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From the Frontline: Senior Airman Vincent Cunningham Jr.

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Deployments can take Airmen all across the world to a variety of countries. For Senior Airman Vincent Cunningham Jr., 13th Bomb Squadron aviation resource manager, his path led him to Eskan Village in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from October 2011 to April 2012.

While stationed at Whiteman, Cunningham performed mostly administrative duties on the flightline, maintaining records and filing aircrew-member forms. However, a lot changed for him when he embarked on his first deployment.

Leaving his paper-pushing administrative work behind, Cunningham became a Third Country National escort, also known as Force Protection, while in Saudi Arabia. Cunningham worked hand-in-hand with civil engineer units to set up construction sites and security forces to help protect these sites, as well as the base itself.

"We escorted and worked with, on average, 500 workers from all over the Middle East and pacific islands to include, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Egypt, Syria, Libya and more," Cunningham said.

As a TCN escort, Cunningham also supported the U.S. Army with training Saudi Arabian forces, increasing their capabilities in securing and protecting their country.

"The mission in Saudi Arabia was not different than many other missions where our Army helps train Middle Eastern countries to protect their homes and countries from terrorism," Cunningham said.

Cunningham added that it was also unique because of the opportunity he had to work with people from different cultures every day.

Cunningham said he never had a "typical day" while deployed.

"Every day was different depending on what work or construction was going on," Cunningham said. "My schedule fluctuated from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or from midnight until noon, it was constantly changing."

When he was not escorting, Cunningham's day-to-day duties included checking incoming vehicles for explosives and searching workers as they came into the base.

"We also did main security for exclusion zones," Cunningham said. "Those were zones or areas that security forces did not have a post and we were on our own.

"Sometimes when you're at your normal duty station you can get complacent with the everyday routine," Cunningham added. "While in Saudi Arabia there was no time to get complacent. You always had your head on a swivel and stayed alert."

Cunningham said the best part of his deployment was the great people he met, especially his leadership who taught him a lot of important job and life lessons.

The hardest part for Cunningham was missing his family and co-workers.

"I missed my wife the most, not being able to just hug her whenever I wanted was hard for me," Cunningham said. "I also missed my leadership at the 13th Bomb Squadron; they are an example of what every Airman should have."

"I am so proud of his professional and personal achievements during his deployment," said Tech. Sgt. Melanie Simmons, 13th Bomb Squadron NCO in charge of aviation resource management. "He grew as an individual, an Airman and a leader. His hard work and dedicated attitude attributed to his success while deployed and will continue here at home."

Overall, Cunningham enjoyed his deployment and the opportunity to gain a more cultured experience.

"Deployments are what you make of them," Cunningham said. "So it's important to make it the best you can."