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There I was: Deployment to Krygyzstan for Christmas

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mandy O'Malley
  • 6th Contracting Squadron
I was told that I had been tasked to deploy to the Transit Center at Manas, Krygyzstan, on July 10. My report no later than date was Dec. 25, Christmas Day.

There were mixed emotions that came with this news. My initial reaction to this news was excitement, followed by the realization I would be gone for the holidays and my birthday. I quickly pushed that aside and told myself I had six months until I even needed to worry about that, and next thing I knew, I was on a plane headed to Manas.

It was startling how quickly those six months went. I was thankful that I had a great unit deployment manager and leadership to help make sure I had everything in order before I left. This wasn't my first deployment, but it is easy to forget little things, and help is always welcome.

I left Tampa on a beautiful 82 degree day, excited about what my deployment had in store for me. As my plane touched down at the Transit Center at Manas the pilot announced, "We have landed at the Transit Center at Manas. The current temperature is negative 23 degrees." I couldn't even wrap my mind around how cold that was. It was over 100 degrees colder than when I left Tampa. I was prepared for it to not be 82 degrees there, but I didn't know how I would handle negative 23 degrees.

As I got off the plane the cold air hit me like a punch to the face and my eyes instantly started watering. For a moment I really wondered if I could do 180 days away from the Florida sunshine.

As we waited for our bags to be taken off the completely full plane, I started chatting with the troops around me and began to realize how good I had it. Sure it was cold at Manas, but I was one of four people lucky enough to have Manas as my final destination. My flight was filled with Army and Marines all going to dangerous and remote areas of Afghanistan. They would all be putting their lives on the line for our country, and I suddenly felt silly for worrying about being cold. I also realized how important the mission is at Manas, as everyone going in and out of Afghanistan comes through Manas. I vowed then and there to make the most of my time at Manas, and I realized how fortunate I was to be deployed there.

It was very humbling and often took my breath away when I would see the thousands upon thousands of men and women coming through Manas everyday on their way to Afghanistan. Seeing all of those men and women made me realize how important my job was. Being a part of the team that got thousands of troops in and out of Afghanistan safely and successfully was very awe-inspiring. For me, seeing all of the branches of the United States military working together toward the same cause was very moving. It didn't matter what branch of the military you were in when stopping at Manas on your way to Afghanistan, everyone was going there for the same reason-- with the same hopes and the same fears, all fighting for the freedom we hold so dear.

There were many long days on my deployment, bad food, cold weather, not much sleep, and work was beyond busy and stressful, and I would do it all again in a minute...