Celebrating Five Years of Marriage in the Desert

5 September 2022, Story and photo by SSgt Ashley Mikaio, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, Kuwait 

U.S. Air Force TSgt Vashard Armand, 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron NCOIC of installation area access, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Armand, 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron readiness manager, tell a story about their daughter, Ayden, at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, September 5, 2022. The Armands' first met on a deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base in 2016 and will be celebrating their five-year anniversary while on deployment to the Rock.

ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait – It’s fall of 2016 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, in the middle of the dining facility. A young Senior Airman Ashley Robinson goes up to an unknowing Staff Sgt. Vashard Armand to ask him about a friend on base. Vashard, not knowing who Ashley was talking about, answered her question and waved her off. Ashley, thinking nothing of the interaction, goes about her day, later that night running into none other than Vashard hanging out with friends. After a couple hours of talking, they realized they had many friends in common throughout the Air Force and had plenty in common themselves. After that night, one was rarely seen without the other.

Almost six years later Staff Sgt. Ashley Armand, readiness manager for the 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, and Tech Sgt. Vashard Armand, NCOIC of installation area access for the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, are married with a one-year-old, and find themselves celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary on deployment together at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, September 6, 2022.

“In all honesty I thought after we left, I’d probably never see her again,” Vashard recalled. “But when I was on rest and recuperation leave, she was like ‘Hey I’m going to come visit you okay?’ and sure enough she asked what airport she should fly into and showed up. She met my parents, and no one had ever met them before,” he said with a serious tone.

After their deployment, Vashard and Ashley started dating long distance, eventually deciding they’d had enough of not seeing each other every day. The distance ultimately encouraged them to tie the knot.

“We spoke every day and it was just weird not seeing her every day. You get used to someone being there,” Vashard said.

After a few years and a couple more deployments between them, Ashley and Vashard welcomed a baby girl, Ayden, into the world. After growing up in a military family herself, they came to the conclusion that the possibility of both being deployed one after the other and spending a year apart, was too great a risk for their family. They decided to get in the same deployment window so that when they would eventually deploy again, they’d go at the same time and only spend six months apart from each other and their daughter.

After her husband was tasked for a deployment to Kuwait, Ashley went to her leadership with a request.

“I went to my commander, and I let her know ‘My husband is going to this location, and you have these spots available, I’d be more than willing to take one of those and try to be on the same deployment as him,” Ashley reflected. “And she was like, ‘Absolutely! If I can keep a family tighter, why not?’”

While it’s great for the Armands’ to have a piece of home with them in the desert, they struggle with missing their daughter as new parents.

“This is our first time leaving our one-year-old,” Ashley said hesitantly. “Granted, she’s with people that she knows and she’s super happy and loves them. But being a brand-new mom, leaving was hard.”

Military service comes with its up and downs like any other job or aspect of life. Sharing your life with someone who is also serving in the military can come with a little more grace and understanding as it has for Ashley and Vashard.

Defender Selected for Brigadier General

Defenders - please join me in congratulating our newest Defender BG (sel) Tom Sherman. 

A huge congrats to Tom & Laurie on this amazing personal and professional milestone.  I have known these two for some time and they are an AWESOME team. Tom it is with a joyful heart I say congrats and looking forward to the impact you will have across the DAF!

Defender Nation is stronger today with leaders like yourself being selected to yet again to lead at the next level.  Wishing you and Laurie all the best from a Total Force of 43K Defenders!

VR - Brig Gen Collins
Director of Security Forces

Defender Nation,

Thank you to the Defenders in the field who made significant progress for the Enterprise and focused on our primary mission of Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD). This will help ensure the safety and protection of our Airmen and Guardians, their families, and warfighting capabilities domestically and overseas.

The Total Force Enterprise is focused on the CSAF DEFNEXT32 Report.  The primary objective of the report is ensuring necessary changes are made to the Enterprise’s doctrine, policy, and guidance. Adjustments to foundational, sustainment, and deployment trainings will meet current and future Agile Combat Employment requirements.  We updated the foundational Basic Officers, Apprentice (now known as the Basic Defender Course), Combat Leaders, and Integrated Defense Command & Control Courses; they will be onboarded this year. Together, these courses will help ensure the right level of foundational investment in ABGD across the Total Force.

