There I Was...

Tech. Sgt. Sherrod Williams during his deployment to Afghanistan. He experienced ups and downs, but hopes to one day return and finish the work he started there. (Courtesy Photo)

Tech. Sgt. Sherrod Williams during his deployment to Afghanistan. He experienced ups and downs, but hopes to one day return and finish the work he started there. (Courtesy Photo)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- There I was deployed to Jalalabad, Afghanistan for 329 days.

This was not my first deployment but it was my first deployment to Afghanistan. I deployed to Afghanistan as an Air Advisor to the Afghan Air Force. My job was to advise the Afghan Air Force on basic aviation maintenance, supply and contracting. From day one after arriving in Afghanistan I knew it was a different type of deployment.

We were a 5 man detachment team from Kabul, my commander, 3 other Master Sergeants and me. Unlike most of the other bases in Afghanistan that shared their base with U.S forces, we did not have any fences or our own compound that separated us from the Afghans. With all of the "green on blue" incidents that had happened around Afghanistan, that made me feel very vulnerable and uneasy at times.

As time went on during my deployment, that feeling went away because I really got to know a lot of the airmen of the Afghan Air Force, especially the mechanics I worked with on a daily basis. From doing daily maintenance shoulder to shoulder, eating lunch, dinner, and regular conversations about our lives, we formed very good friendships that put my mind at ease knowing that they meant no harm towards me or anyone I worked with.

Another reason this deployment was very different from my previous deployments is that it was the first time I deployed with weapons in hand. It was also the first time I had to keep one or both weapons on me at all times. Working with the Army there was also a first in my Air force career. Interacting with the Army on a day-to-day basis - planning real life or death helicopter missions - opened my eyes to what the Army really does day in and day out. This experience has given me a new respect for all of my sister forces.

One thing I can say about my deployment that was not a bright spot was filling sandbags in order to eat at the dining facility. At the end of the day, I understood that we needed the sandbags to put on top and around the bunkers to protect us during IDF attacks but it was not the highlight of my day to do that in 140+ degree weather! But all in all I will never forget my first deployment to Afghanistan, from the local people I formed good working relationships with, to the many, many good airman in the Afghan Air Force I can now call my friends, I can truly say I enjoyed it and miss it.

As our detachment closed about a month and a half early due to the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan I felt that there was a lot more I could have done and I also felt I needed more than one year to do it, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. If I had the opportunity to go back and do what I was doing or something similar to that, I would do it in a heartbeat because it was something I really enjoyed, who knows maybe sometime in the near future I'll get another chance finish what I started and more, inshallah (god willing) .