News Stories

Life during deployment to Afghanistan

Published Feb. 20, 2008

   This coming May April Ward will have been deployed to Afghanistan for a year.  She’s experienced every aspect of deployment, and during a brief visit to the Wilmington District while on leave, she updated her friends and colleagues about her travels, her job, working for the Army and what it’s like being under enemy fire.  People who saw her noticed a change in her demeanor; she wasn’t the same shy person who struggled to strike up conversations with people she didn’t know. She presented herself as a confident, energetic and loyal team player who has learned more about herself, the Afghani people and the organization she’s helping support. 

     “I’ve learned a lot about the Army!” she said.  “Military construction is completely different from Civil Works.  With military construction you’re not in the Army, but they treat you like you’re in the Army.  You’re there to get a mission done.  Not a lot of room for complaining.  Projects get done in six months or less, where as it can take a longer in a District.” 

   Ward explained that life is very routine in her compound in Kabul where she works and lives.  However, the operations tempo is so fast that it’s hard to keep up with work.

   “There are days when things go pretty slow, but there’s so much to do that you never get your work done. People always ask me if I have 10 hours worth of work every day and I tell them yes.  You set your own hours, 64 hours a week.  Thursdays and Fridays are our weekends.”

   One thing that Ward wanted to do when she deployed was to learn another culture and get to know the people.  She had the perfect opportunity in her own office to break down a barrier and become an American ambassador. 

   “My assistant…at first I wouldn’t talk to her because I had perceptions of people from the third World.  But she looked at me and said ‘I’m not going to work with you if you don’t talk to me!’  So, now we’re the best of friends, more like sisters.  She’s from Kabul and she wants to visit the U.S. some day.” 

   Life during deployment is no cakewalk, but Ward said you have to balance the hardships with the benefits, the latter including her trips to Rome, Thailand, India and Dubai. 

   “There are attacks all over, but one incident was really close.  When it hit, our building shook and shingles and other stuff started coming off of it.  They told us when we took our training to not be complacent, so you’re always on the edge in the first month of deployment.  And when it happens you’re almost in shock…’Is this real?’  So, you’re getting on your ‘battle rattle’ which is your flak jacket and helmet, and you’re running to your bunker.  It’s nerve racking.”  

   Life during deployment means an intense work schedule, living on the edge on occasion, and being able to see the world and experience other cultures.  Ward has found a nice niche, and she won’t be coming home anytime soon.  She will be the new Afghanistan Engineering District Human Resources Manager starting in April, and she’s extend until August of next year.