Have you ever felt your life had been put on hold?
“Thank you for calling, your approximate wait time is 30 minutes”
Elevator music chimes and 30 minutes later “We are experiencing longer than normal wait times, please continue to hold”.
I couldn’t tell you how many times my commander would inform the fuelers and I about the possibility of deployment. “We’ll have an answer in a few months”, or “You’re on it for now, but it could change”, or “It’s been nixed, you’re not deploying, but it is a possibility”. Planning life around the possibility of a year long deployment is difficult. I continued to work full-time, whilst pursuing my education.
This year my unit would get another exciting AT mission in Bear Lake, UT. Again, another two hour drive to a rural area to set up for training. I struggle to wrap my head around why we were instructed to set up a FARP in the middle of a cow field (yes, with cow manure everywhere), but we drive on.
It was during this time that I had become proficient in my job, assuming many responsibilities of FARP operations. I enjoyed the opportunity to lead other Soldiers and learn how to prep for future roles. Additionally, I learned how to handle complains and motivate my Soldiers to work through literally crappy situations (The aircraft would kick up all the cow manure).
AT came and went, as it normally does. Upon completion I was told, yet again, that I was “for sure” on the deployment list, which I’ve heard for the umpteenth time.
It ended up being true.
Next drill my commander pulled me aside and informed me and the other fuelers that we would be deploying to Kosovo in two months, which gave me little time to prepare. I had little room to complain, as the other three fuelers accompanying me heard the news on their first drill after AIT. The Army can life drop bombs at anytime. My reaction was split. I was absolutely excited to finally deploy, but torn because I would leave my life, and child behind.
Informing all the important people in my life, I noticed their immediate support and pride. It was a powerful experience to notice them coming together to support their Soldier, families truly deserve more recognition for their sacrifice. They would prove to be vital in my self care when down range.
At the conclusion of August Drill, the Governor put fuelers and the flight crew on State Orders, to fight a fire in Idaho. I had been called to serve state missions before and have always been honored to hear the call. Using military resources to save homes, farms, or other establishments is a powerful experience. Though Malad, Idaho, didn’t offer much in terms of entertainment, knowing that our efforts would safe thousands of acres of farmland gave me a sense of pride.
We were given our active duty orders, which read that we would begin training on October 1st, which would fall in the middle of Fall Semester. My professors were supportive of my mission and allowed me to complete all coursework prior to this date. I couldn’t tell you the amount of school hours I put in to complete my coursework, but am grateful for the support I received.
October 1st rolled around and with it came a unique set of thoughts. I told myself that my life would radically change for the next year, and compartmentalizing that reality was a unique experience. Fuelers had been attached to HHC, which I found to be a great company of Soldiers throughout my tenure.
For the next few months I engaged in pre-deployment training. This training is designed to bring Soldiers up to combat readiness speed. As such, the training was familiar to common Army Warrior Tasks, such as infantry movements, convoy operations, rollover training, shooting, etc. The intensity was at a heightened rate due to the nature of the training and the overall stress levels of the company. HHC would perform various deployment tasks in the state, prior to flying out to Ft. Hood for additional training. The hours were long as we weren’t given days off in order to check off all the boxes required for deployment.
November 20th rolled around, which was my last day in Utah prior to flying out to Ft. Hood for additional training. I had a flight at 0600, and had a hit time of 0330 at the airport. I recall lying in bed that night with the all too familiar thoughts in my head. “What would this deployment be like?”, “Will my son remember me?”. I learned to trust my closest people throughout the experience.
At 0600 the next day I said goodbye, again, to the people I love the most. I remember walking down the ramp towards the plane with a sense of bravery. This was a moment I have been counting down towards since I enlisted three prior. I knew I had always wanted to serve this country, and today was the day I got to realize that service. I looked to my left and right at my Battles and felt a sense of pride for their sacrifice.
I have always thanked Veterans for their sacrifice. But today I experienced a part of what that sacrifice actually means. Today I have a whole new appreciation for our Armed Forcers and their Families.
Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced. Our minds make best effort in conceptualizing a future event, but often misses the mark.
What an experience this next year would be. An experience that radically shifted my perspective of myself, others, and the world.
At Ft. Hood, Soldiers navigated more training assigned by “Big Army”, the organization responsible for training adherence. In addition to the various warrior tasks we were to become proficient in, we also became more competent in defending a FOB and utilizing our jobs in a deployed environment.
Reserve and Guard Soldiers are required to complete a series of pre deployment tasks to certify them for deployment. We spent the month at Ft. Hood checking off boxes to prep us for our tour. One of which, was to complete medical in-processing at the same facility where many Soldiers were gunned down by Maj. Hasan. It was a harrowing experience to walk amongst the complex and visualize the tower in which he opened fire on Soldiers who had just completed their deployment.
“Pre-Mob” is what many Guardsman call their time training for mobilization. The odd thing about pre-mobbing, is how anxious it makes Soldiers to begin their deployment. The deployment clock doesn’t start until boots hit the ground in country, so many of us were eager to leave and begin our mission.
We trained various Army tasks until holiday block leave, where Soldiers were given the opportunity to fly home one last time and spend the holidays with their loved ones. This made saying goodbye that much more difficult, as wounds that had just healed were reopened when I saw my partner and son.
With a return date of December 30th, I flew back out to Ft. Hood to finish up the last week of Pre-Mobbing en route to Kosovo.
Click here for year four and the Kosovo Deployment.