Deployed Father Controls Airspace Over Son


SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Maj. Christopher Gering worries like any other parent whose child deploys downrange. It can be gut wrenching knowing his child operates outside the wire, working to clear and dispose of improvised explosive devices.

Since August, this proud parent has had an advantage most parents are not afforded when their child is deployed and in harm's way. He provides a birds-eye view while maintaining a watchful eye over the surroundings of his son's unit and assists them with accomplishing their mission safely.

As a mission crew commander for the 71st Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, Gering provides battle management and command and control over the skies in Afghanistan and air defense of the Arabian Gulf.

The squadron provides the Combined Air and Space Operations Center with a real-time view of the air picture, handing commanders valuable information on the ground while also supporting the fighters in the field by coordinating close air support for troops in contact, and aircraft deconfliction for forces in Afghanistan.

"My crew provides constant air support and surveillance to the region of Afghanistan where my son is currently deployed," Gering said, deployed from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. "We also make sure the right aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles are in the right airspace at the right time based on mission needs. Sometimes our priority is to provide intelligence for what's going on, and other times the priority is to make sure close air support attack aircraft can reach ground targets to protect our troops under attack."

Gering's son, Army Pfc. Marshal Gering, is assigned to the 584th Mobility Augmentation Company, 223rd Engineer Battalion assigned to Forward Operating Base Walton in Eastern Afghanistan.

His unit's main mission is to conduct route clearance in and around the Kandahar Province and Panjwey District, which provides freedom of movement to coalition forces and Afghan civilians.

"It seems crazy to think of him being here in the (area of responsibility) too, looking at real time video feed and listening to all the traffic we put out on the net," The younger Gering said, deployed from Ft. Hood, Texas. "Even though (my father) is just doing his job, it is almost as if he is watching over me and keeping a protective eye out for me, like he has always done. It almost seems funny to think we are closer here than compared to the rest of our family, yet we won't even see each other again until we are reunited with family back home."

Pfc. Gering deployed to Afghanistan in February of this year, just a few months after graduating Army Basic Training and not even a year after graduating high school.

"I'm incredibly proud of the amazing work he and his unit are accomplishing over there," said Maj. Gering. "It's a reassuring feeling, as a father, to know that when my crew is coordinating effective air support at a moment's notice, it might be my own son we're saving."

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