This is a two-part series on why I left the military. And even though my deployment was 3 years before I actually left. I couldn’t leave out how preparing for war affected me in making the decision to leave when I wrote the story.
When I was tagged with a short notice deployment (meaning less than 30 days before leaving for training) to Afghanistan one of the first things someone suggested was trying to get out of it. They were like you can try to get pregnant so you won’t have to go or maybe there is an injury that could disqualify you. And I was a little shocked that someone, a fellow service member, was trying to get me to dodge a deployment. I had signed up to serve in the military and that meant deploying would likely be part of it. I did sign up to be part of the United States Air Force and not the Army so my deployment was not what I expected, but it didn’t matter. It was what I was asked to do and so I went.
My deployment certainly was not what I was hoping for. I was optimistic I would get tasked to an Air Force deployment that had me managing a base somewhere. Leaving the base was not something I cared to do. I had done a few Army trainings while in the Reserve Officer Training Corp Program. Okay, so I only did one. But I did not enjoy the Army training part of it, I did enjoy the part where I met my husband. I was horrible at Land Navigation (partly because there was no training). In the paintball firefights, I didn’t know what the tactics were and just tried to survive each round or get out of the way once I “died”. The Army just wasn’t for me, but that didn’t matter. My name got matched up with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) of Kapisa and off I went.
Provincial Reconstruction Team
When I found out I was going to be part of a PRT, I tried to use the internet to find out what that meant. The first article I found was about a Civil Engineer who got shot while inspecting a power plant. This did nothing to inspire confidence in my new adventure. I don’t know if I ever had excitement, if I did it was quickly replaced with fear.
Fear of the unknown, of what was coming, of never coming back.
Before leaving all I could think about was not coming home. I would leave behind my parents, husband, sister, and friends. My life goals and dreams seemed to be interrupted as I headed out to do something I wasn’t expecting and pretty sure I couldn’t actually do. Thinking of coming home before leaving seemed silly since I was so worried that I wouldn’t possibly make it back. During my training, I would sit in a room full of people knowing the likelihood that all of us would be alive in a year was slim. I just did not know how I would be able to do it.
Preparing for War
Training did not instill confidence in me. I was reminded quickly how unqualified I was to be in the Army. Some parts I excelled at and others felt like I failed miserably. I learned a lot about the culture, the people, the country, and what was to come. The more training we had the more I learned. It was a slow gradual training and a lot of repetition. I didn’t realize how important it was until I arrived in Afghanistan.
To complete in-processing we had to do an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) training. That was easy because our team knew exactly what to look for and were ready. We also had to do combat vehicle roll over training. We had done this training in Indiana and I had freaked out initially. But through the help of one of my team members, I learned I could get out of the upside-down vehicle. When we did it the second time, it was easy. I knew what to do and had the confidence I needed to not only get out safely but help others. Training for a war zone really can only do so much, but the training had prepared me for what was coming.