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Airman waits 31 years for first deployment

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When an E-4 sergeant here got out of the Air Force on Oct. 19, 1976, it didn't occur to him that 28 years later he would deploy as a civilian in support of the Global War on Terror.

Bob Perry, 416th Flight Test Squadron project manager, volunteered to deploy to Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq, as part of the embedded provincial reconstruction team with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. He left in May 2007.

During his deployment, which ended in February, Mr. Perry was the senior industrial advisor to the brigade commander, as well as local nationals and district councils.

"As part of the PRT, it was our job to go out and interact with the Iraqi people and talk about governance, project and economic development," the 31-year civil servant said. "We did assessments in the area to determine what we could do to assist them."

The seven-man PRT's area of responsibility encompassed about 50 square miles including the two middle and upper class districts of Kadhamiya and Mansour.

Mr. Perry said the communication between the PRT and the locals was sometimes difficult because of language and cultural barriers. Interpreters and bilingual bicultural advisers played important roles in channeling the message.

"Everything was fine because the locals welcomed us," he said. "They knew we were there to help them, and they wanted our help."

According to Daniel Goddard, Global Power Fighters Combined Test Force director of projects, Mr. Perry is an outstanding American for volunteering to be part of the PRT team to help build Iraq.

"The fact that a civilian would place himself in harms way in support of our efforts in Iraq is amazing," Mr. Goddard said. "He put his life at risk for this deployment."

But these risks are all part of being deployed, Mr. Perry said.

"You know you will face these risks when you get over there," the Modesto, Calif., native said.

Prior to his deployment, Mr. Perry received Air Force Expeditionary Combat Skills training, foreign service training, awareness training and self-aid and buddy care training.

"We were trained on what to expect in a deployed location," Mr. Perry said.

Before going to Iraq, Mr. Perry used to say he missed not being a part of the military and hoped to be deployed at some point in his career.

"I hoped that if ever there was an opportunity, I would definitely want to do it -- and this came out of the blue," Mr. Perry said. "My wife said, 'go do it,' and I did. I give my thanks to her for keeping everything going while I was deployed."