SD Guard Deployment - Home on Leave

Active Duty - 02/24/2010

By Jim Kent
In these days of internet dating and long distance romance, meeting someone face-to-face for the first time who you've communicated with for months has become more common. So, what's it like meeting someone you've known for years but have only communicated with by e-mail and phone for 10 months? We visit with Brett Anderson on his last day of leave from duty in Kuwait to see what it was like reuniting with his wife and kids - and how he feels about going back.

Brett and Michelle Anderson sip coffee at one of their favorite Rapid City spots.

Chief Warrant Officer Brett Anderson chooses the brew of the day - Guatemala Blend.

"Nothing like that in Kuwait?," asks Jim Kent. "Uh, the coffee they have comes out of the 50 gallon....or 25 gallon spigots," says Anderson, "So, yeah, not this." "So, is this something you missed," Kent asks. "Oh, yeah," says Anderson. "It's nice to sit here and have a cup of coffee... you bet. Yeah."

We're sitting in a cozy space at the front of the shop on a weekday morning, just hours before Brett is due to return to Kuwait from a 2-week visit home.

"Welcome home," says Kent. "Thank you, it's great to be back," Anderson says. "It is a nice break from the....monotony over there. That's for sure." "Is that what it is, monotony," asks Kent. "I think that's probably the biggest challenge I face when I'm over there is that, know, we joke "Groundhog Day," Anderson says. "You've seen the movie, Bill Murray? Every day is very similar to the day before."

Brett says it's not quite the insane repetition of the movie, but life at a military base in Kuwait can get tedious.

"You get into routine...which is good," says Anderson. "But then that routine becomes your prison at some point as well. It's the gym at the same time, It's eating at the same time, three times a day. You know, you do the same things every day. So you can lose track of the...the days of the week...which helps. You know, it's a positive. You could spin it either way. But, yeah, it is a monotony...that's for sure."

And though the food is good, including the holiday meals, Brett says it's pretty easy to get tired of...chicken.

"So, you gotta' gotta' amp yourself up to go in there and...maybe you add some salsa today," says Amderson. "Maybe tomorrow you don't add salsa to it. You fix it up yourself. "

That said, Brett stresses he really has nothing to complain about in his position at Camp Patriot, Kuwait - where he oversees the distribution of supplies for all military personnel. Brett notes that his unit doesn't have much interaction with the Kuwaiti people, but he is able to observe some of their unique cultural traditions.

"The Kuwaitis go camping in the winter," says Anderson. "And it's not like they take a 2-person, 3-person tent out by the lake. There's probably several hundred tents. They put lights up. You know, perimeters around it. They have little generators, they have potable water. And they're out for probably two or three months. I've heard some people refer to it as a return to their cultural roots, if you will. Obviously, they do it in the winter because in the summer it's just too warm out there."

Brett's biggest challenge has been keeping his mind off the separation from his wife, Michele, and their kids, Ema and Taylor. To that end. Brett works out twice a day, participates in the seemingly endless array of 5K runs that are held, and is taking courses to complete his college requirements. And with most of his deployment time under his belt, Brett says there were pros and cons to the decision of coming home on leave.

"Some soldiers aren't taking leave, you know, for their own reason," Anderson says. "I considered it. But I also wanted....I needed a break. I knew I needed a break. And, uh, I joke with the guys back there in Kuwait right now that, uh, maybe they need a break from me as well. So, it's a two-fold vacation for everybody maybe."

After an emotional reunion with his wife and kids at the airport, Brett settled into enjoying the ability to do what he wanted...when he wanted, visiting friends and family and giving an impromptu presentation on life in Kuwait to his son's kindergarten class. And Michele Anderson says what she was viewing as a "blind date" with her deployed husband has worked out quite nicely.

"I would go out with him again...yes," laughs Michele Anderson.

"Not everyone in this world is so fortunate as we are," says Brett Anderson. "And I think that is my biggest takeaway from this."

Brett Anderson has already returned to the routine of his Kuwait deployment. But it will only be a matter of weeks before he's back in South Dakota for good, where he realizes he has a much richer life than many folks around the world.


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