The 5 Lessons I Learned During My OIF Deployment

I am honored to have provided world-class medevac support to our Soldiers, working dogs, and Iraqi civilians during my deployment to Balad, Iraq from 2009-2010. I feel very privileged to have done this mission overseas and would like to share five lessons I learned during my deployment.

#1 Working with other branches of service is awesome!

The medevac compound was a part of the Air Force Theater Hospital. We worked closely with the emergency department (ED) and the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility (CASF), who were responsible for transporting patients out of the theater to Germany.  A lot of friendships were made with flight nurses and the ED techs, and it was impressive to see how the Air Force medical community does business.  Some of my brethren got to work with the Marines at Al Asad and loved being able to fly missions with Cobras.

#2 No matter what your mission overseas, reintegration at home is hard

I never imagined that coming home would be so hard from me. I am a very resilient individual and have never had a hard time adjusting to anything. It’s still hard to believe that I have been home for 3 years this month – a lot of things still seem like it was yesterday. I now understand why there is even more camaraderie between veterans of all wars: we all may have done different missions and had different experiences, but we are all bonded together by a common thread of service.

lessons learned during oif
Lessons Learned During My OIF Deployment

#3 Any downtime is a great opportunity for personal improvement

Aside from hearing stories from those deployed in the first year or two of the war, after that, it seems there became more personal time and amenities for Soldiers.  If you are able to, use the time to study a new discipline or set a new workout goal. My big goal was to run more than 2-3 miles at a time. I set a plan in motion and ended up running my first half marathon a month before I went home.  It was a great way to go home feeling good physically and emotionally.

#4 Networking is even easier overseas

When you’re deployed, you have the opportunity to meet service members outside of your unit. I made lasting friendships with people all over the USA and also have made professional contacts that have been helpful over the years. I talked to so many new people, it didn’t compare to anything I have done in my civilian life or stateside.

#5 Freedom is appreciated even more

When I first got home, I had almost forgotten how to drive on the interstate. It was refreshing to roll my windows down and drive somewhere just because I felt like it. I had a new appreciation for where I lived and am continually thankful for the small things that I get to enjoy as an American.

About the Author: 1LT Candace Ginestar is the distribution platoon leader for 1/D (RSTA FSC) 141 BSB, for the 1-82 CAV headquartered in Bend, OR. She has been in the Oregon Army National Guard since 2003, first completing AIT as a 92F specializing in aircraft refueling for C/7-158 AVN (the premier medical evacuation unit in the Army), then reclassing to 15P (aviation operations) prior to her deployment to Balad, Iraq in 2009. She was proud to have served as an NCO before completing accelerated OCS in the summer of 2010 at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA. After graduating from Oregon State University, she held a federal technician position as the program analyst for the State Army Aviation Office for four years before moving to Klamath Falls, OR to attend cosmetology school.  She is currently enrolled in a Master of Arts program in Military Resiliency at Liberty University.

10 thoughts on “The 5 Lessons I Learned During My OIF Deployment”

  1. I learned a lot during my deployment to Iraq. Here are a few things I learned.

    1. The poorest people in America have it pretty good
    2. Women have tons of rights in America
    3. The roads and infrastructure in America are really good
    4. We have tons of choices for shopping in America
    5. The schools in America are really good

    To be quite frank, just about everything in America is better than it is in Iraq. I always tell my friends to enjoy their freedom and never take things for granted.

  2. It’s really cool that your OIF Deployment left you appreciating freedom even more. If only most of the population could understand the experiences you’ve been through. Unfortunately, most people don’t have a clue, and they take their freedoms for granted. That’s awesome that deployment offered the opportunity to network with tons of different people that you never otherwise would have met.

    1. If it’s one thing I learned during my deployments, it’s how good we have it as Americans. We have a toilet, running water, a roof over our head and much more. Even the poor people in America get a free check from the government, they have a flat screen tv, and a couple of cars in the driveway. The poor people in America have a better standard of living than the rich in most countries.

      It’s important to keep things in perspective. If you think you have it tough, just realize there is someone out there who is much worse off.

    2. Candace Ginestar

      Thank you! Yes, I have a huge appreciation for freedom and am so thankful that I was born here and grew up here.
      I always tell people that while I hope they don’t stay ignorant, I want them to be safe and happy. Not everyone is cut out for military service and I just hope they appreciate what they have.

  3. These are all great points, Candace. I enjoyed working with other services during my OIF1 Deployment and working with other countries during my Kosovo Deployment. You can learn so much about yourself from deployments.

    Here are some things I learned during my OIF Deployment.

    1) In America our standard of living is better that most of the other countries in the world. We take everything for granted: toilets, shopping malls, disposable income, our freedom, etc.

    2) Life is very precious. When you see people killed in battle (friend and foe) you realize how precious life is.

    Thanks for sharing what you learned during your OIF Deployment. I enjoyed your article.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      I agree with you Chuck, particularly about how good we have it in America. When I find myself getting wrapped around the axle about silly things, I have to take a step back and realize that I should be thankful and take a deep breath. Then, back to work with a fresh perspective.

      I would very much like to go to Kosovo, I bet that was a very awesome experience.

      1. Kosovo was a great experience. However, I enjoyed my time in Iraq much more. If I had to choose between peacekeeping and combat operations, I’ll stick with the combat operations.

        As far as being grateful for what we have, that might just be the most important lesson I learned in my 15+ years of military service.

  4. Shout out to you, Candice from a PA Guardsman myself. I see you did OCS at the “GAP” which made me chuckle. Nice post and welcome to the site!

    1. Candace Ginestar

      Yeah! I have a special bond with PA, we mobilized with 2-104 GSAB and although we didn’t do the entire deployment with them, we developed great bonds (I still have my coin from the CSM and have many of my friends on FB). I ended up seeing the CSM and the BC at the Gap when I was going through OCS, it was a breath of fresh air! COL Perry is also a state representative still, I believe.

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