The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

STARTING POINT |

January 30, 2012

Name: Old Blue
Returned from: Afghanistan
Returning to:
Afghanistan
Milblog
: Afghan Blue and Afghan Quest

In the next few days I will begin my journey back to Afghanistan for the third time. This is my first time deploying as part of a brigade-sized unit. A brigade from my home state of Ohio, the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), is in the process of deploying to northern Afghanistan after training for several months at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. How I came to be with them, to volunteer again, is a longer story. The train-up period seemed to drag on forever, with a certain degree of fatigue having set in before the actual deployment begins.

My uniforms, weapon and equipment surround me here in my billet. Some of my gear is already in Afghanistan waiting for me. I and the rest of my gear will be loaded onto a charter aircraft soon for the long, miserable flight across the world. Once again I will stand on the soil of Kyrgyzstan, then I will once again trod the soil of Afghanistan. I don’t anticipate a lot of excitement on this tour, but along with the familiarity of working with Afghans and our NATO allies will come new experiences. I am filled with a feeling that is similar to the anticipation of jumping into a cold pool having already experienced that same shock only recently; except this is more intense. It’s not really dread, but it’s similar. I know that this is going to last a while, that I will be uncomfortable, that I will miss my family and friends. I know that I will develop close relationships, but they are not that close at this point. I know that I will live in conditions that are similar to those of inmates at an Arizona county jail, and that it will suck.

DSC 0121 a 685x1024 Prologue

Back through the doorway into Afghanistan (photo courtesy Rebecca Zimmerman)

Our mission in Afghanistan is a huge question in my mind. I came back from my second tour a little more than a year ago. At that point I was encouraged, but President Obama’s timetable for withdrawal had not had any significant effect. Now it seems to have had an effect, and the mood of the American people regarding our mission and purpose there feels as if it is and has been in decline. That does affect us. It affects me. But we have a job to do in a potentially dangerous place. The sense of wonder and excitement that I had on my first tour is not there. I know a lot more what to expect. This tour will be nine months long, and I’ve already spent three times that long in Afghanistan. This will be my first experience in the north, after having spent lots of time in the east and the south/southwest of the country. Once again, I will work as an advisor to the Afghans, this time with the Afghan Border police.

 So I embark on this deployment with mixed feelings. My sense of determination is still there, but it is deeper and less intense-feeling. I wonder sometimes if I am not steeling myself for an outcome that is less than what I had hoped for in 2007, perhaps much worse. As it was before I headed out on my second tour, I feel a sense of anxiety about the “suck factor” of being away from my kids, of being out of the loop with the reality of life in the States, of living in spartan conditions and working daily in a third world country. There is very little, if any, sense of anticipation or excitement.

This is my starting point.

 At the end of all this, I will be able to look back at what I have written here and see the ups and downs, the key events of my experience on my third tour. My intent is for this blog to be about the experience, not about my analysis of the bigger picture. That I will save for AfghanQuest. Here I will tell the stories of the long, strange trip that will be my third tour (and my last in this uniform).

During and between his previous deployments Old Blue has contributed over 40 posts to The Sandbox, including PICTURE AND MOVIE TIME, I WASN'T PREPARED, CHAI, THROUGH THE J-BAD PASS, HERO, and DECEPTIVELY SATISFYING.

Comments

Third time....WOW!!! THANK YOU so much for your service to our country!!! I can't imagine being away from my family and friends like what you have had to deal with. Being in a third world country and dealing with the conditions you have had. I cannot wrap my mind around what it would be like over there and what our troops go through. The price you all pay to keep us all here safe and sound. Thank you never seems enough!!!! Angela

This is my first time visiting this blog and I am completely blown away by many stories, including yours. I guess I just never realized all of the things that you guys go through. I know saying thank you is not enough, but THANK YOU. As always, I'll be praying.

We are so lucky to have people like you in the world! THANK YOU for serving our country!! Without you we wouldn't have the luxury of freedom! Being away from your family and friends is probably the toughest experience. I will be praying for you as you endure your third mission. I hope you find the strength to pull through and get through this journey. I am looking forward to reading your blogs about this quest. God bless!
Jeri

If I were you, I am quite sure I would feel very little excitement or motivation, either. I feel for you and all of your fellows. There is no reason whatsoever that ANY of our men and women should be wasting their time in Afghanistan. You guys are there because of oil; this is what I believe. This country gains NOTHING by imposing our form of government onto those people, nothing but the lost lives of servicemen who never should have been there to begin with. This is not a "war" about freedom or anything close to that; it is about a country so deep in debt that it would seek oil even at the cost of lying to its people about it. So sad. I will pray for you.

i enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

Third time? Wow. what an amazing soul you must have. For me to feel proud of a person I don't even know only expresses a tiny amount of what your friends and family must feel for you. Thank you for all you do. God bless!

My son is being deployed in a month to the Ganzhi region. I want to thank you for your blog. I am your typical true blooded American. I don't think we should be there any more. However, I have since changed my mind due to your blog and my son.....IT doesn't matter why we are there anymore. You chose to joint the Armed Forces. My son decided to joint the Army and become an Infantryman. That is amazing to me because there is always a chance to go to war. Its not just about using the GI bill and having a "steady Job" It's about serving and whatever personal gain he might have. I am so proud of him and grateful because he has opened my eyes and heart to the Military and what is is. I am grateful to you for your decision to join the Military. Hopefully this post makes sense. My heart and mind are split but your blog is a great place for me and thank you!

Conozco a alguien dentro de su mundo entero está esperando por mí, aunque me he creído ni de quién es él. Pero realmente me siento satisfecho casi todas las ma?anas exclusiva en esta materia. zhongchengmaoyi110post

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