All good things must come to an end — including deployments. While getting out-of-country is the only goal, troops have a checklist of tasks that must be completed before they're finally allowed to reunite with their families back home.
No one likes doing any of these tasks, especially when they're already checked-out mentally.
6. Training up your replacements.
Meeting the new unit that comes in-country is the first sign that your deployment is almost over.
Getting people who are busy preparing for departure to teach the newbies that are completely lost is never an easy task, but hey, that's the military.
5. Cleaning gear
In the Ancient Greek legend of Sisyphus, the protagonist is cursed with the never-ending task of rolling a boulder up a mountain just for it to roll down the hill when he nears the top.
This is much like the never-ending struggle of troops trying to sweep all of the dirt out of the motor pool in the desert. Sweep as you might, it'll never end. It'll get just good enough for inspection until it's time to finally get out of country.
4. Sending gear back stateside
All of the troubles of selecting what you need and don't need happens all over again — but in reverse. You'll be putting gear away that you won't see for a few months. It's a fine idea for the extra parts of your sleeping system, but people who bring or buy video game consoles while deployed now have to worry about bringing it back home.
Of course, if you really wanted to make things easier (and you have the money for it), you could always use the postal service to send a tough box or two with your useful stuff.
Traveling through customs in the civilian world is a cinch. Flash your passport, fill out a form, and don't bring anything that'll set off any alarms.
Did you know that gunpowder residue trips U.S. Customs' sensors? Damn near every combat arms troop does, too — all of our gear is covered in gunpowder residue. Even though we're carrying our weapons with us, they'll still look at you funny for that gunpowder residue.
2. The flight
It's like being a kid on Christmas Eve again. Just a few more hours and you get what you want. You know you should probably catch some sleep on the plane but your blood is pumping too much.
All of the "whatever amount of days and a wake-up" are now in hours. Minutes. Seconds. You watch the GPS tracker on the plane more than the actual in-flight movies. The anxiety builds; landing can't come soon enough.
1. That. Last. Formation. Before. Freedom.
Quick show of hands: Out of the countless times commanders have given a passionate speech to the friends and families of returning troops, how many are remembered by the troops?
Those months kind of fly by, but the last speech — you know, the one that starts with, "these fine gentlemen before you..." — goes in one ear and out the other. The only thing troops are focusing on is if they can find their loved ones in the crowd.