Shark in the desert: Airman augments Army in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Trisha Scheu with some local children during her recent deployment to Afghanistan on an "in lieu of" assignment augmenting Army troops. (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Trisha Scheu

Staff Sgt. Trisha Scheu with some local children during her recent deployment to Afghanistan on an "in lieu of" assignment augmenting Army troops. (U.S. Air Force photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Trisha Scheu

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Nearly one year ago Staff Sgt. Trisha Scheu, a senior controller in the 45th Space Wing Command Post, heard there was a tasking for a deployment coming down to her office.
"It was not specifically tasked to me but I went willingly," she said. "At the time, it wasn't something that came along for our career field too often."

She and her co-workers thought it would be a normal six-month tour. As it turned out, it was an "in lieu of" assignment augmenting the Army which would require extensive training prior to actually deploying.

So Sergeant Scheu left Patrick April 28, 2007 for Fort Riley, Kansas for combat training. There she learned cordon and search methods, how to infiltrate a building and how to react to firefights and improvised explosive devices. "I was overwhelmed with the thought of it all at first," she remembers, "but I'm kind of an adrenaline junkie so I had a blast."

"Besides," she continued, "it was necessary for the job and the area I ended up going to."

The area? Kandahar City, Afghanistan. The job? Serving as NCOIC of the Operations Cell for an Army Reserve unit from South Carolina.

The Operations Cell oversees every convoy in the southern province of the country, providing the necessary intelligence as well as medical evacuations and air support when needed.

Even while deployed, Sergeant Scheu had additional duties, but this time it wasn't unit safety or voting representative. "My additional duty was to augment the Army security forces during convoys," she said. "It was probably my favorite part of the deployment and I went out every chance I could get."

Sergeant Scheu had worked with soldiers before, but had never actually been embedded with an Army unit before. "There were a lot of stereotypes for both forces to get over," she recalls. However, by the end of the deployment, "it was one cohesive unit and not Air Force versus Army!"

Besides working in a different service environment, Sergeant Scheu remembers the challenges of dealing with a foreign culture. "At times it was frustrating because...the Afghan culture has been so flooded with Taliban propaganda that they don't understand that you're there to help them improve their lives," she said. On the other hand, she continues, "when you see the look of appreciation on their faces when you do something as simple as give a bottle of water to them, it makes it all worthwhile."

"I'm extremely proud of Sergeant Scheu's accomplishments and her selfless contributions to the Global War on Terror," said Senior Master Sgt. Paul Kasper, Command Post superintendant.

"In my eyes she is the epitome of 'service before self.' Her high motivation and 'can do, will do' attitude is an inspiration to us all."

Having returned in January, Sergeant Scheu has been able to rediscover the one thing she missed the most: the beach. "There's nothing worse than being an ocean person and being sent thousands of miles away from it," she said.

Despite not seeing the Atlantic for nine months, Sergeant Scheu said her experience is one she wouldn't trade for anything. "It was a privilege as a member of the Air Force to experience the Global War on Terror as an actual participant in the thick of things."

"It gives you a different outlook and appreciation for the military forces that have to deal with that every day."