AL ASAD AIRBASE, Iraq -- In the past decade, more than a thousand troops have returned from Iraq, with many more still to come. I am one of them. Many Soldiers have even made this trip multiple times, but for me, I was making the trip for the first time. Unlike the several-month long tours many complete, my trip was short, lasting only a few days.
As a public affairs noncommissioned officer, it is my job to tell the story, our story. This week the story was about Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.
It was a cold early morning in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. It was time to wake up. The sound of the alarm clock was all I could hear after a long night of packing for my first trip to Iraq. I was nervous and filled with uncertainty. But at the same time, I was excited to experience something new.
I joined the 1-6 Inf. commander, Lt. Col. Jason Kniffen, 1-6 Inf. Command Sgt. Maj George Elsaesser, Battalion Chaplain Maj. Taiwo Arowosegbe, 1st Sgt, Jared Heisler, Headquarters and Headquarters Company first sergeant and Spc. Josh Shewell, the battalion human resource specialist as we headed to the airfield.
The time to go was approaching fast. As we arrive at the airfield, Elsaesser said "Staff Sgt. Diaz, have you ever flown on a C-130 before?"
Did I mention that I hate flying? Perhaps that was not the moment for me to think about that. "No, command sergeant major," I replied.
Fortunately, I was traveling with the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. In my mind, who better than the infantrymen to take care of me?
There is nothing more rewarding than to be able to see the hard work and dedication of our Soldiers, and that was the reason for our visit.
"Regulars" Soldiers are forward to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Working with the U.S. Marines and partners from several othernations, the infantrymen from 1-6 Inf. provide fixed site security and a quick reaction force for the area and their mission is vital to the success of the operation.
As we land in Al Asad, Iraq, I really didn't know what to expect. It was time to in-process. I was still trying to process the thought of being in Iraq, thousands of miles away from home.
"Can we please get everyone's ID?" I heard. I knew I had my ID minutes prior. In that instant I couldn't find it. Lt. Col. Kniffen looked at me waiting for me to provide it. In my head I thought, "I am definitely in trouble and I just got here!" After a short disparity, I was able to find it and settle in with everyone else.
"Western Iraq is a challenging environment to operate in and I was impressed at how resilient the Soldiers and leadership in Bushmaster Company are," said Elsaesser. "Their ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment is remarkable and I am proud of all of them," he added.
As the days went by I realized that it was actually a good place to be. Al Asad Air Base has a 24-hour fitness center and the United Service Organization. The USO was one of my favorite places to be. There, I could sit with the 1-6 Inf. Soldiers as we interacted and shared stories.
Seeing the hard work, dedication and drive the Soldiers had every day -- with smiles on their faces - definitely makes my job worth it. They were welcoming and made it easier for me to tell their story.
After being in the military for nine years, I have to say that my first experience in Iraq was amazing. I have had the opportunity to work with amazing people who I can trust and always made me feel at home. The strength of a family, like the strength of an Army, is in its loyalty to each other. That is exactly how the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment made me feel.