Faces From the Front for December 20, 2010 - Spc. Melissa E. Townsend
Current Unit: E Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team
Current Position: Truck Driver
Component: Active Army
Current Location: FOB Sharana, Afghanistan
Hometown: Clarksville, Tenn.
Years of Service: 5
For the Army to succeed in Afghanistan, Soldiers at every contingency operating base (COB) and forward operating base (FOB) in the country must have access to all supplies necessary to complete their missions. Supplies range from weapons and ammunition to food and dishware. As a truck driver, Spc. Melissa E. Townsend is responsible for distributing these provisions throughout southeastern Afghanistan.
“My job as a truck driver is to provide convoy security, transport personnel and deliver supplies, food, and mail,” Townsend explained. “Essentially, we do all the things so that the guys out at the smaller bases can continue to do what they are doing, and don’t have to worry about the little things.”
When Townsend and her fellow Soldiers are out delivering goods, she is responsible for providing navigation for the other trucks in her unit and ensuring the safety of all Soldiers in the convoy by sweeping travelled areas for land mines.
“I am in a security truck, my vehicle leads the convoys out to the bases so it is important that we know the route and don’t get lost,” Townsend said.
In addition to knowing the capabilities of her vehicle and operating it properly on missions, Townsend is charged with maintaining her equipment and performing preventative maintenance checks and service.
As this is Townsend’s first deployment, she has learned a great deal during her time in Afghanistan.
“I had never deployed in my five years in the Army, and now that I have, I realize what I was missing from my Army career,” Townsend explained. “I’ve learned a lot about my job in general and have gained experience that I’d never gotten before.”
“I learned how to tie down loads and drive a mine roller, which I will be able to teach to other Soldiers when I am a leader and trainer in the future. I also was in an IED explosion, now I can prepare other Soldiers in my platoon how to react and what they might feel during and after an IED attack,” Townsend added.
Townsend attributes much of what she’s been able to learn throughout her tour to the Soldiers in her platoon and their dedication to teamwork and cooperation.
“There are a few differences among us including age, gender, experience level, and hometown,” Townsend explained. “We overcome these differences by talking to each other, expressing our feelings, and listening to one another’s suggestions and using them to get the job done.”
Townsend and her fellow Soldiers have had great success throughout their tour and know that they’ve made a difference in the lives of the Soldiers serving on the COBs and FOBs throughout southeastern Afghanistan. With that, Townsend has also experienced her share of challenges throughout this tour.
“I am a mother to three young boys who are amazing and are taking this deployment really well, but it has been extremely challenging to be away from my children,” Townsend said. “I try to talk to them as much as possible and send things home when I can.”
While she is deployed, Townsend has left her children in the care of her parents. Although she is able to call and speak to them using Skype, she thinks about them constantly and especially misses them during the holiday season.
“I love children, so when I go out and see all the kids here in Afghanistan I get teary-eyed from missing my own,” Townsend explained. “I was disappointed that I couldn’t see them enjoy family, food and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade this year, and missing my eight-month-old’s first Thanksgiving was really tough.”
Although Townsend must bear the pain of separation from her children, she knows that she’s contributing to something far bigger than herself and is proud of her Army service and deployment to Afghanistan.
Growing up, Townsend recognized how her father and three sisters benefited from Army service and always knew that she wanted to follow her family’s tradition of service to the United States.
“I come from a military family, my dad served for 31 years and I have three sisters who served and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well,” Townsend explained. “My decision to join the Army was definitely influenced by my family members, they all came out of the Army with great experience and got into great careers. The Army has been a part of my family my whole life and it has always provided us with what we need to sustain a lifestyle that is comfortable.”
Townsend will return to the U.S. next summer and looks forward spending time with her family and relaxing.