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It takes a village: UDM

A photo depicting redeployers.

Tech. Sgt. Brett Ruhser, 61st Airlift Squadron navigator, is reunited with his wife after a six-month deployment January 20, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Flight crews and maintainers from the 61st AS returned from a routine deployment to the Middle East supporting Operation Freedom Sentinel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Grace Nichols)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

A group of Airmen step off a C130-J, duffle bags in hand. After a long flight, the unit has finally reached their deployment location. Though their time on station has only begun, the journey to get them there started long before they arrived.

One Airman deploys, but a village of service members get them there. Without the help of a unit deployment manager, Airmen could face several road blocks in the deployment process.

A UDM is a special duty assignment and an Air Force unit's primary representative to ensure deploying Airmen are trained and equipped to serve in contingency operations around the world.

UDM responsibilities include arranging travel to and from the deployed location as well as documenting and monitoring all pre-deployment training, medical status and any other unit deployment issue. They monitor Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, computer based training, mobility folders, and medical records for their entire squadron.

“Without the help of the UDM prior to my deployment, I would’ve been delayed,” said Staff Sgt. D’Avery Crawford, 19th Security Forces Squadron patrolman. “The tasks needed to be completed are things I am familiar with, but am not aware of the logistics. Knowing where to go is the hardest part, and the UDM really helped.”

Those who are interested in becoming a UDM must undergo an extensive selection process.

“The unit commander evaluates who should be a UDM based on time in service, time in grade and if you’ve met your minimum core requirements,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Gibson, 19th Force Support Squadron UDM. “The minimum rank you can be to hold the UDM position is Senior Airman.”

After being selected, the Airman must complete extensive training.

“There are six different types of training a UDM has to go through to become certified,” Gibson said. “To name a few, there’s a basic UDM course and log module training.”

Unit deployment managers play a vital role in projecting and sustaining agile combat airlift by deploying service members around the world. They prepare deployers for anything their specific mission may require.

“Typically a UDM oversees approximately 100 Airmen, but this differs per the squadron,” he said. “We make sure service members are prepared to deploy at all times, from computer based training to medical. Not only are they prepared physically, we make sure they are prepared mentally as well.”

With access to certain databases, UDMs are able to advise each deployer appropriately to ensure a departure and return.

“If the UDM position was gone, it would cause some havoc,” Gibson said. “A lot of service members would not be able to get out the door in an appropriate time. The Airmen wouldn't have any direction on what to do specifically with out-processing procedures and would also have no one to speak with. This puts the readiness of the squadron at risk.”

Though the work may be tedious at times, Gibson said it is worth the stress.

“It is definitely a rewarding job,” he said. “I would recommend it to anyone who is interested. I have learned a lot and am grateful for the opportunity.”