Iraq deployment taught me how to "walk"

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Natasha Stannard
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Thanks to this deployment I am finally walking and Franklin D. Roosevelt's quote, "it is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something," has taken on a whole new meaning.

Preparing for deployment was like preparing for Basic Military Training. A familiar phrase can simply describe this preparation- hurry up and wait. I was not being deployed in my career field, but rather as a Third Country National escort and much like BMT, I had no idea what to expect. The most common phrases I heard were: good luck, have fun babysitting and sorry.

I have been deployed as a TCN escort for two months and see the importance of this job. My mission here is to watch TCNs and Local Nationals as they perform various tasks ranging from cleaning hygiene facilities, cleaning laundry rooms, and rebuilding an Iraqi airfield. I must ensure that none of them threaten base security. While some of these workers potentially pose a threat, it's safe to say that a majority of them are good people, who like many of us, are here risking their lives to support their families.

The common phrases I spoke of earlier clouded my perception and led me to believe I wouldn't get more than a good workout from what I thought was a menial deployment. However, now that I am here meeting new people, to include TCNs, LNs, contractors and service members, I see that there is much more to take away from this job and from this deployment.

Watching these people work, along with learning about their lives, has taught me that I can't run away from my fears. I have learned a lot about myself: I was lazy and afraid. I am now afraid that I will fail.

Before I came here, some of the things I had heard about these people were that they are not as hygienic as us, came from poor countries, uneducated, less fortunate, have several spouses and aren't trustworthy. I did not hear of the things they fear: death, being marked targets for terrorists, and losing their job among many other things, to include failure.

When I first heard these statements, I felt pity for them. Now that I work with them, I admire their ambition, drive, genuine generosity and happiness. They may not have the opportunities we do, but they will take advantage of whatever comes their way. They may not earn as much as we do, but they will give you their bread. Education is not as easily accessible to them, but some of them have more schooling than I do. While it may sound strange to hear of people having more than one wife, here it's just a part of their culture and as far as the feelings of the women; the ones I have met seem genuinely happy and not in any way deprived.

The trials and tribulations they go through in order to support themselves and their families has motivated me to work harder and do my job to the best of my ability. I have what I consider to be a great job, which means nothing if I'm not doing a great job. I have the means to go to school and the tools to further my competency in my career.