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.
#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.