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'There I Was': First deployment surprise - joined Operation Unified Protector

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Aurich
  • 91st Air Refueling Squadron
There I was ... lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer for my first deployment, and it was originally set up for me to go to Southwest Asia for three months. When the time came for me to begin my out-processing I was pleasantly surprised to find out from my supervisor a few days before I was leaving instead of going to Southwest Asia, I would be going to Spain for Operation Unified Protector. We had a KC-135 from MacDill heading through Spain on its way to England and I was ready to go, so I made sure to change my mail to a P.O. Box and postpone my cable bill for the next few months.

Our flight to Spain took about seven and a half hours. When we landed I grabbed all of my bags and headed in to make arrangements for transportation to the base. I didn't have much direction on what to do or how to go about it, but I knew it was a couple hours away so I asked someone on the base if they could help me and they were eager to assist. By the time I was transported I was extremely tired, not to mention the hunger and jet lag. I got myself a room on base, food at the chow hall, and checked in with my leadership, they sent me back to my room for some R&R and told me to check back in the following day. There were so many things I had not been informed of and it seemed like the directions weren't very clear, but I used my best judgment and asked a lot of questions.

My first day of duty was very interesting. I was briefed on what exactly we were doing out in Spain and how our operations were to run. It was a little different than my usual day back home, but I was looking forward to the change. Work took my mind off of what day it was, or how long I was going to be out there. I was very soon getting used to the routine of going to work for eight to 12 hours a day, hitting the gym, and trying to eat every meal I could get my hands on. I was given a phone card by the first shirt and used it as often as I could to get ahold of family back in the states. They loved hearing about what I had been up to and what I had seen. This routine went on for a month straight and I was really beginning to enjoy it.
Toward the middle of my deployment I was informed we were being sent home and it was over. I didn't believe it at first, but I talked to my squadron commander and he assured me I was going home in just a few days. I quickly packed my bags and began to get everything ready to depart. I had an out-processing checklist just like I did when I was at home station. I cleaned my room and turned in my linens, got my bags on a pallet to be loaded onto the KC-135 the following morning and when I woke up we stepped to the jet. A few hours later we were on our way back home.

All together, I must say my first deployment was amazing. I loved my time away from the usual routine we find ourselves in every day. I learned a lot about my job, about myself, and about this awesome world we live in. I made quite a few friends also who I hope to cross paths with sometime down the road throughout my military career. A little advice for anyone about to go on their first deployment, just keep a positive attitude and do your best, ask for help if you don't know what to do, and hopefully you'll soon enough find yourself back home reminiscing about your good times and adventures abroad.