Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Afghanistan 2010, part duex

A few days ago, our office said good-bye to the Air Force folks I came here with. They were packed up, ready to begin the long journey back to the states and home, back to reunions with family and friends. Many, me included, have been away from home since November. I thought I would feel sad or regretful as I watched them load up the trucks with their gear and said good-bye, but for some reason I didn’t. Instead of throwing my gear in with theirs and heading out, I was just ending another duty day here. I was asked to extend my deployment and eventually agreed, so instead of leaving this July, I’ll be here until January 2011.

I know it may seem hard for people to understand; some people have called me crazy, some said stupid, but that’s their opinion. I guess for the most part, I just don’t feel ready to leave. Our commander says what we’re doing here is a sprint, not a marathon, and that if we at the end of our deployment feel we can’t work another day, then we were successful in our mission here.

There have been times I’ve been so tired, I fell asleep sitting up, slept in airports, couches, floors, vehicles. There have been tumultuous times; I’ve been frustrated, upset, and so angry I wanted to scream or throw something. There were also times I was scared and exhilarated, and times when I swore I couldn’t wait until July came … but now that it’s here, I’m ready to do more. I can honestly say that despite all the negatives, I have also felt fulfilled. This is probably some of the most important work I’ve done in the military and I’m not quite ready to let go.

Someone said we are changing the dynamics in Afghanistan; I challenge anyone who says that we are not making progress here to look around. Afghanistan is coming full-circle; 30 years ago women worked as doctors, teachers and lawyers. It was not the kind of atmosphere associated with western, developed countries, but they were developing into a modern country with modern attitudes and beliefs; that was brought to a screeching halt with the advent of the Russian invasion and continued with the internal fighting and rise of the Taliban. With war comes a focus on survival, not education or development and unfortunately, this breed’s ignorance. There are people who will prey on the uneducated, and use their lack of knowledge to support their ideals.

Now, women are entering the workforce … again. They are going to school, women are supporting their families, becoming doctors, lawyers, serving in the government and even working in the fashion industry. The training and mentoring NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan offers goes much deeper than military and police forces; we are helping them create a national military and police healthcare system, literacy programs, working with their department of public works and various government agencies. We even have individuals partnered with non-government agencies to support micro-loan programs, promote women’s rights and help develop Afghanistan’s economy.

What we are doing here, whether we succeed or fail, will forever be in our history, and I want to be a part of that history. I joined the Air Force for many reasons, but one of them was to make a contribution, to help people. I hope that through our words and images, we are making lives better for the people here and giving them a chance to really live, not just exist and survive. Yes, isn’t always fun; it’s hard work and I miss my friends, family and the little things (privacy, good food, sleeping in, days off, driving for fun with the music on and the windows down, wearing my hair down, long showers, I could go on and on really) BUT what is happening here is more important than that. Than me. So, I stayed. We’ll see what the next six months brings!

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