I work as a Network Operations Center technician for Intelsat General, which is based in the Intelsat Secure Operations Center (ISOC) at Ellenwood, Ga. I also serve in the Air National Guard at Dobbins ARB in Marietta, Ga. as a Cyber Transport Technician or Network Support Technician. Currently, I am deployed in Afghanistan for a six month tour, which has been a true learning experience.
The terrain and weather in Afghanistan are truly fascinating. We are surrounded by mountains that tower above us, disappearing into the sky and seemingly going on for miles. The landscape is barren, devoid of all trees and covered in rocks and dirt. The weather has also been interesting. During the summertime, we are dealing with heat that can reach well over 100 degrees during the day and plummet down to 40 degrees at night. The wind often throws us a curve ball, literally, as a football thrown through the air can turn 90 degrees in a single gust.
While the weather and terrain have been fascinating experiences, the locals and their culture are an eye-opener. Locals working on the base provide services such as serving food, doing laundry and many more. Some locals were nice and friendly, while others would stare and not speak; I suppose you could find that anywhere, actually. My knowledge of the local language is limited, but I know enough key words to grasp basic concepts. We are well-trained to “read” the local Afghan population by more than just their language. Their gestures and facial nuances can help us discern between those that want to help us, and those that want to do us harm.
My overall experience so far has been great and has made me realize how much of my life back in the States I take for granted. It makes me very thankful for what I have and gives me motivation to live life to the fullest.
My job consists of managing and installing the computer network for the entire military base here in Afghanistan. When I arrived we worked 12 hour days to get the network up and running as quickly as possible. I benefitted from meeting and interacting with our customers as well as learning about their jobs and responsibilities. In order to help them better accomplish their missions, we made ourselves available to provide any additional assistance they needed – that’s one of the lessons you learn when you’re far from home – the relationship between customers and vendors can turn into something akin to a partnership. You really have to depend on each other – it’s not like you can run out and find someone else to help at the drop of a hat!
Additionally, I gained great skills through on-the-spot troubleshooting and equipment installation that will help me further my civilian career. I learned a lot from my coworkers and fellow military members. I can truly say this opportunity will help boost my performance at Intelsat by applying the values, skills and techniques I have learned here in Afghanistan.