So I'm back in Kabul now...no more Wardak for me. I'm actually a little bit sad.
Last night, my Wardak team announced that there was a "farewell dinner" for me at the DFAC. I thought that this roughly translated into us all going to dinner together, nothing more than that. I was wrong. When we got to the DFAC, the DFAC staff had arranged the tables and covered them with linens. Atop the table was a big RESERVED sign. I've never seen this before and I said to myself, "wow, there must be a big-shot here tonight" but then I saw some of my coworkers sitting down at the tables. Apparently, I was the big-shot. I was surprised and very touched that they went to the effort...I had only worked with them for a couple of weeks?!?
The Commander and his XOs came and sat with us. I got to spend about 30 minutes having a very nice chat with the Commander about family, kids, and life. It was really wonderful. It may be a hard to understand, if you haven't been in an organization like ours over here, but the Commander is in charge of hundreds of soldiers and a base in a very kinetic part of the world...he is a pretty busy and important guy. For him to take the time to get to know me personally during my time there, even though I was just passing through, was very touching. When dinner was finished, my Captain said some really nice things to close it off. Everything was perfect and totally unexpected...I was touched.
My time in Wardak has been the highlight of my deployment. I really felt like we were doing work that could have a large impact on the people of the Wardak Province. It was a rough couple of weeks, though. The helicopter crash, IEDs, and some recent kidnappings and killings were all relatively close to our base. It elevated the stress a little but I had confidence in the soldiers that went out with us. It is a unexplainable feeling to go out on a movement, site visit, or walk and have someone designated to cover your butt. The soldier in charge of the movement would say, "so-and-so, you're watching out for Engineer Hace!" As we walked the sites, the designated soldier was never more than a stone's throw away. It is surreal putting that much trust/faith in other's abilities.
Most of TF Slugger only has a few months left in Afghanistan. During this time,as I read news reports that flow from that province, I will likely hold my breath a bit until I find out that my co-workers are safe. I wish them all the very best, I really enjoyed the time I spent with them at Forward Operating Base Airborne.
The stress was higher out there, but the rewards were much higher also. I actually miss it.