Joint Base Charleston


Airman provides insight into 6-month tour in Afghanistan

By Senior Airman Dani Shea | 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs | August 18, 2010

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- On Nov. 7, 2009, Tech. Sgt. Joseph Varney, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Constructing Flight within the 628th Contracting Squadron here at Joint Base Charleston, said goodbye to his wife and their two children, packed his mobility bag and boarded a jet for a six-month deployment to the Middle East.

The Holbrook, Mass., native entered the Air Force in 1996 and although he and his family have endured two previous deployments, this was his first trip to the area of responsibility of Afghanistan.

"The squadron was confident in the ability of Sergeant Varney to successfully execute his mission requirements once deployed," said Master Sgt. Harrelson, 628 CS superintendents. "He displays classic military professionalism. He's continually observant of the needs of the members within his flight and the squadron, taking direct action or advising leadership when issues warrant. Sergeant Varney is viewed as one of our squadron's leading technical sergeants."

Because the career field is so critical and it's also critically manned, members in the contracting field deploy with a one-to-one dwell time.

"That means that if we are gone for six months then there is a possibility that we could only be back for six before being sent back out again," Sergeant Varney explained.

While deployed, Sergeant Varney served as a services contracting officer.

"I was responsible for the whole lifecycle of services contracting," said Sergeant Varney. "I worked with the local Afghanis to procure non-tactical vehicles, heavy equipment leases for reconstruction on the base and new construction on the base. I also handled basic service contracts, like janitorial services and dining facility attendant services, things like that."

During his deployment, he had the opportunity to travel "outside the wire" on two separate occasions for necessary contracting training.

"We did some training at a forward operating base about two hours north of where I was stationed so we had to take a convoy with a military police company," said Sergeant Varney.

Although, the environment can be stressful, Sergeant Varney explained that "you get used to it."

"There were times when I was a bit concerned," said Sergeant Varney. "We had a lot of rocket attacks on the base while I was over there - a couple that weren't that far away from where we were, so it rattles you a little bit. But after a while, you just shake it off and go on about your business. Eventually, you just get a bit numb to it."

Deploying for 193 days with no days off, Sergeant Varney often found himself working from sunup until well after sundown. However, he gratefully accepted the trade-off of having such a busy schedule because it helped him not think about what he was missing back home.

"I would go through phases where I wouldn't think about it a whole lot because I was just so engrossed in work," said Sergeant Varney. "But then when I was lying in my bed at night and I'd finally have a chance to slow down it was pretty difficult, especially when you have little ones at home who don't really understand why you're gone. I missed a bunch of stuff being away during the holidays but I guess that's why you have pictures."

Although the whole Varney family endured the hardship of the six-month separation, Sergeant Varney is proud of his part in the mission in Afghanistan and has commented to his supervisors on how this deployment opened his eyes on the roll contracting fulfills both deployed and at home station.

"Seeing how the military is helping the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country - pumping money into their economy, helping them rebuild their infrastructure, their banking systems - seeing that and getting to interact with the locals was so rewarding for me," said Sergeant Varney.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Varney returned home to his family here in Charleston, S.C., and his unit at the 628 CS in May of this year with six months of valuable experience in Afghanistan under his belt, pride in the work he accomplished while over there as well as a Joint Service Commendation Medal and a Joint Service Achievement Medal.

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