My First Deployment Published Sept. 7, 2023 By Airman 1st Class Christian Silvera 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates -- The air was hot and muggy upon exiting the plane. Struggling to fully comprehend my surroundings due to lack of sleep on the airplane, I did my best to reciprocate the cheerful energy of the base leadership, who were all lined up on the flightline and greeting me with fistbumps. “Welcome, Airman,” “Glad to have you here!” and “Welcome to Al Dhafra Air Base,” they all said to me. I made my way onto a white bus, cramming myself between my bookbag and another passenger as I sat down, and waited for the bus to take me to my home for the next six months. Electronic dance music filled the air, drowning out any chatter. A mix of excitement and apprehension surged within me. The day had finally arrived – I was embarking on my first deployment. I was fairly aware of the subtleties of a deployment due to having both of my parents serve and deploy multiple times in their military careers. Frequently asking them questions about what to expect helped reduce some of the anxiety lingering in me. Additionally, being a relatively older Airman, and no stranger to a change of environment, mitigated the nervousness. My first week was dedicated to orienting myself, learning my duties, and figuring out a daily routine. Settling in came with its own set of challenges, however. Organizing my own items in my room the way I wanted to was difficult because I shared a room with two other people. Furthermore, every time I stepped outside, the blistering heat led to profuse sweating, leaving me perpetually uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I was still grateful! I had a place to lay my head at night, and all of the resources I needed on base were within walking distance. Learning my job, force protection, went smoother than anticipated. A wingman and I would follow behind a van consisting of two other country nationals (OCNs) where we would make periodic stops so they could clean the bathrooms across the base. While the thought of driving all over base, an area that was new to me, was a bit unsettling, I trusted my driving skills enough to push through my discomfort. After about a week, I was confident I had learned the job. I did not mind the work, in fact I looked forward to doing it most days. My schedule was flexible, as some days I would go in at 5 a.m. and others I would go in at 11 a.m. for shift changeover. Although I didn't work the same hours or shifts every day, I appreciated the variety it brought to the job. After feeling comfortable with my deployment duties, I began devoting more of my time to working with the public affairs office, my actual job in the Air Force. While force protection was a nice change of pace for me, I wanted to challenge myself and take my public affairs skills to the next level. I was able to hone my skills in different realms of the public affairs field and gain valuable new ones. Along with improving my work skills, I had a strong desire to improve my physical fitness. The brutal heat made most days difficult since I mostly do running workouts on the track. After about 2 months, I would not say I got used to the weather, but more so, I was able to deal with it better by hydrating properly and choosing to do my workouts later in the day when it was cooler out. From 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., I would work for force protection. I would then work at public affairs until 5 p.m. Following that, I would go running or go to the gym. That was my daily routine on deployment. Even though some days seemed longer and less eventful than others, my consistent routine provided a sense of predictability and comfort. Deployment has helped me grow personally and professionally. I have accomplished many goals that I set out in the beginning to include getting into better shape, learning healthier habits and improving my capabilities in public affairs. Reflecting back, I can confidently say that my deployment was a valuable experience. While there were ups and downs along the way, I am leaving with a greater sense of self and improved skills compared to when I first started.