Commentary Search

'There I was ... ' Rising to the task in Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brandon Bednarski
  • 6th Comptroller Squadron
I had been waiting for a "green" deployment and I finally got one. I was nervous about the deployed environment and the prospective duty I would be performing, but I also wanted to see the broader mission mind set and goals to understand what we were doing in Afghanistan. I was happy to get not just a piece, but the entire pie.

I deployed anticipating staying within my role of finance customer service. After I reached my destination, however I was advised that I was to relieve a technical sergeant who had just replaced an Army Major and my new mission was to manage the budget for RST-West (Regional Support Team-West) and later, RSC (Regional Support Command)-West. For me the task seemed daunting, because at MacDill, I had never managed accounts or managed budgets for anyone. Now I was expected to manage millions of dollars worth of projects using only a spreadsheet and a plethora of folders. I had a little over a month to grasp what I could, and I was determined to retain as much as possible.

Some of my major budget related accomplishments include generating funding for the Afghan Army and Police. Recouping $135,000 from delinquent Field Ordering Official Teams spread as far North as Bala Morghab and as far South as Kandahar and formulating the new two-year, $98 million budget for the West . My Command was also responsible for the highest number (both quantity and dollar related) of projects over any other RSC. Our contract oversight was also rated the highest. We paid for a multitude of projects for the Afghans ranging from construction to services to commodities. We were the first to incorporate adobe style buildings and solar powered panels in order to create lasting projects. Our goal was to create Afghan solutions for the Afghans.

My command asked me to go beyond my traditional finance job. I went on more than 30 combat missions and went outside the wire every other day. Some days I was a driver or truck commander, some days the observer and some doing personal security detail. I went on numerous helicopter trips and convoys to see the effects of what we were enacting on the ground. I was able to see the struggles that soldiers were facing performing audits on our projects. I also went OTW to understand and appreciate the intricacies of the politics involved with securing land, making Afghans accountable for their own sustainment, etc. It was a privilege to be permitted to do what I did.

I had fun and I had down points. That awful feeling when the news rolled through that someone had been hit, someone had been kidnapped. We had our share of experiences and I am proud to have served beside the 82nd, 10th Mountain, 1-17 FA, the 4 ID, and all of RSC-W. I would not have been able to manage what I did had I not had support from the members in the engineering cells or logistics cells. Their support truly defined what it meant to have a "Battle Buddy" or "Wingman" beside you, helping you along the way.

We can sit back in our office and be complacent in our current frame of mind, or we can remember that we are Airmen, serving in the Air Force. By getting out of our comfort zones, we gain a semblance of understanding, a sense of accomplishment, and justification that hard work makes a difference.