RETURN TO AFGHANISTAN
Name: 1SGT (retired) Troy Steward
Posting date: 9/1/10
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: Keeping An Eye on Afghanistan
As you read this blog entry I will already be on my way back to Afghanistan. It has been a little over three years since I left the country and now I return. Granted it is only for a short stint compared to my last time in country, that lasted a year, but I am still going back.
This time I am also going as a civilian rather than a soldier. The journey I have taken to get this far has been a long and frustrating one. Going over as a civilian is much tougher. When you go as a soldier, the military has people waiting to check off every box. You go through a process called “Soldiers Readiness Checks” which is usually a big room full of tables with people behind them that handle every step; legal, dental, medical, etc. You also go to “classes” to ensure that you have all the latest information.
As a contractor working for the Department of the Army, I pretty much had to do all those things that are handled in the readiness checks and the mobilization training myself. I have been working towards this trip trying to complete everything since April. Granted, not full time, but as I got closer and closer, more hours every week were committed to getting ready to go.
I will miss my family very much and they have made it clear they will miss me. In fact, as I was packing and getting gear ready last night my youngest son looked at me and said, “Daddy I don’t want you to go” and I told him I would be back soon and explained that the amount of time that I would be gone would be very, very short compared to last time. He seemed okay with that, or maybe he just realized his desire was not to be.
Speaking of gear, the task of packing brought back some flashbacks and memories. As I went through old military gear that would be needed on this trip back to the ‘Stan; the smells, the handling of it, even the sight of some of it that has been packed away in several footlockers all made me remember things. Not necessarily bad things; some were funny or neutral memories. Heck, as I handled it some gear even released the Afghan dust and dirt that was still embedded in it.
So as I packed the duffel bag, sorted through what I would need and what would not be carried on this mission (different than any other I have ever done), I reminisced. Most of the time I was by myself in the basement with the music playing.
But now the duffel is in the belly of this Delta Airlines jet instead of strapped to a pallet on the back ramp of a C-130. My personal bag is no longer camouflaged and issued by the Army, but is instead made of soft black leather. The meal on the flight was not an MRE, but instead a meal from the airline, which kind of made me wish I had an MRE...
So now the trip has started. A trip that I think really started 11 months ago when I left my career in Information Technology for this new one where I support the warfighter. The warfighter that I can no longer support directly since I have retired from the Army, but one I can support now in what I do. I may no longer be a First Sergeant for soldiers anymore, but I can make sure that I am doing all I can to help save their lives and take lives of the enemy.
Some have asked me “why” I am going back. They have said things like “Your war is over” or “What do you need to prove” or “Why can’t you just stay in the US?" The short answer to all of that is, "Because it is my job." If not me then whom? Just because I may no longer be a leader of troops doesn’t mean that I have to walk away from them. The military is my DNA, plain and simple. Those who know me, know that. Some may not like it, but hey -- it is what it is.
The most important thing to me is what my wife and boys think, not anyone else. Does my youngest son want me to stay at home? Sure he does, but I also know he is proud of what I do and admires my service. He may not totally grasp what I do right now or why I do it, but he will.
I know this to be a fact because I have seen it happen twice already. My oldest son, who at one time sat in the unit parking area on the hood of the car wearing my helmet minutes before I boarded a bus to go somewhere, did what was in his heart and followed me in the Army. He served honorably as medic for six years, including a year in combat saving lives and even trying to take a few while he was at it. My military service shaped his youth and now his own experiences have made an impact on the rest of his life.
My middle son, who was born in a military hospital and “grew up” as a true military brat, has witnessed everything from a bad parachute jump to me rendering honors to my fallen soldiers. He has also made his own decision to join the military and is hoping to be accepted into West Point or at least get into a ROTC program at a university. Both of them did this without motivation by me or my wife, just like I made my own decision to join and came home to tell my parents when I was in high school.
My lovely wife who will be postponing the celebration of our 19th wedding anniversary until I get back has stood by my side since day one. When we got married I was in uniform so there was no doubt what she was getting into. She has been the rock for me on many occasions and she is the central pillar that holds the house up all the time, especially when I am gone...
The closer I get to Afghanistan, the more the memories come back. Walking through the moon dust of Kuwait, the smell of Diesel generators, the smell of the handwashing area before you go into the chow hall, the Chuck Norris jokes on the bathroom walls, oh and the heat.
I thought it would take a couple of days to get used to the weather here, but it seems it only took 24 hours. Last night when I was walking around I thought the heat was intense. I was sweating like a pig. I went to bed about the time that the sun came up and slept until noon. I needed to get some decent chow plus I had to pick up my SAPI plates for my body armor and check on flights. When I awoke I looked at the thermostat for the AC to my the tent, which happens to be near my bunk, and thought someone had turned it up since it was showing 83 degrees. I went to turn it down and saw it was set to 71 degrees. So I figured it was failing and I would need to move, but then I went outside and quickly realized why it said 83 degrees.
It was about 115-120 outside and very humid. The heat was so intense it almost took your breath, mostly because of the humidity. Luckily I also have a decent tan built up from my recent vacation, otherwise I think I would have burned up in the 30-40 minutes I spent walking around outside today. I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible and pretty much had a bottle of water in my hand whenever I could. There is no shortage of bottled water here, the trick is finding the cold ones in the coolers.
So as the sun fell tonight (since I am still here after getting bumped off my first flight) I went outside and felt very comfortable. I was pretty surprised at how good it felt outside. The temp is pretty much the same, but after walking around today when it felt like God himself was chasing me with a hair dryer set on high, this evening feels good. I might even go have a coffee at the Grean Bean after this.
Well my time on the internet is winding down, with just a few minutes left. I hope this is my last blog post from Kuwait and that my next one will be from Afghanistan. I am all ready for there, I even picked up a new reflective belt last night at the PX, so I am totally equipped for the land of the Fobbits...