Monday, November 24, 2008

Commentary: The Price of Deployment



KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2008 -- Most young lance corporals live their lives day-by-day, just waiting to see what tomorrow may bring. Most take orders as directed while waiting for the weekend. Being a young lance corporal stationed in Okinawa, Japan, I was the exact same way until I received a knock at my barrack’s room door on the morning of Friday, Oct. 24.

It was my day off and, as I opened the door, the noncommissioned officer on barracks duty told me I had a phone call. I thought it might be a call from one of my friends. But as I picked up the phone, I heard my master sergeant tell me something I will never forget.

“Pack your trash, you’re going to war.”

I didn’t know what to feel. I didn’t know if I was happy, sad or angry.

I knew how dangerous it was in Afghanistan and there was a chance of me not making it back home alive. I knew my job would most likely take me outside the safety of the compound and directly in the line of danger. I knew I might see things that most Americans can only read about in the newspaper or see on television. But I had to regain my composure quickly because I was going to be on a plane to Hawaii four days later to link-up with my new unit for the deployment.

A lot of Marines have been to combat and have felt the joy, excitement and nervousness of deploying, but I knew that in less than two weeks I would be in a combat zone, so I didn’t have time for feelings. I had no choice but to be ready.

It was hard telling my family and friends that I would be going to war, so I just told them not to look at it as a deployment but more like a seven-month camping trip in the mountains.

As I touched down in Hawaii on Tuesday, Oct. 28, I was more anxious than I had ever been in my life. I was very confused, but I was lucky enough to be deploying with a great master sergeant and second lieutenant, so I knew I was in good hands.

While at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, I was in a mad rush to ensure my gear was ready and I had everything I needed to get me through the next seven months.

We were scheduled to leave Hawaii exactly one week and five days after I found out I was deploying.

The day we departed on our 30-hour trek around the world I was calmer than I had ever been, but my training and determination overcame my fear.

Now, I am at Kandahar Air Base in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. I have survived my first rocket attack and have finally become accustomed to the dry, barren, dusty terrain. I can finally look into the mountains and see their true beauty. But more important than the terrain and surviving insurgent attacks, I can finally see the true price for a Marine deploying to a combat operation:
  • Size 13 combat boots - $70-$250.

  • 100 pounds of Operation Enduring Freedom field gear – issued.

  • Pre-deployment gear checks - countless.

  • The chance to fight for such a great country with the best service members the world has to offer – priceless.

(Commentary by Lance Cpl. Monty Burton, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Afghanistan.)

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