11 YEARS LATER |
September 11, 2012
Name: Jen Neuhauser
Deploying to: Afghanistan
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Milblog: Expeditionary Lawyer
Eleven years ago I was lugging duffel bags across the parking lot of the
71st Corps Support Battalion in Bamberg, Germany. That morning my
battalion was set to depart for a training exercise in Poland called
"Victory Strike," part of an ongoing effort to partner with former
Warsaw Pact countries. The main thing I remember is after retrieving my
bags and dragging them through the lobby is seeing images on the
television in the Staff Duty NCO's office of a plane hitting the Twin
"What's going on?" I asked the SDNCO. "An accident?"
'They're not sure yet," he responded. And then the next one hit.
By midafternoon it was clear we weren't going to Poland, at least not that day. The conference room was transformed into a command center. They sent us home to get the rest of our battle rattle. By evening they had replaced the normal security guards at the installation entry with Soldiers in full kit, although I do remember their weapons not being loaded. We were still trying to figure out how to actually be at war again.
Other than the haunting images of people holding up photographs of their loved ones, begging for information, the other thing that sticks out in my mind about that day was the kindness of the German people. After going back to the apartment for a couple of hours of sleep, I saw that there was an accumulation of flowers and candles by the gate of the installation. I had Germans come up to me and say, "I am so sorry. Are you okay?"
When I heard about the rescue dogs getting depressed because they were unable to find any more live people under the rubble, I wept.
And now here I am, 11 years later, packing these same duffel bags in order to go to Afghanistan. The awful man who arranged those attacks is dead. If you ask the average American why we are still in Afghanistan, he or she might shrug their shoulders or mumble something about Al Qaeda. If they are a little more educated, they might say something about Colin Powell's Pottery Barn Doctrine: You Break It, You Buy It. But the average American is more concerned about whether the economy will recover and whether he will be able to provide for his family.
Why are we still there? If you want in-depth analysis or deep political insight I suggest you go and read any one of the several thousand blogs on the subject. I have the luxury of having a mission, direction, motivation, leadership. I am going there to help the people of Afghanistan achieve a stable, peaceful government and rule of law. I intend to put forth my best effort at accomplishing it.