CAMP BUERHING, Kuwait - Second Lt. Shawn O'Brien is a signal officer assigned to 67th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, and is deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
I first heard the rumors of my impending deployment when I was at the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course (SBOLC).
I graduated from Auburn University in May (WAR EAGLE!), and two weeks later, I was at SBOLC. I arrived at the schoolhouse on May 19, and I walked across the street to the 35th Signal Brigade S1 a couple weeks later. When I got there, they asked me if I wanted to deploy. I said yes, and I was assigned to 67th Signal Battalion (Expeditionary).
I graduated from SBOLC on a Thursday, and I met the S3 OIC on Friday. She said I was going to be in the “3 Shop” and to come in on Monday. When I began there, it was initially unconfirmed if I was going on the deployment. Then, the CTE began. I immediately started working with the people in the 3 Shop and got a better handle on how things worked. One day, I saw my name on the deployable roster, and that’s when I knew I was going.
When I told my dad I was deploying, he was excited for me. That is the reason I came into the Army, and he was happy that I was going to able to do what I wanted to do. Then, I told my girlfriend, Elisabeth, that the rumors were true, and I was deploying. She was nervous at first, but then, she really dug in and started doing research about military life and couples affected by deployment. It made me feel good to know that she was emphatically supportive of my goals. My parents also supported me 100 percent.
I took a week-long trip with Elisabeth to Washington, D.C. while I was on pre-deployment block leave, about a month before I left. I had always intended to go see the constitution ahead of my commission because I would be swearing allegiance to it. I wasn’t able to go before I was commissioned, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to realize that dream and to spend time with Elisabeth. We spent a week there seeing the sights: the White House, a tour of Congress and the House of Representatives, the Lincoln Memorial, the national archives … we did everything. It was inspiring to see the work of the founding fathers and the patriotism that our country was founded on ahead of my departure.
Before I left for D.C., I started the process of moving out of my house. After I came back from my vacation, I was able to tie up the loose ends. I started cancelling all my utilities, and I didn’t have too many difficulties.
After leave, I came back to work for two days and finalized my packing list and my storage unit. I spent the New Year’s holiday with my family and Elisabeth in Augusta. Originally, the unit’s deployment timeline wouldn’t have allowed me to spend that time with them, but it was nice that it worked out so I could spend the holiday with my loved ones.
My family came to the ceremony on Jan. 2, and I said goodbye to them there. Elisabeth had to work, so she wasn’t able to attend. After that, I hopped on the plane.
At first, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what specific roles I’d be filling. This being my first deployment, there were a lot of unknowns. Two weeks later, I now feel like I know what’s going on, and I fit in.
I feel good here, and I enjoy working with the team that I’m with. Being able to communicate back home is huge, and Skype is a great morale booster. Faith is important to me, as well, and I’m looking to spend more time praying and reading the Bible, and I’d like to get plugged into the services we have here at the camp. Professionally, I’m looking to do an excellent job with everything I’m assigned as the S3 Plans OIC. I’m also looking to max my PT Test, start my Master’s Degree, and save a lot of money while I’m over here.
Obviously, deploying is a different experience for everybody. The key thing is that I knew going into it that I’d have to be flexible and keep a positive attitude. I feel fortunate because a lot of my buddies in my Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Class are still waiting to go to their respective BOLC courses, and I’m already deployed. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I think it was a great way to go.