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Bracelets help McChord maintainers remember those who are deployed

MCCHORD AFB, Wash. -- The 446th Airlift Wing’s aircraft maintenance crews are known for expertise on the job, but it is the tight, family-like structure that helps keep them bonded together. Once again, they have come up with their own unique way to maintain that close-knit atmosphere, even while thousands of miles apart.

Eight months ago, Chief Master Sgt. Steven Slagle of the 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, McChord Air Force Base, Wash., created a reminder for unit and family members to keep in touch with deployed Airmen. He designed a bracelet, modeled after the prisoner of war/missing in action bracelets, to serve as a reminder that a maintainer was deployed and experiencing long days away from home.

“After a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, I became aware of how disheartening it can be to open your e-mail and see you haven’t received anything other than business correspondence,” Chief Slagle said. “Most everyone has e-mail, and when you go to check it and there’s nothing there, it’s almost an empty feeling. Here, the days run very quickly, but over there, a simple e-mail to a deployed person can make all the difference.”

After the chief returned home, he made a point to try and keep in touch with his deployed friends and co-workers.

“When Senior Master Sergeant (Robert) Belletti was deployed for more than 100 days, I tried to send him an e-mail every day, and I asked other people to send him something as often as possible,” Chief Slagle said. “(When he) returned, he noted how nice it was to get news from home, even if it was a joke or a weather report.”

That gave the chief the motivation to press forward with a project to help people remember those away from home. During his spare time, he obtained polished stainless steel sheet stock and created 40 bracelet blanks. Then he had them engraved with the name, rank, unit and flight of a deployed Airman.

“The first one probably cost me about $1,000 worth of materials and personal time,” he said. “We make the bracelets for a squadron member to wear and a family member, too.”

The first bracelet was made for Senior Master Sgt. Dan Morris of the 446th AMXS. His 12-year-old daughter, Carly, wore a bracelet to remind her about his journey.

While it is considered an honor to wear the bracelet, the squadron has created rules and responsibilities that go along with that honor.

They include wearing the bracelet until the member returns home, maintaining communication, coordinating care packages, announcing the latest status or update of the deployed Airman during commander’s calls, supporting family members through the 446th AMXS Top 3 Association and presenting the worn bracelet to the returned Airman at a commander’s call.

(Sergeant Beauchaine is assigned to the 446th AW public affairs office at McChord AFB.)

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