Last month (Jan. 28 to be exact) marked the 10-year anniversary of the most pivotal day of my life. That was the day, or rather night, that I stepped foot onto forward operating base Salerno in the Khost province of eastern Afghanistan.
Being deployed isn’t unique for a service member. I would venture to guess that the majority have been deployed, but for me, it was life changing.
I will admit, deploying was not something I wanted to do and I fought it. I was only a couple of months from my expiration term of service, or ETS, date and only a semester and a half from graduating from college. But, as was the case with many Soldiers in the earlier years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was involuntarily extended under a stop-loss order. My days as a “weekend warrior” in the National Guard had come to an end and I became full-fledged active-duty Soldier.
Before even heading to Afghanistan my unit spent nine months at Fort Hood, Texas — six months to certify the unit on a new airframe and three for mobilization training. When I finally made it to Afghanistan, I had come to terms with my new active-duty life and was ready to do my job.
The impact the deployment had on my life was three-fold:
1. It was my first taste of life as a reporter, writer, designer and public affairs member.
2. It set the path for me to seek a career with the federal service.
3. I met the man with whom I’m in a loving relationship.
Before deployment I was assigned as the battalion commander’s driver. It was during our drives that he got to learn about me and that I was a college student studying journalism. He decided that I was just the right person to work with the public affairs officer to create a newsletter for unit Family members while we were deployed.
I had no idea what I was doing. I had never created any type of newsletter from scratch or even written any articles outside of my college courses. But somehow I managed to create a product that had the wonderful purpose of keeping those in the rear informed about our deployment as well as giving me a “break” from the stressful days of working in an aviation tactical operations center.
My work on this newsletter gave me just enough writing experience to land a position as a freelance writer for the nightlife section of Arizona’s largest newspaper and set the stage for a career in print journalism.
My deployment gave me a huge sense of purpose and satisfaction. I was proud to be attached to and serve alongside 82nd Airborne Division Soldiers and wear the illustrious double A patch on my right shoulder. It made me see the Army in a way the National Guard didn’t. It was because of my deployment that I, the person who went on active-duty practically kicking and screaming, considered reenlisting.
I spoke with a recruiter and gave serious thought to going to officer candidate school and becoming a PAO.
I decided reenlisting wasn’t the right thing for me, but I still wanted to be a part of the Army world and decided civil service was just the right step. In 2008, I got a job offer and moved to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
That brings me to Fort Bragg and how I ended up here. During my deployment I met a person who made me laugh even when everything seemed to be caving in on us. Secretly, he got me through that deployment.
Six years later we reconnected and without giving it a second thought, I upped and move myself to North Carolina, got a job writing for the Paraglide and get to live my life being around the Army.
We all have pivotal moments in our lives — those crossroads that shape who we become and what we do. I am happy and proud that one of the scariest and most dangerous things I’ve experienced has ultimately brought me so much joy.