that probably arises is just being able to move at the same speed that I would if I wasn’t in MOPP gear and if I didn’t have weapons,” she said. “Being able to hook up equipment if I’m in full MOPP gear, being able to hear [everyone] through my mask, to be able to communicate through radio. Another thing I’m more worried about is just making sure I’m doing everything right, even when someone isn’t watching.”

Despite these hurdles, Dickey remains hopeful and excited in her position on the field during this exercise. Her optimism reflects into her outlook on the experience and her duty performance.

“I think [this exercise] will help me a lot going further in my career,” she said. “I’ll be able to know a lot before I go onto another exercise. I won’t be the person asking a lot of questions and follow other people. I can lead them as we get into more exercises. It’s helpful that we have this and I’m able to be a part of it.”

This confidence and eagerness to learn are what stem from the expectations of a newcomer, such as Dickey, to a field or flyaway exercise.

Success from someone new to the environment is a matter of growth and development from mistakes rather than striving for perfection, said Dickey. The learning experience and being able to retain the training and knowledge gained while on the exercise are key to self-improvement for both one’s own career and for the benefit of the overall mission.

“If we try to be perfect, we’re never going to get there,” said Dickey. “We just want to keep getting better each time.”