My first deployment: Staff Sgt. John Loughran
October 1, 2012
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Since 1990, Staff Sgt. John Loughran, a native of Amherst, N.Y., and member of the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) support operations watercraft section, has deployed six times gaining experience on land, on sea and in the air. He served as a Marine during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Gothic Serpent and as an Army Reservist during Operation Iraqi Freedom and now Operation Enduring Freedom.
Throughout this period many things have changed including Loughran's military occupational specialty, the command level of units he has worked with and the basic living conditions and amenities Soldiers have access to during deployments.
Starting his career as infantry in the Marine Corps in 1990 Loughran was exposed to the life of a line unit. He deployed During Operation Desert Storm with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines from 1990 through 1991 in preparation for a ground war with Iraq.
During his time on the ground Loughran and his unit had things pretty rough. "We lived in large GP [general purpose] tents with no A/C," said Loughran. "We got two MREs [meals ready to eat] a day and one hot meal that was t-rats because there was no permanent chow hall."
The days were long while the Marines waited. "I was a grunt so we just kinda stood by waiting for something to happen," he said. "We practiced wearing full MOPP gear [mission oriented protective posture], pulled security and even had some down time." In the end the Marines would not find any conflict on this deployment. "We waited for something to pop off but it was kind of an air war, it was over in like a day and a half," he said. "It was a bit of a letdown."
Changing his MOS in 1994 to helicopter crew chief Loughran got to experience life in the air on two separate deployments to Somalia. During the first deployment he was with the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-369 from late 1993 through early 1994. Upon their arrival the main objective of the unit was to control Mohamed Farrah Adid because of his large militia and the amount or armaments it possessed, said Loughran. "When we first got there things were pretty hot so we flew sorties 24 hours a day," he said. "And after we came back from missions we had to do maintenance on our aircraft, so we were on call 24/ 7."
"We finally got him [Adid] to keep his militia and weaponry in compounds and things calmed down," said Loughran. And then the incidents that inspired the book "Black Hawk Down" took place. Loughran's unit provided over watch and security for the task force that was sent in to rescue those that were trapped inside the city. "It was pretty messed up, I don't think anyone was ready for that," he said. "We didn't think they had the capabilities to do it, it was crazy."
Proper training is of great importance during those kinds of high stress situations. "It went by real quick," said Loughran. "All of the training comes in and it just became second nature, you're ready to go."
In 1998 Loughran decided to get out of the Marines because of the high volume of deployments he had participated in. During his time as a civilian Loughran moved to Florida and worked as a mortgage broker. He moved back to New York to be closer to family before joining the Army Reserve in 2007 as a truck driver. "I came back in cause of the things that were going on with the war," he said. "I really wanted to serve again."
Within a few years of reenlisting Loughran was sent to yet another conflict. This time he deployed with the 220th Transportation Company from New Hampshire, to Iraq in 2010 through 2011. During this deployment he conducted convoy operations from Baghdad to as far north as Mosul. The 220th conducted over 150 missions transporting everything from tanks to housing units across Iraq. In all, the 220th moved over 20,000 tons of cargo driving more than 350,000 miles.
Currently deployed with the 316th during the units mission at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Loughran is getting to experience things at a command level unit. "This is my first non-combat deployment, my first logistical job," he said. "I think my previous experience gives me a better oversight on how everything works as far as the logistical side. I can relate to why we are doing the things we are doing."
Master Sgt. Michael Williams, a resident of Hampton, Va., and Loughran's noncommissioned officer in charge, thinks Loughran is a great asset. "He is a self starter and shows a lot of initiative. He is always ready to learn, I would have him on my team anytime."
Leadership experience and mentoring are just a couple of things Loughran feels make him an asset for the 316th. "I feel that my active duty time in the Marine Corps gave me leadership qualities and basic soldiering skills," he said. "Things that I can use to help out younger soldiers that have always been reservists and have never done this as a full time job. I know what the higher ups expect from us now versus our once a month drill and can help the younger soldiers stay on track."
Mentoring young soldiers is very important, showing them what's right and leading them down the correct path, said Loughran. "Active duty experience, with all of the knowledge you get from it, definitely helps. You mentor soldiers and sometimes don't even realize it because it's stuff that you do naturally on active duty." Setting the example and looking right is always important for someone leading soldiers.
Compared to the other deployments Loughran has been on, this one is pretty nice. "It's pretty laid back and the stress level is definitely down," he said. "The foods decent and there's lots of MWR activities, there's enough to keep your mind of things like missing your family. I spend most of my free time at the gym, going to the movies, or playing poker at the MWR."
Staying in touch with families has also gotten much easier since Loughran's earlier deployments. "Back in the 90's we had sat-com phones that you weren't supposed to use, but if you had guard duty and were near the phone you could get a call out," he said. "But letter mail was pretty much the only form of communication back then." With so many options now like wireless Internet, phones devices for computers and regular phones it's easy to stay in touch.
With all of the amenities, activities and contact with home the transition when returning should be much easier, said Loughran. "You're up to date with what's going on, you can keep up with current music, movies and other stuff like that," he said. "You're not so detached from the rest of the world. It keeps the transition when you get home easier."
"Overall, deploying with this unit makes me very well rounded," said Loughran, who is currently in his junior year as a mechanical engineering student at Buffalo State, State University of New York. "I can do just about anything from logistics to infantry to aviation. Having so many MOSs and being in units from the line level to the command level gives me a lot of opportunities. It can open a lot of doors."