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Boom operator no stranger to deployments

by Airman 1st Class Jose Climaco
Thunderbolt staff writer
Photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Climaco

Airman 1st Class Deboris Leonard, 91st Air Refueling Squadron, boom operator, studies for an emergency procedures evaluation.

As the global war on terrorism rages on, the Air Force's planes continue to fly and support missions around the globe. Those aircraft need fuel to keep flying and MacDill's boom operators are ready to deploy frequently in support of those missions.

Airman 1st Class Deboris Leonard, 91st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, has deployed twice this year and will do so again at the end of August. His previous deployments took him to Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan.

The 91st ARS happened to be the lead unit during Airman Leonard's first deployment, which kept him plenty busy. A typical day would consist of going over mission planning in the morning, flying all day to return in time for a midnight meal and sometimes watching a movie before going to sleep. When he wasn't flying, Airman Leonard said he was resting and preparing for his next flight.

The frequent, long flights helped Airman Leonard hone his skills. He said he became more proficient with lots of flying since going airborne four to five times a week was normal.

Although Airman Leonard was busy accomplishing the mission, he said he found things to do keep his mind off work and relax.

"People were friendly and the food was delicious," said Airman Leonard about the time spent shopping in Kyrgyzstan and tasting the local foods.

The Air Force offered several options to keep Airmen's morale high while deployed, a chapel and movie theater were available. Actor Vince Vaughn made a visit to the troops there as well.

"They (Air Force) did the best they could," said Airman Leonard about the living conditions there.

Being at a tent city wasn't always pleasant. Airman Leonard said delayed mail meant he wasn't always aware of what was happening at home. The difference in time zones didn't make matters any easier. It was difficult to make more than two calls a week.

Despite facing difficulties, Airman Leonard said he will remember Kyrgyzstan's picturesque mountains and the amount of flying hours, which will prepare him when he deploys to Turkey in the coming weeks.




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