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There I was ... First time deployed to Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Steven O'Quendo
  • 6th Force Support Squadron
There I was ... first time to Afghanistan, first time deployed with the Army, and first time deployed without any fellow Services (3M0X1s) members from my home base. On Oct. 28, 2010, I landed at Bagram, Afghanistan, getting mentally ready to take on this new challenge ahead of me. When I first stepped off the C-17, I took a deep breath of air and took a look at the surrounding mountains. The look reminded me so much of Iraq, my previous deployment.

While waiting at the passenger terminal to be picked up by the members I was going to work with, I thought to myself, "I am here, and I've finally arrived in Afghanistan." A flight to anywhere in the area of responsibility is not an easy one. The whole time in flight, I was wondering what I will be doing when I get there. After I was picked up, we headed to camp. While in processing, I was told this was not my final stop, my eyes opened wide as I had already started to relax thinking I was at my final destination. I was also told my new position was a "one-man" deep slot and I would lead the Joint Visitors Bureau lead down south. It made me really nervous as a young Airman imagining the huge responsibility ahead of me. I've never had the opportunity to be the one in charge. I was to head down to Kandahar Air field, Afghanistan in the next couple of days to work with Special Operations Task Force-South.

My job entailed having to build itineraries, setting up the commander's calendar, and plan travel arrangements by land or air for distinguished visitors passing through our area. Additionally, I had to find out the DVs food/drink preferences, allergies, and likes/dislikes.

Arriving on a C-130 in KAF, I was greeted by the tech. sergeant I was to replace. I was as excited to meet her as she was excited to meet me. I threw my bags in back of the SUV she drove. When I went to open the door, it was heavy. Upon inspecting the door I noticed it was armored and had bullet proof glass in it. What was I about to get myself into?

Getting to camp, I learned it was like its own little base for Special Forces. There was a place to get your hair cut, a monthly bazaar, a laundry drop off, and its very own Dining Facility. What I really enjoyed was we were authorized to wear civilian clothing off duty. Not too many places let you do that in the AOR.

The following day I went to work. My first visit was for the command general for Special Forces. The tech. sergeant, the commander's interpreter, and I were to pick up the CG and his party from the flight line and take him to a change of command ceremony. It was an easy task, as all the roads had been blocked off already because of another general that was heading to the same ceremony.

A few days later I found out why we had armored vehicles. On my second DV visit, the DV wanted to visit his comrades off the base. The nearest camp was about 10 minutes away from base. It was pretty scary and exciting to drive off base. It was an interesting view. Just outside the base there was an Afghan school and I could see kids off in the distance swinging and playing. Just before reaching the camp there was a shopping strip filled with vendors. Looking outside the SUV window, I could see a lot of interesting items for sale.

Fortunately, I got a month of turnover. The person I replaced did not want leave and the Army kept her as long as they possibly could. Once she left, it was just the interpreter and I to take on the job as the Joint Visitors Bureau.

One of the fun things I got to do while in Kandahar was go over to the Boardwalk. It's a very interesting place. When I first heard of it, the first thought that came to mind was something that was on a pier. However, when I went to the Boardwalk I was really surprised at what I saw. In the middle of the place there was a hockey rink and a basketball court. Outside of that area was a track surrounded by a bunch of stores and restaurants. A couple of the well-known restaurants were the Green Bean and to my amazement TGIF.

I had little time to volunteer in Kandahar but when I did, I had a lot of fun. I helped deliver 3,000 DC cupcakes to troops around Kandahar. I had never seen so many cupcakes in my life.

Another volunteer opportunity I was able to do was drive around the security team for the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen along with a USO tour in Kandahar. I got the chance to meet Robin Williams during that tour, which was really awesome.

The Joint Visitors Bureau was a very interesting job. I worked alongside many coalition forces. The U.A.E. forces were fun to work with. Every week they would invite us to their compound to eat and each time they try to give us gifts and lots of candy. They made the best lamb and I always liked to receive candy from them.

As a key member of the Joint Visitors Bureau team, I worked with high-ranking individuals. I don't believe I worked with anyone below E-7 or O-4. The experience helped build my confidence in working and communicating with military members that have been in much longer than I have.

With each of my deployments, I always take home lots of experience. This deployment, however, I learned how to step up and take charge. I would have to say this deployment and job opportunity was my most memorable and rewarding as the overall experience increased my career knowledge as well as prepared me to be a future NCO.