SOUTHWEST ASIA – For one airman assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, being a reservist allows her time to pursue other passions while also serving her country.
“It’s like living two completely different lives,” Senior Airman Denice Luke said. “That’s why I like it so much.”
Luke is an air transportation journeyman deployed from Robins Air Force Base, Ga., to one of the busier aerial hubs in the Air Force Central Command area of responsibility. From Dec. 15 through Jan. 15, Luke processed 9,118 passengers, 4,142 tons of cargo and serviced 435 aircraft, which culminated in her selection as flight, squadron, group and, ultimately, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing airman of the month.
From basic forklifts and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to 25 K-loaders and her confessed favorite vehicle, the 60 K-loader, driving is in her nature.
“I like to drive in general. I just get in my car and drive,” Luke said. “My dad is a truck driver. He drives cross-country moving people, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to drive his 18-wheeler. So the 60K kind of feels like an 18-wheeler to me.”
When Luke is not making the six-hour trip from her home in North Carolina to her reserve unit at Warner Robins one weekend a month, she is a first-year certified elementary and special education teacher.
“I don’t do it for the money or the recognition,” she said. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in second grade. Teaching is what I want to do with my life.”
Like other reservists, Luke must balance her civilian career with her military service. “The school I was working at was willing to hire me and give me a job, but they knew I had to deploy,” she said.
Between serving her country and teaching in the classroom, Luke still manages to find time to give back to the community. She recently served as chapter president of the Swing Phi Swing social fellowship organization at the University of North Carolina’s Greensboro campus.
“The point of our organization is to cater to African-American women, but we cater to the whole community, performing community service at different events,” Luke said. “I commit a 110 percent of my time to that.”
Luke said she’ll return home from her deployment next month with fond memories of her time in Southwest Asia, armed with a newfound appreciation for the Air Force and her fellow airmen.
“I learned a lot about my job, but I learned more about the people in the Air Force and leadership, which I can carry back to the classroom,” she said.