BAGRAM, Afghanistan - After two years apart, a deployed father and son were reunited at a re-enlistment ceremony in Afghanistan.
The last time U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Carmelo Vega Martinez saw his son, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jean Vega Martinez, was more than two years ago when the junior NCO was passing through Texas on his way to retrain as a MH-60 Pavehawk helicopter flight engineer.
"I never thought this would happen," said the proud father, a 438th Air Expeditionary Wing/NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan recruiting adviser. "It's extremely strange for a recruiter to deploy."
The senior Vega Martinez spent 19 years of his 24-year career in Air Force recruiting. At home station, he serves as the 368th Recruiting Squadron production superintendent, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Today, he advises the Afghan Air Force on establishing and sustaining a recruiting service of their own.
"He's been a recruiter for most of his career; the last place I thought I'd see my dad is Afghanistan," said Jean Vega Martinez, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron flight engineer. "I don't think many people get to see their father down range."
Jean Vega Martinez’ unit is the only Defense Department combat force specifically organized, trained, equipped and postured to conduct full-spectrum personnel recovery to include conventional and unconventional combat rescue operations in the combat zone.
Nicknamed the ‘Pedros’, the squadron is credited with more than 5,000 lives saved since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The squadron has saved 44 lives and transferred 87 injured to a higher level of care since Aug. 1.
A reenlistment is an honored tradition in every branch of the U.S. military. It serves as a visible, public celebration as an enlisted member reaffirms and extends their commitment in the Armed Forces of the United States.
"I felt very honored to preside over the re-enlistment," said Capt. Adam Gram, 83rd ERQS pilot. "In our community we're a family; and to be able to incorporate his father into the reenlistment adds more fidelity to the feeling of family and brotherhood that this unit lives on."
"I'm very proud of him," said Carmelo Vega Martinez. "We're an Air Force family; I'm so glad to see my son grow in his Air Force career."
Being an Air Force family often creates friendly rivalry between the two Ponce, Puerto Rico natives.
"I tell the guys around me I have to make senior or chief before him," said Jean Vega Martinez, deployed from the 41st Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. "We always call each other every year to see what we scored on the physical fitness test; it's a competition. It's because he's in an older bracket, that's all," said the newly-reenlisted flight engineer, explaining how his father scores higher marks on the fitness test.
Father and son spent a few hours together catching up and joking throughout the day, before the senior master sergeant said goodbye to his son and departed Bagram Airfield for Kabul International Airport. The two are deployed at separate bases, 40 miles across the combat zone.