2006-2007 Deployment to Afghanistan
I had known since 9/11 and the later invasion of Iraq that it wasn't a matter of if, but when, I would get deployed. In 2005, due to health issues with my wife, I went into the Inactive National Guard, which put my Guard life on hold for 11 months. After my time in ING, I came back in time to go on a 3-week Annual Training period to Fort Polk, Louisiana, in support of the 1/34th. After spending time with one of my buddies who I served with in the 634th MI Battalion, I was seriously contemplating that rather than wait for the call, I'd just volunteer to go with them to Iraq. But my wife also had a vote, and when I got home from that AT, she said we'd discuss it later. A few weeks after I was back home, my Readiness NCO called me, and said I was an alternative to join the 240th Engineer Group, Maine Army National Guard, in Basra, Afghanistan. I asked what it would take to make me the primary instead of the alternative, and after a brief discussion with the wife, I went through the readiness exercise at Camp Ripley, and by the beginning of May, 2006, I was boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Since I was remembering when I first arrived in Afghanistan 10 years later, here's my facebook post from 4 May 2016 - My first time out of the Continental United States, aside from pre-9/11 trips to Canada and Baja, Mexico, but alas, it was as an individual augmentee supporting the 240th Engineer Group/CTF Chamberlain, Maine Army National Guard. First, after a puddle-jumper flight from Columbus, GA to Atlanta, I got moved to first class from Atlanta to Baltimore/Washington International (thank you, to whomever gave up their seats and moved to coach so some soldiers can enjoy the flight), and at BWI, I had to find a piece of floor to sleep on while awaiting our overseas charter the next morning. Then I got to see NYC from the air at night, then London from the air the next day, before we landed in Leipzig, where we were finally allowed to leave the plane and sit in another terminal for a while (BTW, German keyboards have X and Z mixed up) before going on to Ankara, and then onward to Manas Airbase in the former Soviet of Union Republic of Kyrgyzstan. When I deplaned, they said I'd probably be stuck there for up to a week, but to go to Space-A anyhow, where, lo and behold, they had room for one individual on the next flight (lucky me!). And after flying at night in a C-130 over the so-called foothills of the Himalayas, I was finally boots-on-the-ground in Afghanistan, ready for 11 months that would shape the rest of my life. Within less than a day, I was already a member of the 240th "family," and even though I haven't seen most of those people since our Freedom Salute in July, 2007, I still consider them the best friends I've ever had. Bayonets, Forward!