I’m sure some of you have wondered why I volunteered to come to Iraq (I know my mom has). The two main reasons are the mission and the people.
I have been in the military for 17 years. I have never had more job satisfaction than during the times I was deployed (South Korea was close because the circumstances were very similar to a deployment). Most of the time when we are at our home stations we are training to do the deployed mission or working on organizing and equipping our units so they will be ready to do this mission. So here you get to do the things you have been training months or even years to do. I haven’t met anyone yet who prefers practice to the real thing. The simple truth too is that I am in the military and this is where the action is. I would feel I hadn’t done my part if I didn’t spend time in Iraq or Afghanistan sometime during the 7+ years our military has been operating in at least one of these two countries. When I am done with my career, I want to be able to say, “Yep, I was there.” I hope that makes sense and doesn’t sound bloodthirsty or like I’m looking for a thrill. I’m in the service and this is the place to be.
When you deploy, you leave behind family, friends, coworkers, and all that is familiar. You are thrust into a foreign environment and have to start anew. You quickly get to know your new coworkers and develop relationships. If you don’t, your deployment will be significantly more difficult. Someone told me recently that he uses the more personal forms of communication (face-to-face meetings and telephone) over here more often than he does back in the States. Due to our military’s rotation policy (most Airmen are here for 4 or 6 months), you have to develop work relationships quickly because the players change frequently. Over here rarely do you have years of knowing someone so that you can communicate effectively via e-mail. You need the people who you are deployed with to be part of your social network too. You can’t be with your family and friends, so those around you here become your support structure. We are brought together by our shared experience of being here and working together for the same purpose. Finally, you meet amazing people during deployments. Yes, they are serving their country and putting themselves in harm’s way. But I’m talking about how they go above and beyond while they are here. One person volunteered over 1,000 hours at the hospital. Other people have started or are running a charity to help out local children (check out www.kidsofiraq.org). People are amazing even doing the mundane. We have kids (18-to-20-year-olds are kids to me now) checking IDs at a checkpoint outside during a sandstorm who smile and are more courteous than people working in a store in the US. Now I’m not saying people don’t do wonderful things or aren’t great people back in the States. But over here it is more apparent because we are so close together and it is more impressive considering the circumstances.
Do I like making my mom worry, leaving my dog behind, or giving up the comforts of home? No. But I have no doubt I’m where I’m supposed to be.