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There I Was...

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jessica Fleurimond
  • 6th Contracting Squadron contracting officer
On Oct. 6, 2013, I started my deployment traveling journey which took me from Tampa, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia, and then on to Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan. Upon arriving at Manas AB, we were bused over to the PERSCO office where we received our in-processing briefing and instructions. I spent almost 96 hours at this location awaiting my rotation to the final destination, Kabul, Afghanistan. Upon arriving at Kabul, I made contact with my unit which was located at Camp Phoenix; roughly 10-15 minutes away from the airport. They did not have anyone readily available to pick me up, so I had to start my networking and managed to convoy over with the Office of Special Investigations team. My nerves were pretty calm up until we drove out of the ISAF compound gates and started our trek to Camp Phoenix; the Afghan people, roads, cattle, etc., was so surreal and I couldn't believe that I was actually there with full battle rattle on and ammo in my M-4 and M-9...needless to say I became a nervous wreck, but kept my composure.

Upon arriving at Camp Phoenix, I was dropped off at the helicopter pad at which point I waited for my sponsor and an Army master sergeant to come and grab me. Throughout my deployment, I was assigned to the Regional Contracting Center, Capital, and my main job was as a contracting specialist for construction contracts throughout the Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Shindand Air Base areas. It was a joint environment, so my coworkers ranged from Air Force, Army and Navy personnel, military, civilians and contractors. We worked seven days a week, 12 hour days with Fridays and Sundays being half days. I managed 20 contracts valued at $2M, supported five FOBs/58K coalition security forces. I also awarded seven facility upgrade projects valued at $721K to help build up the Kabul economy. I got the opportunities to go outside the wire a few times to conduct site visits on my construction projects and while nerve wrecking, it provided me with a greater insight on the tasks at hand, who was working it, and ensured the contractors were abiding by the terms of the contract. Getting to actually interact with the Afghan contractors and see how they work was quite interesting and the language barriers were definitely present in some cases. My longest site visit took me all the way to Shindand AB, Afghanistan which is located in the north western part of the country. I got to see snow over there as well!

We did not have much off-duty time, but I made time to work out (CrossFit), study for promotion testing, and completed six semester hours toward my MBA. I also volunteered with Operation Outreach where we built fuel donuts for 1K Afghans to provide them a heat source during the brutal winter months. I served as the unit training manager ensuring two contracting sites were spun up in areas such as, contracting, suicide prevention/awareness, SAPR, and FW&A. Lastly, I served as the "morale booster" for our unit ensuring that my deployed counterparts were taken care of mentally, spiritually, and socially by putting up decorations during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

The days, hours, and months, were long and exhausting, but I can say that my pre-deployment training, the huge support I received from my unit, friends, and family helped me get through this deployment ...oh I can't forget to mention the number of familiar faces I got to see throughout that journey! Definitely a small Air Force! My most memorable moment that really touched my heart was when our senior enlisted leader, an Army master sergeant, recited our Airman's Creed and two lines into it starting shedding tears...he recited that creed like it was his own and made us all feel it....that I will never forget!