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A day in the life of an Airman

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Senior Airman Theresa E. Civil, an aerospace ground equipment mechanic with the 55th Maintenance Squadron, poses for a photo in front of a diesel engine driven generator inside the Bennie Davis Maintenance Facility here Dec. 14. The generator is one of many that provide Offutt's aircraft with power while their on the flightline. Airman Civil balances many responsibilities to ensure she is mission ready including taking care of her mother, while being a mom herself. U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Senior Airman Theresa E. Civil, an aerospace ground equipment mechanic with the 55th Maintenance Squadron, poses for a photo in front of a diesel engine-driven generator inside the Bennie Davis Maintenance Facility here Dec. 14. The generator is one of many that provide Offutt's aircraft with power while they're on the flightline. Airman Civil balances many responsibilities to ensure she is mission ready including taking care of her mother, while being a mom herself. U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Senior Airman Theresa E. Civil, an aerospace ground equipment mechanic with the 55th Maintenance Squadron, checks the oil in a diesel engine driven generator inside the Bennie Davis Maintenance Facility here Dec. 14. The generator is one of many that provide Offutt's aircraft with power while their on the flightline. Airman Civil balances many responsibilities to ensure she is mission ready including taking care of her mother, while being a mom herself. U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Senior Airman Theresa E. Civil, an aerospace ground equipment mechanic with the 55th Maintenance Squadron, checks the oil in a diesel engine-driven generator inside the Bennie Davis Maintenance Facility here Dec. 14. The generator is one of many that provide Offutt's aircraft with power while they're on the flightline. Airman Civil balances many responsibilities to ensure she is mission ready including taking care of her mother, while being a mom herself. U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Life in the Air Force can be challenging, especially if you're an Airman who has left home 30 times in the past two years. Times can also be difficult for an Airman who takes care of her daughter and mother. These are two Airmen here at Offutt, and this is their story.

Senior Airman Theresa E. Civil, an aerospace ground equipment mechanic with the 55th Maintenance Squadron from Portland, Ore., has a great deal of responsibility. Not only does she meet the standards set by the Air Force, but she also looks after her two-year old daughter, Gianna, and her mother, Jana Civil.

Airman Civil gave birth to Gianna on Dec. 8, 2007, while she was stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and her mother has been living with her since Sept 19, 2008, due to many factors including poor health and financial struggles.

"My parents were married for 21 years, my mother was a homemaker and my dad had a career, so since their divorce she's just been kind of surviving," Airman Civil said, "to have your mother in that position can be frustrating."

Realizing her mother was having a hard time, Airman Civil asked her to live with her and she moved in during the summer of 2008. Since then, Airman Civil has helped her mother receive the medical care she needs.

In April of 2009, the family made a trip to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where Ms. Civil had nine kidney stones removed at Wilford Hall Medical Center. The trip was made possible because of the outstanding support Airman Civil said she received from her unit.

"The way the unit responded was amazing," she said.

Upon learning of her mother's kidney stones, Airman Civil worked with her supervisor and the leadership of the 55th MXS to get her mother the treatment she needed. Within three days Airman Civil had everything arranged.

"Leadership walked me through every step of the process and the Air Force Aid Society gave me an (interest free) loan," Airman Civil said. The loan covered most of the trip's expenses.

While Airman Civil works to pay back the AFAS, she knows additional trips to Wilford Hall are in her future. Right now though, Airman Civil said, she's just thankful to have her mother living with her.

"I'm so thankful to have my mother living with me," she said. "Because she's living with me I know my daughter is receiving a good education, good nutrition and she's safe. I don't have to worry about her."

Having her mother with her also enables Airman Civil to focus on the mission, she said. "I can work weekend duty, mid-shift, swings or I can get deployed."

Airman Civil said she's also thankful for being a part of the Air Force, an organization that takes care of its people, something she knows firsthand.

"We are taken care of in the Air Force, it's a family, a community and you're not going to fall," she said.

"Because I have my mom and my daughter the Air Force gave us a four-bedroom house, which was awesome," she said. "I (also) didn't have the money (for furniture), coming from Japan I lived in the dorms, when I got here I had nothing, and everyone pulled together and in two months I had a house full of furniture."

"The chain of command takes care of you, I joined at 25 and no other job is going to give you a house and more money when you have a family, medical benefits and money for college."

When Airman Civil isn't working, or spending time with her mother and daughter, she's pursuing her Community College of the Air Force degree in general science or helping plan squadron events as the president of the 55th MXS booster club.

Another Offutt warrior who manages to juggle work, school, physical training and volunteerism is Airman 1st Class Jonathan S. Cullina, an E-4B data operator with the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron from Fairfax, Va. According to Airman Cullina, the mission of the 1st ACCS can be demanding at times, as he's been on temporary duty 30 times over the past two years.

"The single greatest obstacle I've had to overcome is working on a fluid schedule," Airman Cullina said. "Working at my squadron," he said, "you never know quite when you will be called in to work. This is due to the nature of our mission."

As he's often on call during non-duty hours, Airman Cullina said he must be prepared to drop everything and go on alert for several days.

"I have to constantly be prepared to leave the house for a week at a time," he said. "This forces me to work extra hard on my school work just to keep up."

In between missions, Airman Cullina finds time to work toward a bachelors' degree in system and network administration, as well as a CCAF degree in information systems. He said he hopes to have his CCAF degree in March of 2010 and his bachelor's degree wrapped up by summer.

Airman Cullina also stays busy preparing to run the 2010 Lincoln Half Marathon, playing soccer and volunteering at the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home, something he said he really enjoys.

"I visit with the veterans once a month because it's important for me to recognize those who gave so much for our country," Airman Cullina said. "I (enjoy) talking to the veterans and listening to their stories and watching them smile as they remember the past and talk about their lives."

Airman Cullina also helped set up the ENVH Veterans Day ceremony which consisted of a slideshow, music video and a performance by the Wings of Freedom ensemble of the Heartland of America Band.

"I just love giving back," Airman Cullina added.

However, his job occupies most of his time, he said. Along with responding to the occasional phone call from his unit, Airman Cullina said he's also responsible for conducting regular ground training and performing numerous tasks to ensure mission readiness.

For Airman Cullina, delivering messages on the E-4B, ensuring equipment on that aircraft is ready to go and responding to the call any time his phone rings, is all part of the job ... all part of defending freedom.

"I love the freedom that our country provides," Airman Cullina said. "I feel it is my duty to serve the country that provides me and my family with the freedom to pursue our own interests for the sake of happiness. I serve in order to protect my friends and family, and to maintain the freedoms Americans hold dear."

(Editor's Note: This is the first edition of a three part series.)