67th Aerial Port Squadron first sergeant assists in deployment

Senior Master Sgt. Ross Childs, 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group first sergeant, mentors a young Airman in his office at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Part of Sgt. Child's duties as a first sergeant include mentoring and assisting Airmen with any problems they might have. Sgt. Childs is deployed from the Utah Air National Guard's 67th Aerial Port Squadron. (photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Seals)

Senior Master Sgt. Ross Childs, 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group first sergeant, mentors a young Airman in his office at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Part of Sgt. Child's duties as a first sergeant include mentoring and assisting Airmen with any problems they might have. Sgt. Childs is deployed from the Utah Air National Guard's 67th Aerial Port Squadron. (photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Seals)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Every deployed member's worst nightmare is to get woken up in the middle of the night by their first sergeant and told that tragedy has struck at home. In this terrible scenario there is hope because the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing has a team that can spring into action to help an individual get home as quickly as possible on emergency leave.

This team's quarterback is Senior Master Sgt. Ross Childs, 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group first sergeant, deployed from the 67th Aerial Port Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.  He leads the response team that ensures the paperwork is streamlined, flights are assigned and ensures individuals get to where they need to go as soon as possible.

"It's our job to be able to walk people through the process, all we want to do is make it easy and smooth with as little interference as possible for that person," said Sergeant Childs.

The process typically starts out with a Red Cross message to Sergeant Childs, who then notifies the individual, usually with a chaplain accompanying him. That individual then calls home immediately and the process begins.

Behind the scenes, Sergeant Childs starts the emergency leave paperwork and the letter of authorization, which authenticates the need for emergency leave. As soon as this letter is signed by the 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander, they get the permission to proceed.

"Everyone comes together and it becomes our number one priority to get this person home," said Sergeant Childs. "The individual can be a civilian, a military member, one of our sister services, it doesn't matter ... our number one priority is getting that person back to their family."

The member then accompanies the first sergeant to personnel for contingency operations with their paperwork and the paperwork is brought to the finance office by a PERSCO member. Once there, they issue a fund site for the individual to fly home. This is a very important step because it permits funds for commercial travel to anywhere in the country, not just travel by military air, which allows the person to travel the quickest route possible.

"PERSCO's role in emergency leaves is critical to documenting higher priority airlift for our Airmen to return home as soon as possible," said Maj. William Fischer, 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Squadron commander. "PERSCO teams also ensure accountability of our teammates as they transit to their leave location. In addition, if our Airmen need extended time to deal with their family emergency, PERSCO teams can request a replacement for the area of responsibility. This flexibility allows our Airmen to ensure their families are safe and cared for."

After PERSCO draws up the orders, they are passed to the passenger terminal and traffic management office where they plan the individual's entire trip to include commercial air. This removes much of the stress for the individual and they also are put on emergency leave travel status at the terminal, which is the highest travel priority.

"We get them authorization to fly the most expedient route possible," said Sergeant Childs.

Sergeant Childs does caution that emergency leave is not applicable for every situation, it's very specific. It includes the sickness or passing of immediate family members to include spouses, children, siblings and parents. The situation includes major surgery, gravely ill cases or a death in the family.

"In emergency leave cases, whatever needs to happen, we make it happen," said the sergeant.

Sometimes people are able to leave Bagram Airfield in just a few hours and most of the work of the response team is done during the night because people often call during daytime hours back in the U.S.

"This is a priority of the Air Force, to take care of their people, so we can meet the mission," said Sergeant Childs. "This is one of the reasons I think people are so loyal in the Air Force."

"Although extremely stressful for the individual, this is our wing at its best," said Col. Debbie Henson, 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander. "Sergeant Childs is committed to getting this person home to be with family during a trying and emotional time. By personally coordinating with the myriad of offices that are involved with this process, Sergeant Childs ensures that the deployed member is supported and given assistance needed to get back to family. He leads the way for the Air Force family to take charge and make the difficult happen."

"The system we have in place is very good, it's made to be inclusive and not exclusive," said Sergeant Childs. "If people qualify for emergency leave, it's a very clear and streamlined process." He continued that all personnel at wing should know, "We will do whatever we can to get you where you need to go in emergency leave cases."