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    Commentary: My Deployment to Afghanistan

    Afghanistan Deployment

    Photo By Megan Gully | Megan Gully of Army Materiel Command Public Affairs on the flight heading to Kabul,...... read more read more

    KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

    07.28.2017

    Story by Megan Gully 

    Army Materiel Command   

    “I know I didn’t have an impact on the history of Afghanistan, but Afghanistan had a huge impact on me.”

    My co-worker said this as she prepared to finish her deployment, and I knew I could never say it better myself.

    From March to June, I had the opportunity to work at NATO’s Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. The assignment provided me more growth and experiences than I could have ever imagined. To anyone considering deploying or doing a developmental assignment, I say – GO! Get out of your office and see a different side of the Army. Outside your comfort zone, you will learn more about yourself and your career field than you can believe.

    As a public affairs specialist for the Army Materiel Command, I have had a very rich and fulfilling young career, but nothing can match day-for-day the nearly three months I spent with Resolute Support’s public affairs office as the team’s social media “expert.”

    I managed Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube accounts for the 39-member-nation coalition that is conducting “train, advise and assist” operations in Afghanistan. A task that sounded simple enough on paper, it never ceased to amaze me the complexity of explaining the NATO mission in the perfect 140 characters or less.

    When the developmental application popped up, I was quick to apply. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I wanted it. I wanted the experience. In short, I just knew this was the chance I’d been waiting for.

    The gravity of my decision hit me instantly; it is one thing to always want to deploy, but another for it to be happening. After accepting the position, I had about a month to pack, do hours of online training, complete the necessary medical exams, and go through the Army’s Civilian Redeployment Center. I said goodbye to family, friends and my lacrosse team. I was completely conflicted by my desire to deploy and my wish that maybe, just maybe, something could make me stay.

    Each step toward Afghanistan was scary but slightly easier than the last. I kept thinking, “I was able to do that, so surely this won’t be hard.” The process to get to Kabul was long, but by the time it was over and I stepped – basically fell – off the helicopter, I was ready. I just wanted to be there and get to work.

    The pace at Resolute Support is constantly high. I joined an office of U.S. service members, international partners, civilians and contractors that work 12-plus hours a day, every day for months or years. Like the rest of the military, they have felt troop reductions and sequestration, as fewer and fewer people need to do more work. Some days the Internet would be painfully slow or not responsive at all, and our equipment had lived a long hard life.

    My time deployed overlapped a few big events that put Afghanistan back into the headlines. I was there when the U.S. dropped the GBU-43, better known as the MOAB or “Mother of all Bombs.” I live-tweeted Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ press conference, and a massive explosion in the Kabul green zone took lives the day I flew out of Afghanistan.

    I loved the high pace and immediacy of the job. We understood that anything that left our office could be seen by thousands of people, so we worked together to make sure it was right.

    One of my most memorable experiences was working with the Afghans. I joined our advising team to train the new public affairs specialists with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense on how to tell their army’s story. This put me as either the only woman, or one of two, in the room of a very male-dominant culture. I was never met with hostility. The Afghans took our instructions and my advice openly. They shared meals with us, and I learned about the deliciousness of Afghan bread and kabob.

    My time in Kabul was short and passed quickly. Even so, it was full of personal and professional memories. I am constantly asked if I’d do it again, and I always say that I would go back for the right job. It would have to be something different and a new experience. As for whether I would do another developmental assignment – absolutely. The short time away was worth years of experience, and I am grateful for my office and my family for supporting me through the opportunity.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 07.28.2017
    Date Posted: 07.31.2017 11:50
    Story ID: 243013
    Location: KABUL, AF 
    Hometown: ALEXANDRIA, VA, US
    Hometown: HUNTSVILLE, AL, US
    Hometown: TUSCALOOSA, AL, US

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