Keesler historian deploys to Southwest Asia

  • Published
  • By YoLanda Wallace
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Being deployed around the globe is a fact of life for today's Airmen. But deployment is even part of the job for some civilian employees.

Dr. Susan Dawson, 81st Training Wing historian, is packing her duffle bags for a four-month assignment to Southwest Asia. She'll wear khaki pants and polo shirts instead of the airman battle uniform, but she had to be fitted for a gas mask, get her shots and complete other training procedures like her military counterparts.

Dawson, who holds a doctorate in history from Ohio State University, leaves the first week of September to collect, document, investigate and compile daily, weekly, and monthly historical reports that will help other historians write an accurate, comprehensive history of OperationsEnduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

"I didn't volunteer to deploy, but it's part of the job -- the historian career field is largely emergency essential, so we know going into it that we'll deploy every 18 months," Dawson explained. "We can volunteer for deployments, though, especially if someone is pulled out of bucket and they need a replacement."

Dawson began her civil service career in 2005 through the Palace Acquired Internship Program at Air Force Space Command Headquarters, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. She came to Keesler 14 months ago.

"I guess I'm like everyone else who is deploying for the first time -- I'm excited, but nervous too," she admitted. "The work is quite different. We go through contingency training to write the histories that you do overseas. It's still hard to figure out what the job will be like, so I'm nervous about what to expect and if I can keep up with the pace of writing massive monthly, rather than yearly histories -- the pace is really quick."

Civilians deploying to Southwest Asia must complete advanced distributed learning system instruction, weapon training and self-aid and buddy care training. They must be fitted for a gas mask and be trained about its use. Their shot records must be updated and emergency documents completed.

Dawson said, "The biggest challenge and surprise has been all the paperwork and logistics for managing the care of my home, pets, paying bills and accepting the overall day-to-day life I'll miss.

"I'll miss my family at the holidays just like all the other people will," she continued.

"But the nice thing is that you aren't alone -- everyone else is going through the same things, so they really help support you."

Dawson, who comes from an Army family, says she's looking forward to seeing another country, experiencing another culture and meeting new people.

"I expect to gain a different perspective on the military actions going on so I can study the effects of foreign policy from the ground up," Dawson pointed out. "The deployment will help me be a better historian on all levels, a better researcher and writer, and I can bring those skills back to work here on my annual 81st TRW histories."

Dawson also teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast and just wound up a class in U.S. foreign relations.

"This deployment will make me not just a better historian, but also a better teacher with a different perspective on U.S. foreign policy in action that I can bring into the classroom," she commented, "so I'm very excited on those levels."

Qualified Air Force civilians can volunteer for deployments in a variety of career fields, including civil engineering, contracting, intelligence, logistics management and security administration.

These volunteer opportunities can be found at the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce website,, on the Air Force Personnel Center personnel services website by searching the key words "civilian deployment" or by calling the 24-hour Total Force Service Center, 1-800-525-0102.

Susan Griggs, Keesler News editor, contributed to this report.