Father, daughter deploy together
Chief Master Sgt. David G. Hayes, and his daughter, Staff. Sgt. Ashley Robinson, are both deployed to the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Chisholm)
by Tech. Sgt. Renni Thornton
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
7/30/2010 - KANDAHAR, AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- For many veterans, having children follow in your footsteps is half-expected. Sometimes, it's the child you least expect who does something that catches you by surprise.
That is what happened with Chief Master Sgt. David G. Hayes and Staff Sgt. Ashley Robinson.
"I always thought if either of my children joins the Air Force, it would be my son, Josh," said Chief Master Sgt. Hayes, the superintendent of the 451st Expeditionary Communications Squadron, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
"I guess I didn't think the two girls were interested in military life." He is currently deployed to KAF from the 221st Combat Communications Squadron, Garland, Texas.
Chief Master Sgt. Hayes recalled the day Ashley told him she had enlisted in the Air Force. He had just returned from a temporary duty assignment at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and she was in high school.
"It was a cool surprise," he said. She said to me, 'Now, we will always have something in common to talk about."'
The then-high school senior had previously talked over the possibilities with her father but hadn't exactly decided on joining the Air Force.
"I was looking at colleges and filling out applications and all that. We talked about it but I guess I wasn't real serious at the time," said Sergeant Robinson.
As college loomed closer, Ashley wasn't sure how she was going to pay the tuition and began looking at other options.
Fast-forward five years. The now-aviation management technician is very pleased with her decision and was anxious to deploy.
When she completed a permanent change of station to Nellis AFB in 2009, things changed.
"One day I called my Dad and told him I had been notified of a deployment to Kandahar Airfield. I was excited because I have wanted to deploy for a while, but there weren't many positions available for my skill-level in my career field," said Sergeant Robinson, who holds a five-level in aviation management.
Shortly after that conversation, Chief Hayes became curious and decided to see what deployments were available to him as well in that region.
There just happened to be a vacancy for a communications superintendent at the same location at roughly the same timeframe.
The road to KAF was a little difficult to maneuver for the two. However, things fell into place easily for them--at first.
Once en route, Sergeant Robinson's tasking got deleted, something she found out half-way through her travel.
Things were eventually resolved and she arrived at KAF after a two-week delay.
While many people would probably feel uncomfortable about serving with a parent at the same location, Chief Hayes doesn't have a problem with the idea.
"We get that a lot," said Chief Hayes. "People often ask me, 'Would you really want your daughter in a deployed environment? In a combat zone?' My daughter can hold her own. We see each other more often now than we did in the last five years."
Admittedly, Ashley is 'a daddy's girl' but she doesn't see that as a negative.
"I like my Dad," said Sergeant Robinson. "If I weren't here with him, I don't think much would change except he would get way more emails and way more phones calls from me. We talk every day and we go to dinner with each other every day."
The deployment to KAF has some interesting memories for Chief Hayes, who had completed a deployment at KAF five years earlier.
"It is somewhat surreal for me," said the 28-year veteran. "This place has changed a lot since the last time I was here. Some places have moved like the Post Exchange and the hospital is in different locations and the base has expanded a lot," he said.
Another significant event has occurred since the two have been at KAF together.
Ashley was promoted to staff sergeant July 1 and of course, Chief Hayes was able to read the noncommissioned officer creed, inducting her and two other Airmen into the NCO ranks.
And it just so happened that her promotion occurred 24 years to the day that Chief Master Sgt. Hayes pinned on staff sergeant himself.
"That was a proud moment for me," he said. "I was honored to have the opportunity to induct her into the NCO ranks."
Beginning his Air Force career in 1982, in 1990, he separated from the Air Force and joined the Air National Guard. He became a full-time Guardsman six years ago.
As a combat communications expert, he said he is constantly TDY or deployed. He plans to finish out his time as a full-time Guardsman.
And although his youngest child surprised him by joining, the whole family has maintained a connection to the Air Force in some way.
Leigha, the oldest, is married to Staff Sgt. Travis Hoff and the couple is stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Josh did join the Air National Guard, as expected, and is a full-time Guardsman assigned to Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.
Chief Hayes is hopeful that the entire family will get to spend some time together during the holidays this year. The family has been geographically separated by deployments and permanent change of station moves. "I get to see my son once a month, sometimes. A couple of years ago, I got back from a deployment to Iraq and then my son went to Bagram. Shortly after he returned, my son-in-law deployed to Iraq and then Ashley moved to Nellis AFB. We are hoping for some quality family time later this year. That would be great."