Master sergeant marks 20 years of service with first deployment

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Monica Ricci
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing

“Flexibility is the key to airpower.” It’s an age-old saying in the Air Force that Master Sgt. Darlene Carlino, a personnel systems manager with the 514th Force Support Squadron, knows to be true after returning from her first deployment overseas.

Carlino deployed to the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, earlier this year. It was the first deployment of her 20-year career and she anticipated serving as a personnel chief in charge of one team.

“The most important thing when you're going out there is to let go of any expectations and be flexible” Carlino said.

She went on to serve as the superintendent for the personnel programs across the entire Air Forces Central Command’s area of responsibility.

“You learn quick out there,” Carlino said. “You have no choice because there's so many things coming at you so quickly. You just have to breathe and not be afraid to rely on the folks around you because you’re all in it together.”

Those folks around her included a mixture of active-duty Airmen, Guardsmen, and Reservists.

“At first I did worry that I’d be perceived as less-than my active-duty counterparts,” Carlino said. “But really you just have to meet with them and talk with them about what you do, because a lot just don’t understand our mission.”

In addition to stepping out of her comfort zone at work, Carlino also got to experience and learn about the culture of Qatar during her time there.

“I really hope that more people look for the opportunity to deploy,” Carlino said. “I know some of us just kind of get complacent. Maybe we think ‘Well, I can’t go because I’m an ART, or I don’t have enough experience.’ No- Just go for it.”

Now that she’s been back home for a few months, Carlino said the deployment continues to have a positive impact on her career.

“I hit my 20th year of service out there, and I am so glad I went. Maybe this was just the right time in my career,” she reflected. “I came back more motivated than ever to finish all my PME and take that next step, whereas before I think I was just content.”

As a personnelist, Carlino learned that approximately 40 percent of deployment taskings will be filled by Reserve and Guard members in the coming years. She encourages Airmen who are interested in future deployment opportunities to speak with their unit deployment managers for more information.