Husband, wife tackle first deployment together, support bomber presence
By Airman 1st Class Alexa Ann Henderson, 36th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 16, 2015
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- B-52H Stratofortress teams have been rotating to Andersen AFB for the last 11 years to maintain the U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence. Hundreds of Airmen deploy every six months to support this mission that strengthens regional security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Among the team keeping B-52s up and running are two married Airmen serving here together.
Airman 1st Class Ashley McDowell, 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron combat crew communications apprentice, and her husband Airman 1st Class Iseral McDowell, 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hydraulic systems apprentice, are deployed here from Barksdale AFB, La.
Their story starts out simply enough. They met and started dating during college in 2011. After deciding they wanted to do something memorable and rewarding in their lives, they signed up for the Air Force together on the same day.
"The day I signed up, Iseral came with me, sat and listened," said Ashley. "At the end, he pulled up a chair and asked if he could sign up, too."
Ashley left in April of 2013 for basic training, and Iseral followed her soon after in May. While Iseral signed up as hydraulic systems, Ashley signed up as open general. She got her job as combat crew communications at the end of basic training.
Toward the end of technical school, they decided to get married in September 2013.
Ashley was stationed at Tyndall AFB, Fla., while Iseral was stationed at Barksdale AFB. After a year, following Air Force join spouse policy, Ashley had a permanent change of station to Barksdale AFB to join her husband.
After a few months of being together at Barksdale, the McDowells learned that Iseral was deploying to Andersen AFB.
"Originally, Iseral was the one deploying, but then I found out I was going too," Ashley said. "I know it's rare for a husband and wife to deploy together, but it has been the biggest blessing."
Iseral said his job is to work on parts of the aircraft that allow it to maneuver in the air, land and conduct in-flight refueling. Ashley said she makes sure pilots have the proper flight documents they need before they depart on a mission.
When they first arrived at Andersen, they received a series of briefings that showed them what the mission was at Andersen AFB and how they contribute to the CBP.
"The biggest eye opener was listening to (General Toth) talking about Andersen's mission," Iseral said. "... I have a much better understanding; I know how we fit into the picture now."
The CBP began March 2004 with units deployed from Barksdale AFB, La, and Minot AFB, N.D., to Andersen AFB. The CBP was instated as a pivotal point for forces in the Asia-Pacific region for deterrence and to aid allies.
"It really hit me during one of the original briefings we got when we first arrived here," Ashley said. "(General Toth) was explaining how important our mission is to maintain a Continuous Bomber Presence. To say that we were here, we got to help support this, it feels good."
Besides learning about how key their jobs are to the CBP, the McDowells said this is their first deployment and they are looking to make it an opportunity for professional growth.
"I would like to learn more about my job," Iseral said. "I'm new; I'm still taking in a lot of information. I want to become proficient at what I do."
Ashley said she would also like to become experienced with her job and would like to help teach newer Airmen in her career field as they follow her footsteps to continually support the CBP on Guam with deployments.
Both Airmen said they are proud of their jobs and are glad they are able to help the CBP mission continue.
"When I look back on this, this deployment will be a really good memory in my career," Ashley said. "Not everybody gets to be a part of something this great."