Where others have gone before

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
I stared at the rain streaming down the outside of my dormitory window at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center campus on Nov. 11. It was barely getting to be light outside as the early morning stirrings of all of us in the Combat Airman Skills Training Course were getting ready for another long day of training.

This day, which also happens to be Veteran's Day, is the eighth day of combat skills training for the more than 250 Airmen I'm in class with.

Throughout the course, we've been trained in all sorts of important skills -- including patrolling, convoy operations, M-16 marksmanship, military operations in urban terrain, and more. All the while, these Airmen I've come to know pretty well in such a short time, are doing this training with a positive attitude. I had to wonder why we have all been so positive, but I wasn't surprised.

For some Airmen in our class, myself included, the deployment we'll see soon after we leave training won't be our first. Some of us will be going to familiar places we've seen before and others who are deploying for the first time will experience what it means to be in a war zone. We'll be doing something others have done before.

Trudging through combat skills training is also nothing short of hard work. You have days when you reach a peak of exhaustion that you could also feel when you're deployed. In one of our days of training, I thought about all the past military members who had experienced this same sort of training on their way to a deployment for a war effort. I thought about the millions of military veterans who had already done this.

Our location for our combat skills training, formerly known as Fort Dix, has a long history of preparing military members for combat operations. According to Fort Dix history, construction began in June 1917, and on July 18 the War Department named the cantonment Camp Dix. During World War I, Camp Dix was a training and staging ground for the U.S. Army's 78th, 87th and 34th Divisions. Camp Dix grew quickly and became the largest military reservation in the Northeast United States. Following the World War I armistice, the camp became a demobilization center.

In March 1939, Camp Dix became Fort Dix as the installation became a permanent Army post. Fort Dix served as a reception and training center for men inducted under the draft of 1939. "Ten divisions and many smaller units trained and staged at the post before entering the battlefields of World War II."

After World War II, the post has continued to be a key location in getting military members prepared for military and deployment life through the Vietnam War era right up through today where military members are trained for Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Going back to the rain on my window, I couldn't help but think about all those people who were experiencing the same things I was. I couldn't help but think that the greatest way to honor all those veterans was just to be among themĀ -- to do my part and serve my country either at home or on deployment. After all, isn't that what Veteran's Day is all about?

I know there are many military members who, like me, trained at Fort Dix; however, some never made it home from the war they eventually went to fight. I know they left the base's gates with the confidence they were going to do their best at their deployed location and I think that explains the positive attitude of my fellow Airmen in my class.

I think we all believe it is our duty to do our best simply because of all the people who have gone through this kind of training before us. We must do our best to honor their memory and their hard work and sacrifice.

It's commonly said among veterans that "freedom isn't free." That is very true. Freedom is attained and preserved by those combat skills trained veterans of our past and present and many others.

When my training ends, and when my deployment ends, I'll go on remembering that I have done my job. I'll remember how important my freedom is because of what others have done.

As Veterans Day 2009 moves on, I encourage each and everyone to remember that same thing - we have what we have because of where others have gone before.