(After being asked to consider a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Curtis M. Smith, a special assistant to the executive director, Army Contracting Command, volunteered to tell his story for others. Over the next few months we will help tell Curtis’ story here.)

Pre pre-deployment

After goodbyes and farewells to coworkers on April 1, Smith left the office and started mentally preparing for what lay ahead. Knowing he would be gone for a while, Smith did what most do prior to the start of a deployment; he spent the time with family members and friends.

Of course no one was thrilled with the idea, but they have come to expect his moving around every 12 to 15 months. Smith is always willing to raise my hand to go where the Army or the Department of Defense needs his skill set. .

Prior to the start of his journey to Afghanistan, Smith committed to two weeks of intense preparation during a Department of Defense civilian expeditionary workforce pre-mobilization period in southern Indiana. Immersed in his living and working conditions at a make-shift Forward Operating Base and working 12-hour days, Smith spent the whole time thinking to himself that this would be the easy part.

“The most intriguing parts of that time were the role-playing vignettes where we interacted with native Afghans and Iraqis, endured enemy attacks and being rushed to safety by our security detail. That was week one of preparation.”

“Week two was a bit slower as it was all about being cleared to deploy, making sure all the paperwork and medical related stuff was complete. The Army is very stringent about making sure folks are good to go. Even though I had two weeks to prepare for my April 3 departure to Camp Atterbury, Ind., I’m glad I was able to complete all my training and required admin and medical paperwork ahead of time. I was able to breeze through all the processing stations pretty quickly. I think I was the first to finish the complete process without any delays.”

Time to Leave

“The trip starts tonight, April 15, with a flight from Indiana to Virginia, and then on to Germany. From there it’s to Kuwait, and finally to Afghanistan. I should be in Kabul sometime on the 17th, depending on how long it takes to get out of Kuwait on MILAIR (military air transportation).

“A group of about 50 of us, civilians and contractors, were dropped off at the Indianapolis International Airport. A handful was returning home for a couple weeks before deploying, but the rest of us were headed to South West Asia…Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
“Those of us, who did not have immediate flights, gathered in the USO Center…very relaxing and peaceful accommodations. I got comfortable in one of the nice soft leather chairs and watched a “House, M.D.” marathon on television…cool. The others napped, talked with each other, got online, or just relaxed."

On the Way

”As our group thinned out, there were two left…a fellow CEW classmate Bruce and myself…he and I had the same flight itinerary…having a “battle buddy” is cool when your travel plans have you traversing the globe and touching three continents. Without knowing it, we had seats near each other for our commercial flights. I have to say though; seating in row 40 from Virginia to Germany was not very comfortable, even with an aisle seat. The Germany to Kuwait flight was much better…Bruce and I ended up in business class, which was pretty cool.

“We arrived at the Kuwait International Airport, cleared customs, and were met by two plain-clothes U.S. soldiers informing us of the travel plans to the U.S. military airbase. We had several hours before the next transport vehicle arrived, so Bruce and I sat in the food court…Bruce got on-line…I just peopled watched for three hours.

“When we left the airport and arrived at our destination, we met up with a fellow CEW classmate, Sydna, who had arrived twelve hours earlier. Sydna kept getting bumped off MILAIR flights because of other priorities…troop movement and R&R;(rest and relaxation) travelers. Besides the priority list, we discovered that rank matters at this point. The soldiers and contractors running the transportation system recognize the general services civilian pay system…the National Security Personnel System (YA/YC etc.) does not register with them. I have the travel rank equivalent to a colonel, which afforded me a little extra attention as I traveled MILAIR from Kuwait to Afghanistan.

“Once in Afghanistan, Bruce said he believes Bagram Air Base is his final destination. He was getting conflicting information from his sponsoring organization. After about eight hours, Sydna and I finally boarded a MILAIR flight to Kabul.

In Theater

The journey that started in Indiana, April 16 at 7:30 p.m. ended in Kabul, April 18 at about 12:18 p.m. The only drawback on the journey was the effects of the smallpox vaccination. I was told that I would experience flu-like symptoms a few days before reaching my final destination and that was an accurate assessment.”

“My first day at the worksite was a quick reminder that I am in a war zone. As the security team traveled to pick me up at the airport, several suicide bombers attacked a location not too far from work, which in turn raised the security level and put my worksite in lockdown mode. Talk about a first-day impression.