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There I Was...Adjusting To My First Deployment

  • Published
  • By By Senior Airman Takiis Thompson
  • 6th Comptroller Squadron
So there I was....Standing at my desk when I received a message that Senior Master Sgt. Smith, our former squadron superintendent, was looking for me. I immediately walked back to the command section where he sat and knocked on his door. "Come on in, have a seat," he said. I sat down, nervously, not knowing what to expect. He began to ask me how things were going back in my section of separations and retirements. We talked a little about my job and how proud of my work he was, but I knew something else was coming.

"So Col. Brown and I chose you for the upcoming deployment, you were our first pick," he said. "We think this would be a good opportunity for you to travel, see the world, and do something know spread your wings in the finance world."
He went on to describe the job that I'd be doing while deployed, where I was going, the benefits as far as testing for my next rank and many other benefits that could come from being deployed. At the end, he asked me if I had any questions, I was so shocked I replied no.

I walked out of his office and back to my desk. Questions flooded my brain along with a million different emotions.

"How am I going to tell my family that I, a girl born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, was being deployed to Southwest Asia to support this great Air force as a cashier? What about my apartment and household goods? Who will take care of my pride and joy--my dodge charger? Who will watch over my sister while I'm gone? How do I survive being away from my family for six months? Will I be able to talk to anyone? What would life there be like?"

For months I didn't say anything about the deployment because I didn't know how to deal with it. I was excited, but I was even more nervous.

Months went by, growing closer and closer to my departure. Anxiety kicked in full force. I finally decided I needed to tell my family. So I gathered everyone on Thanksgiving and delivered the news. My entire family is Jamaican so I had to do a lot of explaining. Many questions were asked and a lot of smiles turned to frowns, but I had to hold it together and reassure everyone that everything was going to be okay. Shortly after I began preparing for the deployment, I had to relocate my sister, my vehicle and household goods went into storage, and power of attorneys and wills had to be drafted; all the important stuff had to be taken care of. It was hectic. It was like time started flying the closer it got to my date of departure. Together my family, supervisor, flight chief and leadership made sure I was taken care of.

On January 22nd I boarded a rotator and three days later landed in the area of responsibility. It was a little past noon when we arrived. I remember the flight attendant telling all E-1s through E-4s to disembark the aircraft...I was the first Airman off. When I stepped outside it was hot and humid. We were immediately sent to the military personnel flight to in-process, get our bags, go through customs and then be picked up by our coworkers.

I went to my trailer first, which was very small. The bathrooms were outside. I had a bunk bed in my room, a wall locker, a little TV and a mini refrigerator. I was super excited about the TV; that actually made my day. Next I went to eat at the dining facility. The food is healthy but different; it's almost identical to what is served at home just a small difference in variety. I met my coworkers then got the rest of the day off.
The next day I went to work and began training with the Airman I would be replacing, I was lucky to have about a week with her. She taught me how to process different transactions, how to change Riyals (which is the local currency) to U.S. dollars and vice versa, how to issue an eagle cash card which is identical to a debit card. It is also my responsibility to help customers file their accrual vouchers in the Defense Travel System, start their deployment entitlements, process savings deposit program transactions and also welcome any pay inquiry questions which is my favorite part of the job--helping customers understand their pay.

This was a major culture shock for me being that this is my first deployment. Compared to MacDill, it is like night and day working here. The building and hours of operation are different. I work weekends now which I thought was devastating at first. My job is different now too because I'm a cashier here, but a separations and retirements guru back home. I see over 600 customers per week and I have no control over that, whereas at MacDill I work off appointments. So a lot has changed...

It took me two months to adjust, but I now have a routine established. I work five and a half days per week. Monday through Wednesday I attend school at the education center after work, and Thursday and Friday I do homework. Weekends we only work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. so I usually relax after work and watch movies. Sometimes I shop at the Base Exchange, which for some strange reason is exciting to me. Monday is an off day for me so I do laundry and pamper myself.