An hour in Africa

Senior Airman Jorge Luna (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Amy Abbott)

Senior Airman Jorge Luna (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Amy Abbott)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- Senior Airman Jorge Luna joined the Air Force four years ago "just for fun." 

He said that after the tragedy of 9/11 he felt compelled to do his part and so he took a break from college to attend Basic Training and Technical School. One of the things he
looked forward to after joining was the military's promise of seeing the world. 

But the only thing the travel pay technician for the 452nd Air Mobility Wing saw after he returned from training were the tan buildings and sporadic palm trees at his home station here. That was until winter of last year. 

In November, he deployed for a three-month AEF rotation to Moron Air Base, Spain. And his traveling adventures didn't end there. 

Shortly after his return from Europe, he received a call asking him if he would like to volunteer for a mission to another foreign country - Africa. 

His first thoughts, "Why Africa? I didn't even know we had a base there." 

But after a split second of contemplating the situation, he made the easy decision. "Sure! I've never been there, so why not?" 

Senior Airman Luna was going as part of a paying agent mission. He explained that
there are certain countries where we are required to pay to land our aircraft there. The
costs cover a variety of things, such as landing fees, paying for the space the plane
occupies and associated costs. 

His charge is not only to be responsible for carrying the cash, but also to get all receipts and track where the money goes, so that the Air Force can have full accountability for
its financial obligations. 

He flew with the 729th Airlift Squadron, also out of March ARB, whose task was to transport soldiers to Africa for a mission. 

After stopping to pick up their cargo, and another long flight, Senior Airman Luna arrived
at the Niami airport in The Republic of Niger. 

"Africa was hot. I swear it was maybe about 110-degrees. As soon as you got off the
plane you felt the heat." 

Looking around, he said you could see the small airport they were on and then nothing
but tall grass fields surrounding it. Unfortunately, for the time being, that was all Senior
Airman Luna would see of the country. 

He completed his assignment and, approximately an hour later, boarded back on the
aircraft and returned home. 

"The planes could not even land without us," he said. "We're definitely a big part of
the mission." 

As for now, Senior Airman Luna is back at March waiting to see whatever part of the world the Air Force will take him to next and whether the call to duty is for a year, a week or simply an hour - it makes the mission no less meaningful.