Phases of Deployment

“What does it feel like to know you’re going to be deployed?”

Ah, an answer where I can just type – no 50 billion tabs open to make sure that I am not pulling from a biased or unverified source.

Which time? I have three deployments to my name, and the pre-deployment attitudes varied as well as how my mindset changed the closer I got to the deployment date.

To understand this phenomenon a bit better, I can use a template which applies to all of them:

  • The Rumor Phase
  • Confirmation
  • One Month Out
  • The Day

Deployment #1: Bagram, Afghanistan – 2004-2005

The Rumor Phase: “Are you serious? It’s about damn time.” My friends stationed elsewhere had already been to Afghanistan at least once and we gearing up to go to Iraq when we heard the first rumors about our deployment around the middle of 2003.

Confirmation: “Wait…what??” Our unit was being formed out of crews from the three companies within our Brigade for the sole purpose of VIP flights. Some folks were assigned because their commanders wanted to contribute to the success of the new company;others, they had a place to send their challenges and/or outcasts…

One Month Out: “Ok, our Command team rocks… That guy is a tool. Kinda liking the group, though.” One pilot, during the “Rumor Phase,”kept on going on and on so much about going to “Asscrackistan” that I pulled myself and the guy I was training off the flight to let them finish without backseaters. Despite the busy schedule, a bit of nervousness started to creep into my daily routine.

The Day: “This is not the day that I can be late.” My new wife and I made it from Temple Valley on the Kaneohe side of Oahu to Wheeler AAF in record time… a 45-minute drive took around 27 minutes, I think. Being formally recognized at her son’s baseball game took a lot longer than I thought it would… but it turned out that we were delayed an hour before getting on the bus. Then it was two hours… then seven. Luckily, they let us leave the area for a few hours. Once the final good-byes were said, everything became a blur until the C-5 (and four of our birds beneath us) took off from Honolulu/Hickam.

Deployment #2: FOB Speicher (Tikrit), Iraq – 2006-2007

The Rumor Phase: “The whole unit is going and we are losing the MAST mission.” The 68th Medical Detachment (Air Ambulance) had been providing Medevac support for Oahu for decades, and it was this arrangement that kept the whole unit from deploying on the previous year-long Afghanistan trip. The trade-off, however, was 6-month rotations of a portion of the company for almost 2 years.

Confirmation: “That guy BETTER not be going… Wait…what??” There is always at least one tool in every unit. Sometimes there are more than one… some went, others stayed behind to bungle the simple Rear Detachment taskings. The company grew in size as a necessity for covering pretty much all of northern Iraq – from Tikrit on up. As a result, the four teams were formed by careful selection, professional bullying, and strange back-door dealings.

One Month Out: “This is going to be a long-assed year.” One of our officers was… special. Some of our crew chiefs were, as well, but they could be ignored a lot easier than a Lieutenant.

The Day: “I hope I see you again in a year.” Yep. It sucked. Especially when we were extended to almost 16 months.

Last snuggle. WheelerAAF, HI – 27Aug06. (Source: author)

Deployment #3: FOB Diamondback (Mosul), Iraq – 2009-2010

The Rumor Phase: “I better not be going to Speicher again.” Speicher was the hub for all maintenance, parts, and supplies for our company. On top of pulling duty, we coordinated movement of pretty much everything the other three FOBs needed. Lots of long days, tons of stress, and since I had started smoking on the previous 15-month deployment, it was getting old.

Confirmation: “Yay. Not Speicher… but that guy?” One of the things I frequently said was that nothing ever truly changed in the Army. Sure, the address, scenery, unit identification code, and the names… but there was a certain familiarity to everything. “That guy” was rarely the same guy –just another tool with another set of issues or another officer with the same petty and condescending attitude.

One Month Out: “We are so not ready for this… again.” The previous deployment found us at personnel disadvantage as soon as we arrived in theater. This time was different only slightly…

The Day: “Can we please get this shit over with?” Each time, it seemed like more ceremony was being added to the fiasco that marked our departure. All I really wanted was to say the damn goodbyes,have a smoke, and get going for another 12 months.

Wheeler AAF, 2009(Source: author)

“What does it feel like to know you’re going to be deployed?”

Nervous… numb… annoyed… and a bit sad.

2 thoughts on “Phases of Deployment

  1. I was single and unattached for all but the final few months of my time. And because of our operational schedule, there wasn’t much of a rumor phase. But the first couple of times it was a weird feeling to wonder if this would be the last time I ever had a McDonald’s cheeseburger or went to a bookstore.

    For us, the real question was always when we’d get back. Sure there would be an announced schedule, but you could never really count on it and it always depended on everybody – including other ships and units – doing everything right.

    It was both odd and exciting.

    As a complete aside, for my money, there are never enough of the homecoming videos. I could watch those all day long.

    Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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