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An Essay on Iraq: What it meant to be deployed

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron repair a runway on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, Sept. 15, 2006. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christa Martin) (Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron repair a runway on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, Sept. 15, 2006. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christa Martin) (Released)

MILWAUKEE, WI -- My time deployed to Iraq with the 557 Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron held a special significance for me. I had the fortune to work with many good men and women, I was consistently part of something larger than myself, and, most importantly, my actions and duties created the capacity to save lives, capture insurgents and remove IED threats. 

Before Iraq, I merely did my duty. I functioned well on a day-to-day basis, but I never considered the true implications of my actions. I realized the importance of even the smallest of my actions while in Iraq, where everything I did while on duty was geared toward rebuilding an airfield and getting military assets where they were sorely needed. 

Safety was a common issue while overseas, manifested as a concern due to any of a variety of attacks upon an individual, asset or base. There were few reasons to be overly concerned with safety while stateside, but being in a hostile area clearly showed the many safety concerns which could arise. Internal, external, ranged or close proximity attacks were all possible, but we suffered only ranged external attacks with any frequency. Moreover, I worked nights, and the attacks simply appeared from the darkness. Without the ability to identify the hostile acts, I compensated by being alert at all times, and was prepared to react at the slightest provocation. 

Despite any threats to my safety and security, trust was never an issue. I knew with a certainty my commanding officer cared for the squadron's well-being. I was never concerned about being betrayed or attacked by my co-workers. Put simply, anyone who worked on the base or wore a uniform had been cleared by extensive processes and had a defined reason to be there. They had my implicit trust. 

World events always seemed very distant before I traveled beyond the borders of the U.S. My perspective changed while overseas; everything became relevant to me and my situation. I paid close attention to what occurred around the world. I didn't let the daily news fill me with fear or inspire me to questionable heights of caution, but rather I accepted the events as they happened and knew there were trained and competent men and women who could oppose the insidious actions of those who meant to cause harm to others. 

My presence in Iraq and the duties I performed there had little effect on my ideals of intimacy. Relationships had always been short-lived experiences for me, and nothing changed after my return. I do tend to focus more on the external world--what is happening around me and what I can do to help--than I do on a world of personal relationships and communications. I do not bemoan this reality, however, and I do not actively seek to change it; I am comfortable with the situations I find myself in. 

Perhaps the largest improvement I have made on a personal level from my time in Iraq was in regard to my esteem. Before being deployed, namely during my time in college and, to a certain extent, my time at Nellis Air Force Base, I was somewhat hesitant to speak or act because I was unsure if I was speaking in line with the people around me or acting in the best interest of everyone involved. Working with vital missions and deadlines born of necessity taught me to be decisive, always know the direction I was working toward, and to be certain of my actions and their repercussions. 

I am very proud to have deployed to Iraq. Looking back, I find I enjoyed my time there because of the people I had the fortune to work with and the missions I was allowed to accomplish. I have become a better and stronger person from my time overseas, I have become a more effective military member and I look forward to returning to a deployed location.