comments

Loomis serviceman comes home for Christmas

U-2 pilot has been serving in Middle East
By: Joyia Emard, Looomis News Staff Writer
-A +A
Christmas carols about being home for the holidays are especially meaningful to Lt. Colonel Brad Berry. Berry recently returned home to his wife and three teenage daughters after serving for almost seven months as the deputy commander for the 380th Expeditionary Operations Group in the Middle East. When asked if he got homesick, he said, “Very much so.” Berry, who moved with his family to Loomis five years ago, said he’s missed at least seven Christmases because of deployments. But not this year. On Dec. 10, he arrived at Sacramento International Airport and into the arms of his wife, Julia Berry. Julia Berry said she was glad to have her husband back home. “It feels more like Christmas when we’re all together,” she said. “Our family feels complete with him home. It’s like things are a little off-kilter when he’s not here,” his wife said. Berry pilots the U-2, a high-altitude reconnaissance plane, and is stationed at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville. He has been on active duty for 22 years. During flight, the pilot wears a space suit and eats pureed food from a tube. He said he spends more than 10 hours at a time in flight. Being away from home is nothing new for Berry. “This is what my job entails. You understand what you’re signing up for,” Brad Berry said. In 2001, he was deployed for a year in Korea. In 1999, he served almost a year in Bosnia and the Middle East, and during Desert Storm he spent eight months in the Middle East. He has also had numerous shorter deployments over the years. “The short trips are easy – when you’re just gone for a few months,” he said. The absences have been tough for his family, especially when his daughters, who all attend Del Oro High School, were young. Now, he said, he thinks the girls like it when he’s gone because there is one less disciplinarian in the home. Julia Berry said, “It was harder for me when the girls were little. Now, they’re more independent and Liza has her driver's license and can help drive her sisters around.” Liza Berry, 17, a senior, said having her dad back home is nice. “I didn’t know how much of my senior year he was going to miss.” Sophomore Emma Berry, 15, said, “It gets really hectic with all of the estrogen around here when my dad is gone.” Gracie Berry, 14, a freshman, said, “My mom is happier when my dad is around and we’re happier when my mom is happier.” While the absences have been tough, Berry said his daughters have benefited from his military career. “They’ve traveled around the world. It’s solved the myopic problem in that they’ve seen how other people live – seen it from a different perspective – instead of just what you get from the talking heads on TV,” Brad Berry said. The Berrys have lived in North Carolina and Hawaii, and have traveled to Korea, Europe, and the Kiribati Islands in the South Pacific. Modern technology made this deployment much easier on the Berry family as they were able to use Skype on a regular basis. Skype is software that allows computer and smartphone users to make free video and voice calls over the Internet. Julia Berry said the technology came in handy when there was a fix-it project around the house that she couldn’t do on her own. She said through video calls her husband was able to walk her daughters through fixing their exercise treadmill and he helped her fix leaking sprinklers in the yard. “We talked at least once a day by phone or Skype. It helped us feel connected,” Julia Berry said. Besides his family, Brad Berry said he missed meal diversity and sleeping in his own bed. “The food is good, but there’s not a lot of variety. I missed having a choice. Plus, everything is served on styrofoam because water is scarce.” “The days are long – 14 to 18 hours – but the deployment goes fast,” he said. Berry said there is one thing he misses about his last deployment, “I miss the camaraderie. I worked with a great group of people.”