En route to the war (Afghanistan)

I’m currently in Manas, Kyrgyzstan with several other Air Force, Army, and Marine troops. Manas is considered a deployed location, but serves as a transit center for troops on their way to Afghanistan.

I’ve been here for the past three days but getting to this point has been a hell of a process .

 I was told by my higher ups that I was deploying to Afg. in Sept. 2009. After finding this news out I began out-processing my base, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. I had completed about three months of out-processing when I was told my deployment tasking had been canceled, and I was no longer needed to out-process. With that, I stopped out-processing and went back to doing my day-to-day photojournalism job at Whiteman. About two weeks later, I received an e-mail from an Army Master Sgt. who was already deployed to Afg. saying my tasking had been turned back on.

With this news I began out-processing my base once more. Only now, I had about a week and a half to get everything done as I was slated to attend Combat Skills Training (CST) in Ft. Dix, New Jersey right away. And, for those of you who aren’t military, out-processing is not an easy thing to get done in a short amount of time. I scrambled to get everything done and barely made it to Ft Dix by my arrival date.

The CST course was only six weeks long, but the side stitch I encountered along the way was horrendous. Everything from having the incorrect weapon, to having my orders changed from 1610’s to CED, which meant that I would not return to my home base at the completion of CST, resulting in me not having all my photo gear.

I had to beg borrow and steal to get the folks back at my home station to send it all to me. If it wasn’t for Jessica Snow and MSgt Sander, I still wouldn’t have my photo gear. Being as I’m a photojournalist, I probably wouldn’t be worth much without my gear.

CST also fell over Christmas; not cool. Getting over several of these glitches while enduring CST was less than pleasant to say the least. Oh and by the way, we got 18 inches of snow half way through our training. I’m a South Texas boy so galvanting through the snow with full battle gear and both my weapons, an M-9 pistol and an M-4 rifle, was not my cup of tea.

All that being said, I learned real quick  if I was going to make it through this entire deployment without losing my mind I would need to learn how to appreciate and cherish the small victories along the way. For example, I met SrA Nick Pilch at CST, another Photojournalist who is very passionate about his job and has done great things throughout his career thus far. We hit it off right away and instantly became good friends, swapping stories about different photo shoots and stories we had covered. (Small victory!)

 We got a few days off during Christmas, and I got to see my girlfriend Alexandria during that time. It was brief. She didn’t get to stay long, but yet again a small victory. Even things as simple as being the only one in the open bay shower because you got up earlier than everybody else is a small victory, and you just have to cherish them to make it through this.

 Upon the completion of CST we were all ready to move out and get our deployment started. Which just about brings us up to present. We started the mobilization process on Jan. 1, 2009, New Year’s day at 2200 hours which is 10:00p.m. for all you non-military folks. At this time, we were bussed from Ft. Dix, NJ to Norfolk, Virginia, which ended up being a six hour trip.

After arriving at the Norfolk airport at 0400 hours or 4:00am, exhausted and irritable, all 150 of us Airmen took our six to seven bags a piece as well as our weapons and began checking them to have everything loaded on the plane. Little did we know that not all the baggage was going to be able to be flown out with us that day.

After processing the thorough security with our weapons and baggage and having everything checked, we all boarded the aircraft and began the long dreadful journey to Manas Air Base. After 24 hours of traveling and 4 countries later we finally made it to Manas. During the traveling period, all time was lost to me and daylight never seemed to come. I really felt like 24 hours of darkness, which made the trip rather eerie giving that we’re going to a place that some refer to as hell.

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6 Comments

  1. Great job Kenny! We will be anxiously awaiting each new post. I am sharing your blog with everyone! We are so very proud of you! you’re bigger than life in my eyes.
    Nicely done:)

    LDH

  2. This is my 2nd post…don’t know what happend to the first one so I am trying again: Nice job Kenny! We are impressed with your blog…and so proud of you! Thank you for serving. You are bigger than life to me 🙂

    LDH

  3. Hey Kenny,

    You probably don’t remember me, but I’ve heard Kenny stories from your mom for a few years now. I really enjoyed reading your blog especially since you are the only person I have a connection to that’s serving our country. I think you are a great photojournalist so keep up the good work. Keep your eyes open for those magical moments you capture so well. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

    pt

  4. Hi Kenny,
    I work with your mom and she shared your blog with us. I don’t even know you, but am so proud of you!! Thank you for giving us an insight to what we should all be thankfull for, our freedom!! And God bless you for serving our country.
    Hope you are safe and keep us updated on all of your adventures.
    Sincerely,
    Kim Wiatrek

  5. Kenny, hi, I’m Diana Conlee and I work with your mom. I feel privileged to be able to keep in contact with you. My prayers are with you. May you be safe in all you do.

  6. Kenny, our thoughts and prayers are with you. My husband and I are both veterans and my husband served in Desert Storm. I know some of your thoughts and feelings as a wife of a soldier and a soldier myself. Take care of yourself; Use what combat training has taught you and come back safely to your country and family. CF


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