Who knew service before self would be this hard?

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jason Jaworski
  • 4th Space Control Squadron
Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do are the Air Force Core Values. They're the backbone of what makes our Air Force the best in the world. Of all of them, service before self could be one of the harder ones to accept since it has an effect on one's family rather than being habit like integrity and excellence.

On a recent deployment, this core value put three of my fellow Airmen and I from the 4th Space Control Squadron to the test.

When news of our deployment came, the four of us had pregnant wives or newborn children we had to leave. We weren't the first, and we surely won't be the last to receive deployment orders, so we prepared just like the rest of them. We arranged for families to come, organized our finances, and with the 4th Space Spouses' Group, set up our loved ones to have someone assigned to help them in any time of need.

During our six-month deployment from January to July, our wives endured their pregnancies, deliveries and parenthood without us while we stayed the course of the Air Force's mission. We endured the torture of being away from our families and the feelings of not being able to tend to our husbandly and fatherly duties.

As I left for my deployment, I knew what I was leaving behind. My wife and I are dual military, and this was not our first deployment apart -- I'm sure it won't be the last. My wife recently completed a deployment, returning from her five-month trip last year in January just prior to our permanent change of station to Holloman. This time it was my turn and I left my wife while she was four months pregnant. I was asked to leave her home alone with our 3-year-old son -- nothing could break your heart more.

Our previous deployment had shown us the importance of setting up a schedule to visit with family once a week on Webcam. This really helped me feel as though I was involved in my son's life and a part of my wife's pregnancy, even when more stress was thrown on to our plate.

I was notified my wife was having early contractions at 24 weeks gestation and had to visit the emergency room. Through the spouses' group and my wife's unit, the 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office, I was able to make sure there was someone to pick up our son while the doctors made sure my wife and unborn child were OK. They set up meals to help my wife when she was put on bed rest for a short time and picked up our son when she had late appointments. Everything ended up working out and our healthy bouncing baby boy was born full-term.

Bringing a new child home is an excitement most parents remember, but for Staff Sgt. David Moulder, 4th SPCS space systems operator, his excitement will be remembered by seeing his first-born delivered to him on Webcam with an audience of coworkers. When his wife went into labor, she headed to the hospital and the first thing she did was set up a laptop and camera hoping to see her husband on the other end, cheering her on.

"It was so amazing to know that I was half way around the earth and I could still, in a small way, be there during our little girl's birth," said Sergeant Moulder.

Sometimes we are called to duty at the most inopportune times, like right after the birth of a child. This was the case for another one of my coworkers, Tech. Sgt. Jon Kovalovich, 4th SPCS assistant non-commissioned officer in charge of Aerospace Ground Equipment. He was present for the delivery of his new baby boy only eight days before he was scheduled to deploy. Trying to remain focused on the mission and knowing there is a newborn at home was hard, but Sergeant Kovalovich kept himself busy by taking some college classes, reading books and magazines and working out.

"One thing that always helped to get my mind off being apart, was seeing pictures of my boy," said Sergeant Kovalovich.

Sometimes you need more than pictures and a spouses' group. For Staff Sgt. Russell Lundy, 4th SPCS personnel security, this was the case. This deployment was challenging for him, as his wife was continually seen at the high risk clinic due to a pre-existing heart problem. He was notified by the Red Cross and was sent home early to be with his wife because doctors gave his baby a 50 percent chance of survival.

"I was worried, since I was being sent home on a Red Cross notification, on how serious things had gotten for my wife and unborn child," he said. "Due to the tremendous care she received she carried the baby full term and we now have a healthy newborn."

Regardless of the situation, being in the military not only means you wear a uniform and do a job for our nation, it also means the family you leave behind must stand strong and serve from back home. For the four of us, we knew the sacrifice we had to make the day we left for our deployment, but also understood the importance of the mission we were called to do. We relied on our friends, family and our 4th SPCS extended family; because we knew our wives would receive the care they needed while we were away.

The 4th SPCS family of "Pirates" is a shining example of a how a military unit takes care of its own. Our military families and unit's spouses' group helped immensely with meals, lawn care, hospital visits, flowers, communication and babysitting just to name a few of the amazing things that were done for us. With their help, we all were able to make it through the difficult sacrifice of being away from home and missing memorable moments with our families.

"No one ever said that 'Service before Self' would be an easy endeavor, but as one of our Core Values it is a portion of the price we pay to serve in the greatest Air Force in the world," said Lt. Col. Carl Jones, 4th SPCS commander. "These men and their families made sacrifices -- some may consider them small, others great -- in order to ensure mission accomplishment. They were called to serve and they would all answer that call again. I am truly grateful for their service, their willingness to sacrifice and their dedication to our Air Force's missions."