Well, well, well, I have ended up on another one of those all expense paid trips courtesy of Uncle Sam. (Awe-some!) This adventure all began September 2008 in Morrisville, NC and upon my arrival in Baghdad, it is STILL amazing me, and it’s early yet. You see, once we got started on this deployment, I was chosen to do a job that has certainly taken me OUT of my comfort zone. I have often been told that if doing a certain job doesn’t make your stomach turn in knots, then it’s not really worth doing at all. Well, now I can honestly say that I have experienced that feeling first hand for the first time in a long time! Normally I would be working in Flight Operations doing what I do best which is tracking aircraft and flight crews but NO! Not this time! I hear a voice say to me somewhere along the way, “SGT Fortune, you have been selected to be the Colonel’s Executive Assistant.” (Whoa! I hope and pray that I don’t disappoint! And I emphasize the pray part.) Of course, in good old Army tradition I got a “bonus!” It turns out that not only do I work for the Colonel, but I also got myself two Lieutenant Colonels and one Command Sergeant Major! (All of whom are wonderful to work for.) It certainly isn’t a bad thing, just a tad overwhelming at first. (That military rank can get pretty “heavy” when it’s staring you back in the face ya’ know…) Now, I would not describe myself as being a “people” person but if I ever needed to be one, now would be the time. So far, this experience has really shown me that I can bend like “Gumby” and “adjust fire”; however and whenever necessary, and yes, be a “people” person…no chance for boredom here! My days consist of scheduling appointments for all of the above mentioned leaders, VTCs, (Video Tele-Conferences), moving necessary paperwork through the Chain of Command and then, by golly, the phone rings and what comes out of the blue? A what?! A who?? A visit from the General! ?? Whew! I have to follow Protocol (all the do’s and don’ts) and make sure that all things, as well as people are in order for this VIP visit. It can be quite a rush, other times it can be quite intimidating, but in the end, things always come together, because we all work as a team to make it happen.
Now talk about being out of your comfort zone. Never in a million years would I have expected to EVER have to, or NEED to use a pressure washer, discover the difference between drill bits for masonry and drill bits for wood, and squeeze a little bit of “graffiti” in there somewhere as well. (The Command Section needs a sign to know where they are supposed to park….). If anything, I will be of better use to my husband, who I would like to mention is also here with me, by being more “handy” around the house.
With this deployment just getting off to a blazing start, I have discovered that there isn’t a whole lot that I can’t do. In the end, I am just thankful that I am privileged enough to be a small spoke in this big wheel that we call the Army. Holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s have already come and gone here for us, but if I am not able to be at home to celebrate them with my “blood” relatives, then I will be thankful that I was able to share the holidays with my military family. I am here for a reason, it’s not for me to question why I am here, but how I can take my small contribution and make life better for someone else.
Sgt. Audra Fortune, a flight operations specialist with Task Force 449 Aviation Brigade, is deployed to Baghdad, Iraq and currently works as an executive assistant for the Brigade Commander and his senior staff. Once her tour is complete, she will return home to working in flight operations.
Sgt. Audra Fortune and husband, CW5 Richard Fortune, both residents of Kinston, N.C., are currently assigned to Task Force 449 Aviation Brigade and deployed in Baghdad, Iraq. This North Carolina Army National Guard couple is on their second deployment and will return home next fall.