When you are in the military you go where the military sends you. Even if it isn’t what you want. Even if it isn’t what you expect. You might have dreams or plans of your own, but ultimately the military will decide where they need you and they have the final say on where the military will send you. It is part of the sacrifice required when you sign the dotted line. Sometimes your dreams and the military’s needs line up, but oftentimes they do not.
I knew deployment was coming, all Civil Engineering Officers who are eligible will one day deploy. There are too many jobs overseas for it not to happen. It was only a matter of time before deployment would come down from the leaders above with my name attached to it. I was hoping that the military would not need me to go to Afghanistan. I also really hoped that if they did, I wouldn’t be part of an Army augmented deployment. But when my name popped up on the deployment list, it was to Afghanistan to support an Army mission.
Go Where the Military Sends You – Afghanistan
Kind of ironic that they picked me, it was done by a computer and not by my resume. Some people did not think I was capable of what they were asking me to do and figured I would survive, but not thrive. Before I left my commander (boss) told me
“I believe you will be amazed at how much you will discover about yourself. Remember- ‘As you walk on the journey of life, you will come upon a great chasm – Jump – it isn’t that far.’”
I did not understand what he was saying. I had never come to a place in life where I needed to jump. My cautious life had always led me to make sure I had a sure footing before I took my next step. But an Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is not like anything I had faced before. Jumping into the unknown and being stretched were required. And I did indeed jump.
A lot of people who deploy to Afghanistan never leave the base to interact with the people. Not because they don’t want to, but it just isn’t required in their mission set. My job was to help build (you could say rebuild, but really there was nothing there to rebuild) the country. This meant most days we were off base interacting with the people instead of sitting behind a desk. We were out in the field, meeting directly with the Afghan people.
Not Your Typical Air Force Deployment
The first time we went off base (outside the wire) I was scared of the unknown. I thought that every mission off base would be an adventure and we would just hope to survive. But it really wasn’t like that. We came to a bridge and hoped out after our security element was set up we headed out to our construction site.
We had stopped before the village market so that we would not cause a traffic jam, but after surveying the site the villagers had told us there was no need to park so far away. They were thankful for the construction project we were doing to help stop the river from flooding. These people showed me that we are not so different after all. The mission was overall uneventful we just were able to see a number of our projects and see a lot of the country.
For a long time, I wished the military did not send me on a deployment to Afghanistan. Before I left I didn’t want to go. And after I returned home there was more I wanted to forget than remember. But now years later I feel incredibly blessed by the experiences I had. I survived. I even still have friends from the experience. It was hard. It was difficult. But the people I have met made it all worth it. Everyone’s deployment story is different and I am so grateful I have mine.
In October of 2017, I completed 31 Days of Deployment Stories. If you are interested to hear about other deployment stories I encourage you to check out the link to the series here.
See all my 31 Days…Military Life