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"There I was ..." Afghanistan deployment an experience in job satisfaction

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Tikisha Tripp
  • 6th Force Support Squadron
There I was landing in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Nov. 20, 2010, bracing myself for the arrival onto the airfield. I was a little nervous but excited to start a new experience. Kandahar was surprisingly quiet in the late hours of the night. As I walked off the airplane, I started to get excited and my heart began to beat a little harder. The view from the flight line made me eager to see what Afghanistan was like other than pictures shown on the news. After 16 years in the Air Force, I had deployed around the world, this time to learn a new job at a very different location.

The initial tour around the base was nothing like I had expected. There were a few places that reminded me of the United States, to include a coffee shop and some popular restaurants. There was still the dry, dusty wind and terrain to let you know it's not quiet home. Although I was still a little jet lagged from getting straight off the airplane, there was not much time left with my replacement so I began to receive training.

It seemed like so much information was given to me in only a few hours of time. I was also overwhelmed about what was expected of me with no official training prior to my arrival to KAF, but I am determined to do a good job. The next day, reality hit me: I was issued a weapon with ammunition and was told to keep it with me everywhere I go. I realized at that moment how really dangerous it is at this location, especially when I heard the occasional loud noise and then sirens.

Over the next few days, I continued to learn the base, base rules and processes to becoming more efficient at my job, and preparing for my first distinguished visitor: from the Secretary of the Air Force the following week. However, with Thanksgiving approaching it was hard not to think about my family, family traditions, and friends at home celebrating without my being there. Instead, I stayed focused and reminded that here at KAF I have somewhat of a family away from home. It got me through the Holidays but it's just a little different and I appreciated family at home even more.

After the next few weeks, which seemed like they lasted an eternity, my new job as the Protocol non-commissioned officer in charge was more than I expected. It required thorough planning and coordinating of details that I didn't expect. For example, considering the path the DVs would take entering and exiting different locations; cleaning and preparing their rooms; favorite snacks. It was as though I would have to predict the future of every detail at every location traveled.

Despite the long hours, I realized there great people in the Air Force to include leadership at the Air Force level, U.S. Air Forces Central, and even here at the 451st Wing, so it made the job satisfying. Along with job satisfaction, I received fulfillment from volunteering for the local Afghanistan children. I assisted with loading and delivering jackets to the Afghanistan hangar for 256 children during the Afghan Air Wing's open house.

My favorite event I volunteered for was the Kandahar Bazaar School. The interaction with the school kids was amazing. Airmen taught the children American crafts and talked to them about what they liked about school. It really eased the feelings of being away from my daughter. Nevertheless, I know the purpose of our being here and I'm glad I was selected to come to Kandahar. The main reason the military is always present at any location, to shield and protect the interests of those who are innocent and worthy.

As military members, we are selected to travel to places we never knew existed prior to enlisting. Kandahar was one of those places I didn't know before my own enlistment. However, after 60 days here, I have learned a lot about Air Force leadership, people and my new job as protocol NCOIC. This experience has helped me appreciate the conveniences of the United States and has helped me focus on the fact that overall I'm here supporting the people of Afghanistan.