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'There I was'

  • Published
  • By by Tech. Sgt. Shingo Maydwell
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Command Post senior controller
Everyone has mixed feelings about deploying. Well, maybe not everyone, but I did.

Initially, I was ecstatic about the new adventure I was going to partake in, but my excitement was quickly extinguished when I thought about the news I had to break to my wife and three kids. It was difficult knowing I would be away from my family for 180 days, but what made it harder was I would be missing out on my oldest daughter's first day of kindergarten, my son's first birthday, my wife's birthday, my oldest daughter's birthday, trick or treating with my kids, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Just the thought of my kids wondering if I was okay or if I would ever be coming home was not easy to deal with, especially since I have already spent so much time away from them. Luckily, I am married to an amazing woman of strength that can handle anything. With some open communication and aid from support agencies on base, my comfort level was where it needed to be; to focus on the road ahead.

A few weeks later, I found myself in a C-17 with a security forces team, an intel analyst, a command post controller from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and a contractor that had eaten something that did not agree with him, but was too scared to take his seat belt off to use the bathroom (needless to say he was not the most popular person on the aircraft). We all donned our individual body armor as we rapidly approached Baghdad International Airport. After we landed, finished in-processing, and receiving living quarters, I was off to the work center to meet my counterparts and begin turnover. Unlike the majority of Air Force members, command post controllers do not get the luxury of deploying as a unit. Typically, controllers deploy from multiple bases and meet at the deployed location. So as you can imagine, not only do we have the challenge of a new work environment and a new mission, we have to get to know our coworkers and develop into a team as fast as possible.

Once I settled in, I began networking with as many different people from as many agencies as possible. I knew in order for our mission to work I would need to have access to every possible resource. The Honor Guard team was one of the many agencies I was able to network with. I immediately became a member and was selected as a pallbearer. Within the first month we had two Patriot Details for fallen heroes from improvised explosive device attacks. This experience totally changed the tone of my deployment and outlook on the value of life. Feeling the body weight of the remains of fallen heroes became all too familiar as Patriot Details became more frequent. With every step I took from the transfer vehicle to the aircraft I would have thoughts of this person's wife or husband, family members and friends sitting at home with their face buried in their hands crying uncontrollably over the loss of a loved one. As we slowly lowered the remains, looking down at the flag covered casket and giving a final ceremonious salute, we rested well knowing that a hero sacrificed his or her life for the greater good of the world.

Common faces became scarce as people started redeploying. The days seemed to be long and drawn out the last week I was there. My flight was booked and the next thing I knew I was sitting in a window seat with great anticipation once again, but this time we were approaching Tampa International Airport. Finally, I arrive at the baggage claim and see my wife and kids searching with the same look of anticipation as I had. My wife spots me and instantly has tears in her eyes. She squats down and points me out to my kids. They have confused looks on their faces as they look at me, then look at her, then look at me again (I honestly believe they thought I turned into this person they could only see on the computer). By far the greatest feeling was when my family was in my arms and we were reunited again.