ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
The first step in sand, the first time trying to communicate with an Egyptian man that doesn’t speak English— there are many new experiences for first term Airmen, but there are even more during a first deployment.
It did not start off like most deployments. I had 11 days to finish every computer based training and attend all pre-deployment briefings while trying to plan for being gone for six months. I volunteered for a last minute tasking and I haven’t looked back since.
As a force protection member deployed for Other Country National, or OCN, duty, the daily routine was get to work, grab a radio and some vehicle keys, then go out with whichever detail we were assigned to. Most details consisted of escorting the local workers around base as they performed various tasks, such as refilling water pallet storage areas, or building up fences around our perimeter. Their work was vital to the smooth operation of the base, as it ensured that service members were able to focus on the mission.
My job was to escort OCN’s to ensure compliance with all rules and regulations to ensure the security of the base. Although the duty was vastly different from what I would have experienced on a normal public affairs deployment, it still gave me useful knowledge of the deployment process.
Although the day-to-day work melted together, the memories in between, with the friends I made, certainly stood out.
You don’t realize how quickly you can become best friends with strangers until you spend 12 or more hours together for six months at a time. Experiencing a new culture with new friends helps cement their place in your life. Exploring the Middle East is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will not soon forget. The sights, the sounds and smells are so different from what you are used to, it is like traveling to a new world. And for a-20-year old kid that had not left the country before it certainly was.
Aside from the constant sweating and time zone difference making communicating back home difficult, I would go back in a heartbeat.
There is a sense of rhythm you get being deployed. Wake up. Eat. Work. Go to the Gym. Eat. Rinse Repeat.
The simplicity helps the time go quickly as the days swirl together, but it also gives you time to make self-improvements. There is time to take classes, learn languages, increase your fitness, or maybe even catch up on your favorite television shows. The opportunities are ripe for the taking, you just have to go out and take them.
I lost 10 pounds, earned 23 semester hours of college credit, made life-long friends and it was because I stood up and volunteered. So if an opportunity comes, take it. You can only regret the things you did not do.