Wednesday, August 6, 2008

5 Things You May Not Know About Deployments

There's less than 2 weeks to go here for eMOM's Operation Soldier Care, and the internet is buzzing about it so, Nancy and I thought some quick facts on what it's like for the average service member in Iraq or Afghanastan might be in order.

Nancy and I both have husbands with military careers so we have first hand information on “a day in the life” of our military heroes. Nancy's husband, Alex, is a retired US Army officer and mine is currently serving. Here are the top five things that many people don’t know about military deployments:

1. Mail call is the highlight of the day for every service member deployed. The importance of that connection at home can not be understated. Sending cards, letters, and care packages mean more than you will ever know to our heroes overseas. (Even with email, nothing really beats the excitement of getting a package or a piece of mail you can hold!)

2. The climate is harsh and unpleasant. The average temperatures in Iraq range from higher than 48 degrees C (120 degrees Fahrenheit) in July and August to below freezing in January.

A majority of the rainfall occurs from December through April and is more abundant in the mountainous region and may reach 100 centimeters a year in some places. The summer months are marked by two kinds of wind phenomena: The sharqi and the shamal. The southern and southeasterly sharqi, a dry, dusty wind with occasional gusts to eighty kilometers and hour, occurs from April to early June and again from late September through November. The shamal, a steady wind from the north and northwest, prevails from mid-June to mid-September. Very dry air which accompanies the shamal permits intensive sun heating of the land surface but also provides some cooling effect. Dust storms accompany these winds and may rise to heights of several thousand meters, causing hazardous flying conditions and closing airports for brief periods of time. Extremes of temperatures and humidity, coupled with the scarcity of water, will effect both men and equipment.

During dry season, clouds of dust caused by vehicle movement will increase detection capabilities in desert regions. Flash flooding in wadis and across roads will hinder traffic ability and supply efforts during the rainy season. Clear, cloudless skies make air superiority a prerequisite to successful offensive operations throughout Iraq. Air operations may be reduced during windy season.

The Iraqi climate is similar to that of the extreme southwestern United States with hot, dry summers, cold winters, and a pleasant spring and fall. Roughly 90% of the annual rainfall occurs between November and April, most of it in the winter months from December through March. The remaining six months, particularly the hottest ones of June, July, and August, at approximately 102 degrees F are dry. The influence of the Persian Gulf on the climate of Iraq is very limited. Near the gulf the relative humidity is higher than in other parts of the country.

3. Personal hygene and comfort items are in limited supply and not affordable for many soldiers. Imagine that you are camping in the desert. What would you take with you? Those items that you use every day are not in the backpack of the average service member overseas.

4. Many service members are having back to back deployments. Even reservists are frequently called up for several tours in a row, taking them away from their civilian jobs and families. (although employers are required to keep a position open while a service member is deployed, career advancement is often jeopardized by time away from the job.

5. Every day is like “Groundhog Day“. If you have ever seen that movie where the main character keeps waking up to the same day, that is what it is like for many service members. One difference being that each day is one day closer to their trip home.

Nancy Sutherland teamed up with eMail Our Military for the Operation Soldier Care project to provide comfort items to our troops. She's matching each donation dollar for dollar to have the maximum impact on the number of care packages that we send to our troops. You can make a difference today. Either pitch in any dollar amount you're comfortable with using the ChipIn widget on our blog or order directly on Nancy's website and put Operation Soldier Care in the comments section. Your gift will then be sent directly to our deployed service members.

You can see photos of some of the packages on our flickr account.

We look forward to your participation and sharing photos and letters from our troops once this project is complete.

eMail Our Military (eMOM) post signature

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