When I found out I was deploying to Afghanistan with an Army unit I did not have a lot of hope that I would survive the nine months in Afghanistan. I guess, in truth, I wasn’t even sure I would make it through the winter in Indiana for training.
When I left for training, I really did not know a lot about myself. Even things I thought I knew about myself, I didn’t really know. You see way back at Field Training (the summer program cadets have to go through to become officers) my self-confidence was decimated. My Field Training Officer wasn’t impressed with me and I think she was hoping I would quit before the four weeks were over. I didn’t quit, but I didn’t come back the same person. The officer in charge of me told me that I was not cut out for the military and I completed training in the bottom third.
I had always excelled at school, sports, and anything else I had set out to accomplish. So completing Field Training at the bottom really shook me and I came home disappointed and almost ready to give up. Luckily there was one bright spot of Field Training I actually did well at.
Marching, parade drills, command voice, and other military things were not my strong suit, but while completing the 3-day practice war game (exercise) in the field I found my strength. I actually found something I could do in the most unlikely place. The command headquarters of the made-up war game. Most of the people on my team didn’t really think much of me, but I know that my confidence and actual ability to come up with a system and then give out orders surprised more than just one person in our group.
Unfortunately, those 3 days were at the end, and if I told you the truth I haven’t really thought much about those highlights up until this very moment. I did remember all the ways I had failed and how getting through training wasn’t something I was fond of. And I guess it is good I didn’t quit because then my story would be so different and I might not have ever found the strength and redemption I needed.
Hope to Survive
I went off to deployment training hoping to just survive. My boss gave me this advice: “When you come to a great chasm and need to decide what to do, JUMP, it isn’t that far.” He never said if he was worried about me or if he knew deep down what I was capable, but that quote stuck with me and I jumped. And he is right it really isn’t that far.
The best part about the advice he gave me was that the first time I really had to jump was to leave the safety of the large military base we arrived at to head out into the cities surrounding us. I guess I could have said, “I’m not going,” but it was my job to go. I climbed up into the combat vehicle and headed off the base. Smiling, but scared to death of what was coming.
First mission in Afghanistan
To say our first mission off the base was uneventful wouldn’t even explain the whole experience. I mean it was uneventful in the fact no one tried to attack us. But what surprised me was how much fun it was. We went to a local market to check out a retaining wall. The team had come up with a plan to march in safely so as to not disrupt the market. It sounded really dangerous and scary and maybe it was, but it was uneventful. I even enjoyed it and the Afghans didn’t mind us being there, they were actually thankful for the retaining wall we had helped build. We also went to a hospital, a government building, and a school. The hardest part, you know, after actually going, was wearing the battle armor all day. It was really heavy and uncomfortable, but besides that, it wasn’t so bad.
Day one in-country gave me hope we would all make it home back home. And each day we got closer to coming home my hope would grow. Before you know it our nine months were over and I had changed and grown so much. Sometimes the hardest things in life mean the most. Looking back this is definitely something I could say about my deployment.
By the time motherhood came around don’t you feel ready to tackle the world. You have gone through so much and not only survived but thrived. Who knew a little baby can quickly bring back the insecurity and doubt from years before that you have forgotten.
You see each moment that things don’t go as planned as a failure. It is really hard to switch from being a proud airman to just a mom. Others don’t get it; it is so much harder than it looks. You may have almost lost hope you will survive motherhood.
You will gain Confidence
But just like in other life events (but maybe not so quickly) you will gain confidence in who you are as a mom and slowly rise from the fear and failure you may be feeling. And a few years in, you will be grateful for the struggles. You will look back and see how much you have grown so much more than if everything was easy.
Motherhood is one of the greatest blessings and challenges you will face and each day the battlefield is constantly changing as your children grow up and as you try to keep up and be the best mom you can be.
Nine months of my life were spent in Afghanistan. Each day seemed so long, but looking back it really went by so fast and I changed so much. I have a time clock set (this time unwillingly) with my boys. Eighteen years and then they are off to their own lives. I hope I can look back and see that I spent my time wisely with them. Because I know it will go by way too fast.