There’s nothing troops anticipate more than the chance to finally get to do what they’ve spent their entire career training for: deploying to a combat zone. Maybe you’re the gungho grunt who just can’t wait to embrace the suck. Maybe you’re the frightened POG who’s terrified of indirect fire sirens. Maybe you’re the salty NCO who’s ready to mark your fifth trip to the sandbox, realizing that each deployment feels more and more like a TDY trip than the last.
Nowhere is this wide array of emotions more on display than in the transient tents that house troops as they move between the States and the deployment. Regardless of how you’re feeling about the deployment, you’ll have to mark a few things off the checklist before you arrive.
Keep your gear ready to go at a moment’s notice
Number one rule about traveling in the military: Expect to be somewhere for weeks until, suddenly, you’re not. Your flight will be bumped back after you’ve been waiting for a few hours. You will have to endure more sleepless nights in that disgusting tent that no one ever cleans.
When your number finally comes, not even your chain of command will have a heads up. They’ll be just as lost as you are when they’re told their troops are on the manifest in thirty minutes.
Tell loved ones you have to go radio silent for a few weeks before deployment
Well, since you’ve got nothing important to do while your flight gets delayed for the sixth time (which, judging by your conversations with other deployed vets, is not out of the ordinary), you might as well call your family and tell them you love them.
The one thing you should probably let them know is that you won’t be able to speak to them until everything is set up at your final destination. This could happen immediately or it could take weeks. They should prepare for either case. On the bright side, this is also about the time that your commander should allow you to give out your future mailing address so loved ones can send care packages while you’re deployed.
Spoiler alert: Your address is always going to just be your name, your unit up to brigade level, APO, AE, and whatever zip code for the base.
Get that last bit of fast food before you go without for a while
As odd as this one sounds, you’re going to want to hit up that rip-off McDonald’s in Ali Al Salem Air Base. It’s going to taste like absolute garbage. Compared to a stateside Big Mac, it’s going to be stale, under-cooked, and a bit sour for some reason. But, funnily enough, that same burger is going to taste like Heaven when you come back from deployment 12 months later.
Think of it as a soft introduction to the type of food you’re going to have to eat for your entire employment. We hope you like spongy, mermite eggs.
Talk with the guys leaving where you’re going
The nice thing about transient barracks is that everyone, both coming and going, is bunked in the same tent. Some may have been in the serious sh*t while others were at a bigger, more comfortable air field. Since you both have absolutely nothing better to do, might as well pick their brains.
Take everything they say with a grain of salt — your deployment experience may differ. Even if you’re going to the exact same FOB, a lot could have happened between then and now, for better or worse. Still, it’s always nice to try and get a heads up.
Realize you forgot necessities and buy them off of outbound troops
It doesn’t matter if it’s you’re deployed for the first time or the fourth, you’re probably going to kick your own ass when you realize that you forgot something seemingly insignificant,like a power adapter.
Don’t sweat it. Everyone who’s in the tents and is headed back home is trying to pawn off all of their crap because they just don’t need it anymore after deployment. In fact, you could probably get it for free if you do a little sweet-talking.
Enjoy the last bit of nothingness you’ll experience for the rest of your deployment
This isn’t even a POG vs grunt thing. Everyone is going to be working their ass off while they’re deployed — there’s no getting out of that. Regardless of what your MOS is, don’t expect weekends or a 0900-1700 schedule. Those days are over.
So, screw it. Since you’re just sitting on the tarmac, waiting to leave: Relax. Take a load off. Enjoy the fact that the only thing you need to do while in transit for deployment is just being at the right place at the right time.