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Face of Defense: Air Guardsman Raises Kids, Mentors Airmen

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin, 161st Air Refueling Wing DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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PHOENIX, March 18, 2016 — Serving in the Air National Guard means something different to everyone. For some, it adds meaning to life. To others, it is a source of honor. For one sheet metal fabrication mechanic assigned to the 161st Air Refueling Wing here, serving provides a sense of purpose outside of normal daily activities.

“Being a stay-at-home mom is a huge responsibility, and it greatly contributes to our family, but serving in the Guard gives me another way to contribute -- not just to my family, but the nation as well," Air Force Tech. Sgt. Billiesue Deegan said.

Prior to joining the 161st, Deegan served on active duty with the U.S. Army. She said when her family decided to move from Georgia to Arizona for her husband's job, she looked to the Air Guard.

Determined to Serve

"Serving in the military was something I wasn't willing to give up," she said. "It is very important for me to stay in the military. It is something I want in my life. I still serve, but just not on a daily basis."

Deegan said military service is something she also wants in her children's lives, especially because it is a family tradition. Her husband, Air Force 1st Lt. Jeremiah Deegan, is also a member of the wing, and her father and sister both served in the military as well.

She said her father's military service was influential in his life and therefore in hers. His service gave him a strong appreciation for attention to detail and instilled that in her as a young child, she added.

"As a military member, I appreciate my father's lessons so much more -- high standards and attention to detail are second nature to me," Deegan said. "I now find myself holding pretty high standards for my boys. I'd like for them to have more self-discipline and have great attention to detail. I would love for them to have the privilege to serve their country. While it is ultimately their choice, I hope they have the chance."

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is one of many skills she passes down to her kids. As a sheet metal expert, Deegan imparts military-learned technical skills as well.

"I build a lot of stuff at home," she said. "We have a lot of rabbits, and I build all of their cages and feeders. The military has given me the knowledge, skills and experience to do a lot of the things I do around the house and my boys see that."

As a mother, Deegan said she employs family-learned skills in her military career.

Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Rodriquez, aircraft structural maintenance supervisor, said Deegan adds a special dynamic to the fabrication section -- offering views from a woman's and a mother's, perspective. He said she draws from life experience, and that the airmen find her approachable and understanding. He said her motherly traits are in full force when it comes to safeguarding the airmen in her shop.

"Safety is of her utmost concern, and protecting her airmen comes first," Rodriquez said. "She is watchful of the younger airmen -- making sure they keep the highest level of readiness to meet the mission."

Professionalism

He said Deegan expects professionalism and has the ability to de-escalate situations. She has, he added, a way of counseling airmen that makes them want to prepare for the future and be better members of the team and improve their performance.

"Being [a noncommissioned officer] often means getting people to do things they might not want to do. I have that job at home, too," Deegan said. "With my kids, I have to find ways to get them to do what needs to be done the way I want them to do it -- without being mean or demanding. I've also learned through my kids that you have to approach people differently. If you approach someone the wrong way it can put them off. At home I use the word 'help' a lot; such as, 'Can you help me'. I find that [children and airmen] respond a lot better to that."

She said if her kids and her airmen feel they are making a personal contribution, believe what they are doing is important, and feel like they are playing an important part, the tasks are completed more effectively.

"Sometimes they just need to feel they are playing a big role," she said with a smile.