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‘Taps’ brings back memories for security forces member in Iraq

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
The somber strain of Taps will always remind Airman 1st Class Charles Tibbs III of his first deployment. 

He served on the 21-gun salute team at the May 18 memorial service at Balad Air Base, Iraq, for Staff Sgt. John Self.
 
Sergeant Self, 29, a security forces member from Pontotoc, Miss., was killed May 14 by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Baghdad.
 
"You hear about Marines and Soldiers killed in action all the time," said Airman Tibbs, who was assigned to the 81st Security Forces Squadron for five months before he was deployed in March. "This time it happened to one of ours and it really hit me, especially when they started playing Taps. 

"It opened my eyes and gave me an appreciation for what we do over here -- not just security forces but all military members," he added. 

Airman Tibbs serves with the 407th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron at another air base Iraq. He provides security for all U.S. and coalition aircraft on the flight line six days a week from midnight until noon.
 
Airman Tibbs said his job isn't difficult, but being away from his family is. He's single, but he misses his grandparents, Charles and Rosa Tibbs. 

"I stay pretty busy with work and exercising, but the three 15-minute morale calls help me cope," he explained. "Our team goes to the gym almost every day. We also have intramural sports and Bible study on Wednesdays." 

Airman Tibbs, who joined the Air Force in March 2005, was credited with preventing a serious fire one night on the flight line.
 
"Two helicopters flew overhead and let off two flares," he recalled. "As soon as the flares touched down, the flames started to spread. It's easy to imagine with it being so dry over here." 

Airman Tibbs called the fire department, then he and his partner grabbed a fire extinguisher and doused the blaze before the firefighters arrived.
Deployment has provided a valuable lesson for Airman Tibbs, who returns from Iraq next month. 

"Sometimes we take life for granted," he pointed out. "Deployments make you open your eyes and realize what we're fighting for. Cherish every moment like it's your last because you never know when your time has come."
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