Face of Defense: Wife Succeeds Husband on Deployment
By Air Force Senior Airman Stephen Linch
Special to American Forces Press Service
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Nov. 19, 2009 He was there, and then he was gone. It was just a glimpse on the night of Oct. 31. She continued to exit the C-130 Hercules that had just landed at an air base here, still scanning her surroundings to see if it could be.
Air Force Capt. Kieran Dhillon-Davis speaks with her husband, Air Force Capt. Luther Dhillon-Davis, before his departure from an air base in Southwest Asia, Nov. 13, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephen Linch
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Then she saw him again. Her face lit up as she joyfully greeted her husband at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing reception area.
Although she was ecstatic to see her husband for the first time in six months, Air Force Capt. Kieran Dhillon-Davis, the newly arrived chief of the wing’s mental health services, didn't come here to see him. She came to take his place.
Her job is to ensure mission readiness by providing mental health services such as individual therapy, tobacco cessation aid and suicide awareness training to airmen and soldiers. She also focuses on behavior change and on stress and anger management.
Her husband, Air Force Capt. Luther Dhillon-Davis, the departing chief of mental health services, soon would return to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, the couple's home station. But for now, he was focusing on managing the hand-off and preparing his wife for a successful stay.
"I was eagerly anticipating her arrival," he said. "I was and still am excited to get to share with her this transition."
Over the next 14 days, he facilitated the transfer by seeing patients alongside his wife, providing her with continuity, detailing location-specific information and showing her around the wing. He noted how grateful he was to spend time with her over the changeover period, saying it was the "closest thing to a traditional mid-tour break," they would get.
The couple became acquainted when 23-year-old Kieran Dhillon enrolled in a neuropsychology class on the nature of emotion in the summer of 2002, after seeing 24-year-old Luther Davis's name on the class's roster at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif.
Over the next four years, Luther Davis would create a holiday for his college sweetheart: "Blue Day," named after her favorite color and a commemoration of their engagement. Both would join the Air Force and start their residency, and they would combine and hyphenate their last names in a wedding ceremony at a winery in Temecula, Calif.
They celebrated their third wedding anniversary separately on May 28, shortly after Luther left for his deployment.
They knew there would be sacrifices when both entered the Air Force. The couple agrees that getting deployed back-to-back is not an ideal situation, but they are learning to deal with the challenges it brings.
"I've had to learn how to be supportive without being there physically," admitted Luther, a 31-year-old Wichita Falls, Texas, native.
When the couple informs people of their situation, the response they normally receive is, "Geez, that sucks! Why couldn't they work something different?" he said.
Kieran explained that their career field is critically undermanned, and constant deployments have left a shortage of airmen capable of deploying. They agree the situation could have been far more stressful if they were deployed to separate locations.
As their two-week overlap drew to a close, the couple sat beside each other, smiling, laughing and getting lost in somber moments of silence -- moments that soon were ended by the realization that the KC-10 Extender was waiting on the ramp to take him home, and the two would have to say goodbye again.
In the upcoming months, Luther will re-integrate into the 82nd Medical Group and serve the airmen of Sheppard Air Force Base, and Kieran will continue to hold the line as the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing's only clinical psychologist.
Reflecting on her husband's departure, the 30-year-old Redland, Calif., native said she has only the mission at hand on her mind, and plans on “doing what I have been called out here to do, just like everyone else."
The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing provides intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and aerial refueling in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.
(Air Force Senior Airman Stephen Linch serves with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs office.)