As the former coordinator for the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center's Greening Program, Sgt. Michael R. Tumminelli used his military experiences to help civilian employees understand what it's like to be a Soldier. Now he's taking a "refresher course" with Task Force Phoenix in Herat, Afghanistan.

Stationed at Camp Stone, Tumminelli is part of Provincial Police Mentor Team-Regional, which is helping train the Afghan National Police. This is his fourth tour overseas, having been deployed to the Middle East, South America and Southwest Asia. So far, he said, the combat zone has been a "typical" experience.

"Long days are the norm here, but overall, it is an eye opening experience that I will carry with me for a long time," Tumminelli said.

In some ways, Afghanistan is a more difficult environment to operate in than Iraq: for example, it takes longer to accomplish missions because of the terrain and weather, Tumminell said.

"It has been snowing here for three days straight! We are in very remote areas which do not always allow the Soldier to have the luxuries like running water, internet and easy re-supply, but we make it happen," he said.

That's why it's so important to have dependable equipment, and Tumminelli is glad to report that the Soldiers appreciate the durable batteries, radios and tracking systems developed by CERDEC.

"Soldier feedback is typically positive," Tumminelli said. "The Soldiers really appreciate the work of DoD civilians. They understand their difficult missions and how much they are doing for the war effort."

However, he said the key to maintaining this successful partnership is mutual understanding. Tumminelli recommends that civilian personnel participate in greening courses so they can better understand the fundamentals of the Soldier's life. Likewise, he suggests that Soldiers can benefit from learning how the civilian workforce operates. Tumminelli said his work at CERDEC helped him improve his patience and problem solving skills.

"I have a different perspective on things, a new maturity that could only be gained while being employed by the DoD," Tumminelli said. "If we can close that gap, both parties will benefit and a mutual respect will continue to grow," Tumminelli said.

Being away from home in a stressful, uncomfortable environment is difficult, but Tumminelli is able to enjoy some personal time: he decompresses from missions by reading, sending e-mails to loved ones and working out. He also remains strong by reminiscing of good times with the friends and family who will be waiting for him upon his return.

"Most of all, I miss the important someone in my life," he said. "She knows who she is."

Upon his return, Tumminelli plans to leave the National Guard and concentrate on his job for DoD as well as spending time with family and friends.

"I also think a vacation will be in order at some point. I would just like to get back to a normal life," he said.