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Kandahar deployment a great learning experience

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary McCarthy
  • 6th Force Support Squadron
At the beginning of my deployment, I did not know what to expect. I knew there would be challenges deploying with the Army and Navy, and we would have to work together in order to succeed. There were many aspects of uncertainty, but the intense training I would have to endure was certain.

I did not know how to prepare myself mentally for a 365-day deployment in a combat zone. I would be outside of my comfort zone, which was a mental load for me. Another uncertainty would be how to get into the warrior mindset and carry around two weapons at all times.

As a member of a provincial reconstruction team, we had to learn to be versatile and a jack of all trades. Our original PRT mission location changed due to the Taliban overrunning the forward operating base before we arrived. In the middle of training, we were notified that we would be relocated to the Kandahar Province (Southern Afghanistan). When we arrived I was told that food services personnel were not needed, and I would be re-assigned to other jobs throughout the PRT. Our PRT mainly needed help in personnel, maintenance, supply, vehicle operations and in the tactical operations center. The team was rapidly trained to prepare for the new positions.

Two other Airmen and I were stationed at Kandahar Airfield working as logistical liaison officers. Our primary mission was to ensure that critical supplies made it to the FOB. Our PRT relied on us to ensure they were stocked with office supplies to weapons and vehicle parts. Imagine the UPS commercials, but with body armor, 100-degree heat and the occasional rocket attack.

Around the fourth month, I was relocated back to the FOB with the main body of our PRT. Since I was already familiar with the Army supply system, I was designated as the supply sergeant. With this position, I was given the responsibility to order proper amounts and types of supplies needed to conduct our missions, while staying within a tight budget. At first, the responsibility was a little overwhelming because I did not want to let my team down. If I messed up, we may not have enough ammo or food. To ease my anxiety, my leadership ensured I had the proper tools to get the job done successfully. My leadership recognized my hard work and effort, which made my job a lot easier.

I learned a lot throughout my deployment and it was a great experience. Much to my surprise, being deployed with other branches of service was not as bad as I thought it would be, and it built character. I believe all Airmen should experience deploying in a joint environment. Being deployed in a hazardous environment during freezing or rainy weather is an eye-opener. You quickly appreciate how well we have it in our outstanding Air Force.