Al Dhafra --
More than a dozen Citizen-Airmen from the Iowa Air National Guard are deployed to the Middle East, serving with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.
The Iowa ANG Airmen are all from the 185th Air Refueling Wing based at the Sioux Gateway Airport. The group deployed to Al Dhafra last fall for a 6-month deployment. The Airmen from Iowa brought a wide range of skills to the 380th AEW. Among the group from Iowa there are medical specialists, civil engineers, aircraft maintainers, and logisticians who all regularly train with the Iowa ANG each month.
Among those deployed is Master Sgt. Drew Wagner. Back home, Wagner is the principal of Fort Calhoun Elementary School in Nebraska. While deployed, he is serving as the first sergeant of the 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron.
“I just Zoomed with the kids at the school right before they went on Christmas break,” Wagner said. “It was really good to see so many of their faces.”
While Wagner said there is not a lot in common between being an elementary school principal and serving in a leadership role with a squadron of Air Force defenders, both of the roles do focus squarely on people.
“After 19 years of service, this is my first deployment. I find the whole process has been very intriguing. There have been a lot of growing opportunities for all of us,” he said.
The 380th ESFS is charged with providing base security, force protection and basic law enforcement services on the base and is among the largest squadrons on the base.
Staff Sgt. Eric Jeronimo, also from the Iowa ANG, is serving as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the personnel programs sections in the 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron. In addition to serving in the Iowa Guard, he is a student at the University of Iowa, where he is studying neuroscience. Jeronimo is utilizing benefits provided through the Air National Guard to help finance his education. He is also on his first deployment.
“I love our Guard unit,” he said. “It’s helpful to know that there are others here with me from back home.”