The Enterprise’s second priority area is investing in Law Enforcement (LE) expertise. In late CY21, the first class of Credentialed Law Enforcement officers graduated, and the career field established a LE Special Experience Identifier, to meet DoD Peace Officer & Standards Training (POST) requirements. Today, more than 230 Defenders completed the DoD POST Course and possess a numbered credential. The goal is to credential approximately 7.6K of the 43K Total Force Defenders. My team is also working to ensure that Civilians who completed comparative trainings can be credentialed this year.

The third priority area is Weapons and Tactics. The Instructor Course is at Initial Operating Capability. More than 240 Defenders completed the rigorous 12-week course. The impact from this course is immense; they provide critical mission analysis in the field to our command teams to adjust relevant tactics, techniques and procedures quickly at the operational level, ensuring faster employment of effects-based security.

The fourth priority area is investing in the Human Weapon System. We fielded new weapons, improved capability, and equipment over the past three years, which helped make the Total Force more agile and ready. In fact, all fielding is programmed and on track. I like to think of this as “Defender Now,” as we provide more support to Defenders and their families. As part of this effort, we are working with the Mental Health and Chaplains professionals, fielding the new Operational Fitness Test, and furthering the Female Defender Initiative to improve recruitment, retention and progression. 

We are tracking each of the key initiatives in two plans - the Security Forces Enterprise Plan and DEFNEXT32. We are on track for many of the initiatives. I am confident these initiatives will immediately help the Enterprise. I appreciate every Defender who stepped up to own some of these solutions. I look forward to closing out this year with the same speed and tenacity as we have approached every challenge with over the last three years.

Proud To Be Defender Nation!
VR – Defender Collins








Join me congratulating our newest Colonel Selects. Congratulations to:

Col(s) Greg Bodenstein

Col(s) Brian Fitzpatrick

Col(s) Matt Foisy

Col(s) Jake Foley

Col(s) Kevin Lombardo

Col(s) Mike Speck

This accomplishment signifies your hard work and commitment. Thank you for continuing to lead and accelerating change in the Department of the Air

Defenders - Win The Fight!

Brig Gen Collins and CMSgt Gallagher


988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
Federal Communications Commission, 15 July 2022

Today, “988” is the three-digit, nationwide phone number to connect directly to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. By calling or texting 988, you’ll connect with mental health professionals with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Military and veterans can press “1” after dialing 988 to connect directly to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline which serves our nation’s Veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and those who support them. For texts, Veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline short code: 838255.

Too many people experience suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support and care they need. There are urgent mental health realities driving the need for crisis service transformation across our country. In 2020 alone, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes—and for people aged 10-34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death.

There is hope. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. These centers are supported by local and state sources as well as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress. By calling or texting 988, you’ll connect to mental health professionals with the Lifeline network.

988 Fact Sheet
News Release: U.S. Transition to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Begins July 16

To learn more about the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration's 988 resources and information to help spread the word, visit: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988.

988 Transition History
In a report to Congress in August 2019, Federal Communications Commission staff first proposed 988 as the nationwide, easy-to-remember, 3-digit dialing code for individuals in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules to establish 988 as the nationwide, easy-to-remember 3-digit dialing code for people in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors. On October 17, 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 was signed into law, incorporating 988 into statute as the new Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line phone number. Recognizing the need to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities, the FCC adopted additional rules in November 2021 to expand access to this critical service by establishing the ability to also text 988. As a result, covered phone service and text providers in the United States and the five major U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands— were required to direct all 988 calls and texts to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022.

To ensure that calls to 988 reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, all covered providers were required to implement 10-digit dialing in areas that both use seven-digit dialing and use 988 as the first three numbers in seven-digit phone numbers. On and after the July 16, 2022 implementation date, local calls in these areas dialed with only 7 digits may not be completed, and a recording will inform you that your call cannot be completed as dialed. Consumers must hang up and dial again using the area code and the 7-digit number. The North American Numbering Plan Administrator has a complete listing of affected area codes and resource materials for local government and community organizations.

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