Thursday, May 13, 2010

Deployment Week 1

As of May 13, 2010: I’m staying at the Transit Center at Manas, a transit area for troops (both US and international) coming and going to Afghanistan in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

I’ve served in the Air Force now for about 8 years (4 years active duty, 4 years Reserve). However, this is my first deployment. I didn’t quite volunteer for this deployment since I’m trying to finish graduate school back in the states, but since I’m in the reserves I’ve always known that it was a possibility. Leading up to deployment I’ve had a mixture of thoughts and feelings from frustration, anxiety, fear, and excitement to thoughts of “why did I sign up for the Reserves”, and “what if I don’t make it back alive?” Even though I’ve been gone for less than a week and I’ve yet to arrive at my destination spot, I’ve already learned a lot. I’d like to share a little about what I’ve learned so far.
The flight to Manas took almost two days. I flew on an international airline that was filled solely with Air Force servicemen in uniform. I tried to stay positive, but I found myself easily returning to wallow in thoughts of self-pity, the “why me” type of thinking. However, as I spoke to the airman in the seat next to me, I realized that most o f the servicemen also did not really want to be deploying. The airman sitting next to me was leaving his wife and daughter for a third time. He worked in the hospital at Bagram on his last deployment. I won’t go into details, but he told me graphic stories of treating injured soldiers (lots of blood, screaming, and shrapnel involved). At first I was bit shocked and horrified hearing firsthand the things the news only gives a brief blip of. However, I’ve been extremely humbled and since hearing these and other battle stories. I have begun to view each of the soldiers, marines, and airmen I’ve come in contact with a bit differently. I realize that many of them already have sacrificed much or will sacrifice much (possibly even their lives) over the next four to 18 months. Suddenly the sacrifice I’m making and will continue to make has become a little easier as I realize that I am not alone in my sacrifice, nor can my sacrifice come close to comparing to that of so many other service men and women.

In my two days at the transit base in Kyrgyzstan, I’ve also learned a lot from the locals who live on base. The country of Kyrgyzstan seems to have had a rough history. They were under Soviet rule until the fall of the Soviet Union. Their current government has suffered from two recent coups (one of them just a little over a month ago). They all seem to be uncertain as to what will happen next. The workers I spoke with on base are extremely appreciative for the opportunity to work on an American base and receive much better pay than they would in most jobs off base. Those who work on air conditioning and heating had to be completely trained since they don’t have central heating nor air conditioning in their country. I hope that they can use the skills they’ve learned to help their country once we leave. One of the locals also commented on the American attitude. I was eating with this local in the dining facility and he said he couldn’t believe how much food we wasted. He also commented on our “we are the center of the world” mentality. I admitted to him that we tend to not appreciate all that we have and the can sometimes be bit arrogant. In any case, in speaking to the locals I am reminded of how much we do have. Many of my fellow servicemen are complaining that the food is bad on the base. In reality, even in a warzone we are probably eating better, and have better living quarters than most of the world. We may be living in tents, but at least these tents have AC and heating and even Wireless internet, things that most Kyrgyzstanians probably only dream about.

I’d be lying if I didn't say I haven’t been scared about what the next four months holds for me. The reality of being in a war zone has set in as I’ve been issued battle gear, heard battle stories from returning soldiers, and seen hoards of soldiers and marines carrying M-16s (I too will have to carry an M16 when I arrive to Afghanistan). I’m grateful that my job doesn’t entail going off base and being on the front lines, but you still never know what to expect when you are going to “enemy territory”. The greatest source of strength and comfort for me has been prayer and the Book of Mormon. I have found myself turning to the Lord more than ever, and in many ways I feel like he has been there for me more than ever. Last night, I spoke with one of my fellow airmen who was expressing some of his anxieties about this deployment. I was able to express to him my belief that the Lord truly watches over those who serve in the military. I told him of the many people that pray for the military and that I believe the Lord listens to those prayers. One of the scriptures that has brought me great comfort is about a group of 2,000 young men in the Book of Mormon who never had fought before, but when they were asked to fight they exercised great faith: “Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle? And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage nay, not amongst all the Nephites. For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus. Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it. “ (Alma 56: 44-46).
The chapters that follow these verses tell of the battles these young men fought. None of them were killed, yet at the same time there was not one that did not suffer injuries. It brings me great comfort to know that just like myself, there were men who entered into battle never having fought before. Yet, because of their faith in God, they were successful. The fact that they all were injured to some extent, however, also tells me that it won’t be easy.
Until next time!
Peace out!


