Q & A: Cannon sergeant prepares for fourth deployment

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. James Coppi, 27, stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, talked about his upcoming deployment. Cannon officials would not give details regarding Coppi’s deployment, citing security reasons. They said only that he will leave this fall to go to southwest Asia.

He is married and he and his wife recently had a baby girl.

What is your job?

Munitions controller for the 27th Equipment Maintenance Squadron. I work in the munitions storage area also known as the “bomb dump.” We store, inspect, issue and maintain any and all munitions that the base may need, things ranging from small handgun bullets to big 2,000-pound bombs and small explosive devices designed to jettison an aircraft canopy in case of an ejection.

As a controller, I work closely with the fighter squadrons to get them the munitions they require to fly for training missions. I also track every operation that goes on in the bomb dump. Controllers are a focal point for everything that happens in the area.

How many times have you been deployed?

I was deployed two times while I was stationed at Guam. I deployed to Al Jabar, Kuwait, for three months in support of munitions convoys to and from multiple bases in Iraq. I also deployed to Tague, South Korea, for a month to support a joint exercise. Since I have been at Cannon, I have deployed to Cold Lake Canada for two months to support a NATO joint combat exercise.
What has your overall deployment experience been like?

Deployments have their ups and downs. On the upside, you get to experience something new and exciting, go places most people don’t get to go.

The biggest upside and the only reason I enjoy deploying is because it means I am most likely going to a hostile environment that I will be doing the job I have been trained to do. I also get a real sense of defending our country and helping others in need. I would have to say that my overall experience is good, as I get the satisfaction of knowing what I have done so others continue to have the freedom they have in our country now.

What are some of the things you are doing to get ready for your upcoming deployment?

We are saving as much money as possible just in case there are any unforeseen problems that may occur while I am gone.

Also, we are making sure that there is a sufficient amount of bottled water and other supplies at the house so that my wife will have to do as little heavy lifting as possible while I am gone. With her just having the baby, things are pretty tough for her, especially all by herself when I am gone. I have arranged for a lawn mowing company to tend to the yard work while I am gone, as with oil changes and other car maintenance that will need to be done. We also have made up a book with pictures of myself so that my wife can show them to the baby along with a recording of my voice for our little girl to listen to while I am gone.

What will the next few weeks be like for you and your family?

This is a tough one. … We try to get things so my wife is used to paying the bills, knowing the schedule for when they are due. We try to spend as much time at home together as a family as we can, preparing nice dinners, playing together with our little girl. We try not to think about what it will be like when I am gone. We just prepare as much as possible.

We spend a lot of time with her parents as well. My family will be coming into town soon so we can all have family pictures taken. It’s hard to think of it, but we must be prepared for the worst.

What are some things you are taking with you?
I am bringing a family picture that we took of my wife, new baby and myself. I am also taking a small pair of socks that don’t fit our baby Viola anymore, just a little something to hold of hers.

What plans does your family have to do to make the time apart pass?
The family support center allows us to talk to each other by using a video phone. (Also) we will e-mail, phone and write to one another.

My wife is planning to spend a lot of time with her parents while I am gone. Hopefully, that will help the time go by faster. Me on the other hand, I will be working 13- to 14-hour days, six days a week, then doing my laundry and other personal things (talk to my wife and baby) the seventh day.

What are most difficult parts of deploying?
Being away from my family, not being able to hold my little girl, rock her to sleep, kiss her on the forehead, whisper in her ear.
Not being able to help my wife, hold her and help her to raise our child.

Coppi is from Newberry Springs, Calif., which is in the Mojave desert. He was raised by my mother and grandparents. He joined the Air Force in August 1998. His first duty base was Cannon until December 2001, when I moved to Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. I returned to Cannon in 2003.