Today I returned to Camp Lejeune, for the first time in nearly a decade. It has not changed much since I was last here, and I found some reassurance in the continuity that is Jacksonville, North Carolina and the Marine Corps Base that makes Jacksonville possible.
I am excited beyond words to be back on active duty, to be here at Camp Lejeune, and to be deploying – with a unit – to Afghanistan. For my non-Marine friends who might not understand the significance of deploying with a unit (with whom else would one go, presumably?), please allow me a short explanation.
Many of my fellow Marines have deployed as “individual augments” (IA) to Iraq and Afghanistan. They join a unit already in theater, usually a unit that had trained together in the U.S. and deployed together. Often, these IAs felt slightly disconnected from the other Marines in their unit. There is a camaraderie established during training and a bonding that takes place over weeks and months that cannot be easily duplicated once the unit is in theater.
So you see, I am getting the relatively rare opportunity for a reserve Marine to join a unit prior to deploying. This is so much more exciting, even if I only have 6 weeks with the unit before we deploy.
Back to the main topic – I had the notion to use this blog as an experiment. I’d like to record my experiences during this deployment, and share them with my friends who might be interested in hearing about them.
So this is my first post. Waking this morning, I felt a new chapter in my life was beginning. Checking in at the airport, I received a warm welcome everywhere I went. The TSA representative even allowed me to skip to the front of the line and hustled me through security!
I happily settled down with my coffee and a magazine, and reflected on the last chapter of my life, the current transition, and where I might go next. This was a good time to think – after the chaos of packing up, leaving D.C. and before the madness of deployment preparations begins.
The flights were easy and quick. Before I knew it, I was in North Carolina.
I have visited the unit very briefly, gotten to meet most of the staff and already feel at home. I am now settled into the also stereotypically mediocre lodging facilities aboard base, and gotten myself unpacked and prepared for my several week stay. Tomorrow, I acquire a rental car (for at least a few days) and freedom. I am anxious to get a better understanding of our mission, the Marines we have onboard and the plan for training and deployment.