After many months of training, prep and packing the sixth deployment of my career is now officially underway. Previous deployments have included flying over such countries as Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but this one will be the first time I will actually live in country and fly out of a base in Afghanistan. Previous deployments have always stationed us in a different country, far outside and removed from the actual fighting. This time, we’re almost right in the middle of it. I have been to Afghanistan before, my last time was back in 2007 so I am sure plenty has changed and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress that has been made over the last few years.
The trip started out of Las Vegas on Tuesday, 22 Mar. After saying some very tough goodbyes to everyone I care very much about, I boarded a commercial flight to Baltimore. After spending the night in Baltimore, Wed was a day to process into the Air Mobility Centers system for moving military across the globe. It’s setup much like a commercial airline, bags were processed and I actually got a ticket and seat assignment on the chartered MD-11 jet. The plane was packed to the gills with every seat full of military deploying to various locations around the globe. Our first stop would take us to an airbase in Germany where we would swap out crews, get gas and stretch our legs. After rebounding we took off again this time for one of our airbases in Turkey. Turkey was a much quicker stop, everyone stayed on the plane and we were back in the air in less than an hour. This time we were headed for a base just outside of Afghanistan were we could stage and process in to the local system. The entire trip from Baltimore to where I am now just just over 17 hours to complete. Now we sit and wait for a military cargo plane, most likely a C-17 to take us the rest of the way into Afghanistan.
Communication back home with loved ones has been fairly good so far. The iPhone with international roaming has been transparent that I ever left the US. Every time we land, it finds the local carrier and feeds in waiting text messages, emails and missed phone calls. I’m not 100% it will work in Afghanistan, but we should find out for sure tomorrow. (If anyone is using an iPhone in Afg please let me know). Just the fact that it is working flawless in the middle of K-Stan is impressive enough for me. Other apps like Skype are going to be worth their wait in gold as I get settled. One can’t really put a price tag on the value of seeing a smile from a loved one 8000 miles away. For the folks who stay at home, they miss the deployed member, but they still have all the comforts of home to surround them. Being deployed to a combat zone, all those comforts are left behind and are usually replaced with blank tent walls, dirty brown sand, and a small personal space normally normally referred to as your hootch. Pictures from home are worth their weight in gold as they are quickly pinned up to remind us all of what we are over here fighting for. The technology that keeps us in touch cannot be overstated in it’s value to the morale of the troops.
This morning was my reintroduction to chow hall food. I laughed as I reentered the facility and smelled the all too familiar smell of the grill. Some things never change. The food is ok, but the variety doesn’t change much. After over 2 1/2 years over here in my life, it’s like going to the same fast food place way too many times. The rest of today is the calm before the storm. A good time to rest and catch up from lost sleep on the long flight over. For tomorrow we will be back in Afghanistan, back in the war, and it waits for no man. War is like jumping into a raging river. It flows fast and furious 24/7, 365 and you just do your best to not drown. Tomorrow we jump in the river once again and in six months, the river will spit me out the other side.
The war paint is on, this is as real as it gets. Fights on! Don’t bring it weak!