Team Jedi Episode 2: Combat Advisor Journal

Military transition group leader chronicles mission in Iraq

(Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a blog written by Maj. Merv Brott, a former Sulphur Springs resident leading a team that is training an Iraqi Army brigade. The team also includes Keven Connaughton, a 1995 Sulphur Springs High School graduate. All of Maj. Brott's posts, plus additional photos and information, can be found under the "Team Jedi" blog)

Episode 2: The journey begins

7 Aug 08, Kuwait City

August 11, 2008 - Even though this is my third deployment to Iraq, it really doesn't get any easier to say goodbye to my wife. We're a little better at it. We know that the departure day will come and that the best thing to do is enjoy the time we have and not worry about the dwindling days together.

The final days and hours, we catch ourselves saying, "Well, this is the last time we will do (fill in the blank) until we see each other again." The last few hours are the worst. Then comes the time when I get dropped off at the airport (or at the unit on post). I have found that it is best to say your goodbyes quickly and then go. Dragging it out only makes it worse. This time my wife Joy dropped me off at the airport, which meant a clean break at the curb. Was it hard? Yes. Were there tears? Yes -- but it was the best option.

My team was recalled back to Fort Riley on 1 Aug 2008. We didn't know the exact time of departure until we reported back, and then came the word. We had 24 hours. We were prepared; we knew it might be that quick of a turnaround after we came off leave after graduating from our training cycle.

There is something I love about the unstoppable nature of a synchronized deployment. You get this feeling that you had better be ready, because the plane is leaving and you will be on that plane. There is a sense of this massive rolling train just starting down the tracks, and this train is not going to stop (or able to stop) because you can't find your bag or whatever.

We spent our final 24 hours getting haircuts, buying small items for the deployment, and repacking our gear to our satisfaction. We staged all of our gear, dress-right-dress, in a small pyramid of duffle bags and a cube of rucksacks. At 2200 hours we moved out to the "Deployment Support Facility," a euphemism for a place that looks like a prison lockdown area, surrounded by concertina wire.

Once inside, we began our manifest. That is where we check one last time that everyone is there and we have all our equipment and documents. We then loaded up on buses with our gear and headed for the airfield. We don't have to worry about the TSA and going through screening (we wouldn't get far with each soldier carrying on multiple weapons). No, we drive right up on the tarmac, get off the bus and walk up the steps right into the airplane. Nice!

By the time we take off it is 0145 hours and we've been up for 18 hours. Now our trip begins. More than 20 hours later we land in Kuwait City, after short stops in Goose Bay, Newfoundland; Keflavik, Iceland; and Budapest, Hungary. Budapest was the only place that we were allowed off the plane.

After we download our own bags from the plane and secure all of our weapons and equipment, we get on another bus for a two-hour ride to our initial base.

Once we arrived here, we sat down for a couple hours of "Welcome to Kuwait" briefings. After that, we were given our tent assignment. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel! After another couple of hours of moving all our bags and equipment and settling into our cots, we were sleeping. Our 48-hour initial movement was over, and we all slept like rocks.

I am including an e-mail for anyone to write if they have questions about us or our mission. My fellow Sulphur Springs High School alumnus, SFC Kevin Connaughton, will be fielding your questions. His e-mail is:

kevin.j.connaughton@us.army.mil

Feel free to write him/us. We would be happy to answer your questions. Until next time, this is Jedi 6, out!

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