  1. dear chauncy,
    what exactly are you worried about? if you die you go to heaven. you are so proud to have the book of mormon. that mans you are mormon. you seem to believe its true. so if it is true, then one of the things mormons believe is that there is a place for them in one of the heavens. its all heaven so it doesnt matter which one. its still really great. so be glad. dont worry. be happy. dont be afraid. the lord your god is with you where ever you go; even if it is half way across the world to afghanistan. if you were here he would still be with are strong. you are also very smart or jmu wouldnt take you. you must also be obviously courageous or you wouldnt be military material. you fit the militarys qualifications just as much as you fit a unviersities qualifications for being a student. and even if you didnt fit in with any of that you would always have god and he doesnt have any qualifications that are too great to fulfill. he wont give you anything more than you can bear. thats got to be comforting to know, dont you think? its only 4 months. its not your whole entire life!its hard for me to imagine you ever holding or using a gun or even practicing with one or learning to use one.but you were the one that told me you are on the base at all times. you wont even be involved in any fo the fighting going on. your job is simple. you are safe and protected. consider yourself lucky! it is this way becasue god wishes it to be this way. why? becasue he loves you always no matter what! i told you that you should be very proud of yourself becasue you are doing what god wants you to do. if it were not so you wouldnt have even made it this far all the way to afghanistan. read your patriarchal blessing. maybe it has something really cool in there that will tell you what your future will be like for the next 4 months. read it over and over. even if it doesnt say anything about what to do now its still good words and the truth. reading ones patriarchal blessing always makes them feel better inside. i know you know this and i cant really explain it i just know that when people are lost and need help and redirection and advice they read their patriarchal blessing and it works to make them feel better. it makes me so happy to know you at least have the book of mormon with you. i knew you did, i just was worried you would lsoe it, get it somehow destroyed or have your privilege to read it taken away or just plain not have the time to read it. i hope you dont get made fun of for having it in your hands. learn to use it as an example of who you are. tell people about the church as they become your friends. you are stuck with them for 4 months you might as well make the best of it and make them your friends. dont be afraid to talk to people. you never know what you can learn. you may have something in common with them. do you remember the russians we met at the ice cream place? i made you talk to them on purpose! it was supposed to be practice for a little taste of what things might be like in afghanistan. ok i have said enough. please read it all and ignore the mistakes. i quickly wrote this at an awful time of night(or day). dont forget what i tell you. i support you and believe in you. i am the biggest worrier i know, but i have changed(i dont expect you to have noticed). im still a work in progress but i thank god for the lessons he has taught me in trying to change. the point is if i am not worried about you, if i have faith and confidence in you,if i trust god that he knows what he is doing and that everything will be all right,if i can take something bad and turn it around to soemthing good and be ok with it no matter how silly it is or how small it is, then you should too. please?

  2. Dear Chauncy,
    How good to hear from you! Your blog was full of thoughtful observations-spoken from your heart while ready to receive the heartfelt stories of others.
    Lennie and I meet with our team tomorrow morning. We will be sure to share your experience with them as we move forward with project.
    I believe I witnesses all the dimensions of resilience and attachment in your blog--reaching out, making meaning, experiencing the range of emotions, actively coping as you established your safety to explore and engage with the people around you and your larger surroundings--literally, historically, etc! Amazing.
    Know you are in our thoughts and prayers.
    PS is there a mailing address we can use for you?

  3. Dear Chauncy,

    Thank you so much for sharing these vivid accounts and descriptions of your experiences. Like Anne, I was struck by your resilience and strong sense of attachment. I was especially touched by your deep sense of spirituality and empathic understanding. With your compassionate heart and listening ear, it's no surprise that locals and comrades would open up to you.

    We will share your blog with the other team members tomorrow. I also want to mention how glad I was to see you one more time before you left to give you a hug goodbye.

    Take care,

  4. Keep up the good work cuz, good to hear of your experiences, enjoy the adventure.

  5. Chauncey, It's amazing how life's experiences change our relationship with God from intense to not so intense!!! For you, it's intense and you will receive much enlightenment as a result. It's my experience that the Spirit is with us constantly (if we are worthy) and is communicating with us, but we sometimes don't hear him, because of all the noise in our lives. I'm certain you will hear him now, because you are listening more intensely! I too shared the account of the stripling warriors in the BOM with your Mom to give her encouragement and hope! Thank you for defending our freedom and the freedom of others in that area. It is a righteouss cause. We love you and pray for you often. Mike Brinton

  6. Sir Chauncey (you've earned "sir" status with me!), Joann and I are so proud of you and all our servicemen and women. Keep this journal going and write your experiences and post photos. It will not only be something you treasure in the future, but rest assured you have many loved ones back home who are reading and cheering you on. Baby Tag wants to be like you when he grows up! God speed, Brinton stripling warrior. Mitch Brinton

  7. Chauncy! Wow. You are an amazing guy and will influence the lives on many people while you are there. Kyrgyzstan is supposed to be a beautiful country with rich culture. What an amazing experience...I can't wait hear more! This is a fantastic blog. God bless you Chauncy and know that you and the other servicemen are in our prayers.


  8. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHAUNCEY!! I hope someone makes you a cupcake or something! One thing is for sure, you'll remember this birthday more than other ones!!! I talked to Justin the other night, but I forgot to tell him you are in Afghanistan. I'll be sure to tell him next week when I talk to him. He's doing a little better now that he's in a structured environment. He's reading the BOM and goes to Church and FHE every week. Remember to choose to be happy and grateful each day! We really do have that choice! We love and pray for you. Mike & Sally

  9. What an experience for a future clinical psychologist! I'm sure you will be a blessing in the lives of your fellow servicemen. Be strong and of good courage, and God will look out for you. We will pray for you.