How I Learned To Embrace The Fear Associated With Back-To-Back Deployments

Chief (select) Personnel Specialist Doris Koch mans the rails on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis as the ship gets underway. John C. Stennis returned to the U.S. 7th and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility four months ahead of schedule in order to maintain combatant commander requirements for the presence in the region.
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

“Are you sitting down?” asked the voice on the other end of the line. It was twilight on a week night. I was waiting in line at a new hipster restaurant, a Joyce Johnson novel in the other hand. I had been looking forward to enjoying a pleasant solo evening.

“No, I’m out. Let me step outside.”

“I’m afraid I have bad news,” based on his words and tone, I thought he was about to tell me someone close to me was dead, “You’re surging.”

I couldn’t breathe. Where I was going was irrelevant. I’d been home less than a month. You could have told me I was going back to the relatively first-world experience of my last deployment and I would have had the same reaction.

“How did this happen? What?” I could barely form words. He was apologizing, but there was no answer to be had. I hurried the few blocks home to panic in private.

“Involuntary surge” are two words that a service member who has just returned from deployment never wants to hear — not even those of us who have permanently itchy feet. I have deployed on two hours notice before, but that was voluntary, and I had been home for a while; this time around, I was just starting to recall the rhythm of daily life at home. I had just started to remember where I kept most of my kitchen appliances.

Surging typically refers to when a service member returns from deployment, and then is sent right back out again because, technically, he or she is still ready to deploy. Aircraft carriers have been some of the worst sufferers of this fate. In early 2012, the USS John C. Stennis returned from a seven-month deployment to the Middle East, only leave again less than four months later. A friend joked, “Well, the second time, it was like reading all the same emails in reverse.”

I sat on my couch staring at the walls. All I could think was, "I can't do this. I'm the wrong person for this. I'm not ready. I can't do this, my people deserve a better leader." I had never panicked about anything in the military — and like everyone, I have had my fair share of feverish situations.

Picking up and leaving should seem simple for me: I’m not married. I live alone. I don’t even have a dog anymore.

My fear was not about our mission. It was about the fact that when you deploy in a short-fused circumstance, you have to shut yourself off, kill all emotion and the parts of yourself that make you fundamentally you. You put all your relationships on hold. You forget to feel. When you turn yourself back on, everything is far worse than it was before because it has been festering on a shelf in the back of your mind. I have already gone through this; recently, in fact.

I spoke to some trusted military friends. I feared being called weak. The reaction was the opposite. Instead, it was an understanding pause and empathetic, “I know exactly how you feel.” I was relieved that it wasn’t just me.

Of course, I knew that if I was needed, I was going. I joined to serve and that means never walking away, especially when your buddies are still there.

As I waited to find out when and where from I was leaving again, a friend reminded me that the trepidation I felt was like that felt standing at a starting block, hearing beeps counting down before starting a race: Your heart races, you forget to breathe, you forget where your arms and legs are. But the second the gun or whistle sounds, you feel every muscle in your body, propelling yourself forward with all your strength.

“Enjoy the fear,” he said.

In the end, once I had reluctantly accepted that I might be leaving again, I found out I was no longer needed. Untethered, I could breathe easily again. Over beers of relief, a fellow officer pointed out that I was back to being in the infinity pool of my life: no deployment on the horizon. Looking at it was a beautiful, unimpeded vista of the water and horizon, with a cliff’s edge to fall off somewhere when the currently unforeseen call to deploy comes once again.

So, so for now, I’ll enjoy the view.

Anna Granville is a Naval officer. She lives in California.


In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."

A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.

In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.

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Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.

In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.

A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.

The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.

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Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Verizon committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. Verizon is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn More.

Verizon values leadership, motivation, self-discipline, and hard work — all characteristics that veterans bring to the table. Sometimes, however, veterans struggle with the transition back into the civilian workplace. They may need guidance on interview skills and resume writing, for example.

By participating in the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program and developing internal programs to help veterans find their place, Verizon continues its support of the military community and produces exceptional leaders.

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State's media network on Monday issued an audio message purporting to come from its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi saying operations were taking place daily and urging freedom for women jailed in Iraq and Syria over their alleged links to the group.

"Daily operations are underway on different fronts," he said in the 30-minute tape published by the Al Furqan network, in what would be his first message since April. He cited several regions such as Mali and the Levant but gave no dates.

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(DoD photo)

A U.S. service member was killed in Afghanistan on Monday, defense officials have announced.

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