MISSION TO AFGHANISTAN: 12 time zones and no sleep

DUBAI - Crown jewel of the Gulf - Last year when landing in Bahrain and heading to the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to follow up on the training for Carrier Air Wing 9, I described the sand-colored buildings and skyscrapers as another Las Vegas. If Bahrain glittered at night, Dubai sparkles from its perch on a peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf.

After departing Reno early Friday, I have traveled through 12 time zones and will travel to another one upon arrival in Afghanistan.

Preparing to travel to a war zone is no small task; fortunately, it is less work to plan for one person than to execute a laundry list for a company or battalion-sized unit.

As a battalion S-1 or adjutant for Troop Command in the early 1990s, my staff, along with its counterparts at state headquarters, began the paperwork trail months before the 72nd Military Police Co., headed to Saudi Arabia in support of Desert Shield, later known as Desert Storm. The preparation for one person is just a microcosm of planning for 100 soldiers.

Transportation must be coordinated and planned months ahead of time. Arranging for a round-trip flight to meet the schedule of the two units of which I am visiting and also that of higher headquarters began in late June. Then, applying for a visa took a month for approval, especially since I was going to Afghanistan on business as a journalist.

The other logistical coordination between units and higher headquarters also took several months to finalize.

Then, there were the immunization and the additional time to become familiar with the 9mm pistol again and to be up-to-date on convoy security and OPSEC, or operational security.

Those who have deployed know the routine. Eventually, the pieces of the puzzle fall in order' it's a matter of when, not if.

Emotions among family are similar, whether the individual leaves for a three-week trip or a nine-month stay. Household affairs must be put in order, a will updated and provisions made for the unforeseen. As my daughter said, she feels sad that I decided to go to Afghanistan again, but she knows how much it means for me to tell the Army story from the soldiers actually performing their duties there. Something becomes lost in translation when soldiers return home. Their thoughts are on reuniting with family, not discussing their experiences.

Out from Dubai - arrival in Afghanistan on Veterans Day. I can't think of no better place to observe the day than with the servicemen and women who put their lives on the line 24/7.

• Steve Ranson is editor of the Lahontan Valley News and is headed to Afghanistan.


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