From plumbers to chaplains and IT professionals to medics, about three dozen members of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 171st Air Refueling Wing are on duty, forward deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.
The majority of the Pennsylvania Citizen-Airmen are from the greater Pittsburgh area and the 171st is home-based at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Most of the Airmen deployed in late October 2021, with a leaving home in January 2022. All are deployed for approximately six months.
“I’ve learned it is a small world in the Air Force,” Staff Sgt. Michael Sabo, a plumber with the 577th PRIME Base Engineer Emergency Force. “I’ve run in to a lot of people I have known from other assignments, even people I went to Tech. School with.”
Sabo is part of a civil engineer team that moves from base to base in the U.S. Central Command region, providing extra manpower for construction and building maintenance related projects.
“It was good to deploy overseas with a group,” Sabo said.
This trip overseas was the first for Sabo and he added that seeing a new part of the world was one of the personal benefits of the experience.
Senior Airman Michael Rose, another plumber with the 577th PRIME BEEF team, is also on his first deployment. He admits that he overpacked, learning what was really needed and what was superfluous upon arrival.
“Being in an environment like this for the first time – first you think that it is chaos. But as you get into it and begin to better understand your job and the total mission, you begin to see how it all works together,” he said.
“This experience teaches you how to adjust to new situations. I think I have learned a lot through the deployment,” Rose said.