RONCEVERTE (WVDN) – Sr. Master Sargent Erskine traveled the world for 24 years with the Air Force and is now looking forward to coming home.
Erskine always came back to her hometown of Ronceverte every chance she got — there were family and school friends to keep up with here, and she has maintained relationships during all these years.
Erskine moved to Fairlea in elementary school and graduated from Greenbrier East High School in 1991. She went off to college and moved back home to work, but things did not pan out as she planned.
During an economic downturn she was laid off and found herself hanging out at the local mall where she struck up a conversation with the armed services recruiter.
“I didn’t tell my mom anything for about a month,” says Erskine. “But when I did, she said you must talk to your uncle, Bill Wallcoen.”
Wallcoen was retired Air Force, and he told Erskine that she would be a good fit.
“It is more your style,” he told her.
During her 24 years of service, Erskine spent time in many Middle Eastern countries.
“My first deployment was exercise ‘Bright Star’ in Egypt. I was anxious to be deployed, and my close companions were going into areas of more danger than, my superior felt, I was trained for yet. So, I took this position in Egypt. My second was a NATO Summit in Romania, then I went to Iraq and later Afghanistan,” said Erskine.
Her most exciting experience was learning to drive an MRAP, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.
“In Afghanistan we would use them to go from the landing zone (or airport) to the embassy. I didn’t have to drive, but I needed to know how, just in case,” she said. The MRAP vehicle was also used to lead convoys.
Communication was Erskine’s main duty in Afghanistan. She assisted in preparation of documents for armed forces and U.S. civilian workers so they could get their passports updated by the U.S. Embassy for travel back and forth to the United States.
“We had U.S. military from other bases come to our office as well, not all the bases had a passport officer,” she said.
Another issue was communicating with the local authorities
“Just trying to understand where each of us was coming from,” was the key to successful negotiating, said Erskine.
Oct. 1 was Erskine’s official retirement date.
“My biggest regret was when Mom was living, I didn’t take the time to get her potato recipe. Now I would so love to taste that again!” said Erksine.
Erskine’s mom passed while she was serving, in 2005. Her father is still living in White Sulphur Springs, a retired Greenbrier resort employee. He has many friends and eight grown children to fill his retirement lifestyle, and Erskine is looking forward to being part of it.
Her retirement plans are quite flexible. She had accrued five months of vacation during the past couple years, so she has actually been back in West Virginia since May.
She had the foresight to purchase a house in Lewisburg in 2014, renting it out until her day for retirement arrived.
“It is time to decompress,” said Erskine. “My sister asked me to be her running, jogging and walking buddy three days a week. She has been taking care of our dad while I was gone, so I am giving her much needed time off. He is pretty independent though and sometimes just kicks me out and tells me to go do stuff,” she said.
So, she is doing her “stuff” and has no plans right now for that second career.
“I have new routines to figure out. Civilian living is structured much differently than I am used to. It is time to decompress, and I certainly enjoy sleeping late when my sister lets me — she likes to go running early in the morning!”
|Sr. Master Sargent Stephanie Erskine on the day of her promotion.|
|Erskine says she is ready to spend more days like this now that she is retired.|