News: For junior soldiers, deployments can be an especially stressful time
Story by Sgt. Christopher McCullough
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan – Deployments are never easy for anyone in the armed forces. They are almost always lengthy, demanding, incredibly stressful and a challenge for even the most hardened combat vet.
For the junior soldiers of Battle Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron 14th Cavalry Regiment – many of whom are under the age of 25 – a deployment can be an especially stressful time in their lives, particularly if they are deploying for the first time.
“I really didn’t want to come on this deployment,” said Pfc. Jack Schuster, of Walla-Walla, Wash., who is deployed to Afghanistan for the first time. “But I figured I had to go and try to work it out the best I could. So far it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be.”
The stress of being deployed isn’t reserved exclusively for first timers. Even those who have deployed before may experience family issues back home that can cause undue stress for some, such as Spc. Samuel Beck, of Mayfield, Ky., who deployed previously to Iraq.
“I have a wife and daughter at home,” he said. “My wife is currently pregnant right now too,” though he adds that his leadership is working with him so that he can try to be home for the birth.
In some cases, the stress of being in a remote location, far from home, can be a challenging time for newly married soldiers.
“It’s not how I want to spend the beginning of my marriage,” said Schuster. “I’ve been married for a little bit, but we’re still in the beginning stages.”
Some, though, have come to embrace the solitude that is present on Forward Operating Base Sweeney.
“I like that we’re on our own little FOB,” said Spc. Jeff Pearson, of Tacoma, Wash. “We can kind of set it up how we want instead of just falling into an old unit’s area and using what they had.”
Now while there is no magic carpet to whisk soldiers home to their families, and some services such as combat stress support are absent from FOB Sweeney, there are facilities there that can help negate the stress of being apart; such as the Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility, which Battle Company leadership continues to expand.
The MWR at FOB Sweeney, which is located a short walk from their living quarters, features 10 computers and six phones to help keep soldiers connected to their loved ones at home. It also features a fully equipped gym, Xbox consoles, a ping pong table, a pool table, dart boards, and several movies for viewing. The MWR at FOB Sweeney, as with any FOB in Afghanistan, offers junior and senior soldiers alike a welcome distraction from the stress and challenges of being deployed.
“The MWR is where I spend my free time,” said Rogers. “I get to Skype with [my girlfriend], talk on the phone and Facebook.”
Other ways soldiers have found to reduce their stress levels is through the camaraderie that is universal across the Army. Sometimes just being able to talk to a friend and realize that you’re not alone helps ease the pain of being so far from home.
“A couple of the friendships I’ve made [here] so far seem likely to be lifelong friendships,” said Schuster.
With time, junior soldiers come to realize what all senior soldiers already know, that a deployment does not last forever, and in the end, it can financially help a young soldier and his family.
“At first I was sad, but I’m preparing us for our future, so I look at it like that and that gets me through every day,” said Spc. Lance Rogers, of Webb City, Mo.