My Last Tour: Winding Down

SMSgt. Temple's teammates taking inventory before turning their vehicles over to
SMSgt. Temple's teammates taking inventory before turning their vehicles over to Army replacements.
TAMPA (2010-3-10) -

The build-up of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is underway just as time is winding down for Tampa airman Rex Temple. We’ve been following Temple during his year-long deployment, training Afghan troops. He’s scheduled to come home in less than two months.

There are signs that his deployment is drawing to a close. The first is that Temple and his teammates turned over their vehicles, equipment and weapons to their Army replacements.

Take one look at a mine resistant, MRAP, vehicle and you can imagine what it is like to account for all the accompanying equipment, every hose mount, jack, chain, radio. The list goes on and on as Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple can attest.

He and his team spent the last few days doing inventory and then transferring it to the Army.

“The transfer itself is a royal pain in the butt,” Temple said. “We count, recount and we count again. But at the same time this also signifies that we’re getting close to leaving.”

It also signifies extra work for Temple and his Air Force team. They’ve already handed over the keys for their equipment to their Army replacements. Now, if they need a vehicle or weapon, they have to get permission and get the keys.

“So, like today, trying to find the keys to the storage containers, it took about an hour and a half until we tracked down the person that had it in their pocket,” Temple said.

Temple’s team maintained a centralized location for all the keys – a system not adopted by the incoming soldiers.

The fact that his operations are winding down leaves the Tampa airman with a bittersweet feeling. This is Temple’s tenth “remote tour” and his fourth deployment to the Middle East region. And in many ways, it’s been his most difficult physically, mentally and emotionally.

“Emotionally, I guess I’m really torn. I really wanted to go out and work more with the villages and the schools. I’m going to miss that part. I’m going to miss seeing those results.”

Physically, the wearing the protective gear and go out in harm’s way,” Temple said, “it has taken an effect on my body.”

Yet, Temple was upbeat because he found an Army lieutenant to take-over his school supplies drive for Afghan kids. That’s a big deal because it’s time consuming work done in addition to all other duties and missions.

“The big thing is setting up the mission to go out and deliver these items,” Temple said. “You have to do a lot of intelligence, village assessments and work out a lot of security details before you can deliver one pen or pencil.”

Temple is looking forward to spending time with his wife Liisa Hyvarinen Temple, but he does not allow himself to think about his homecoming.

“I am definitely focused on our last missions that we have to conduct,” Temple said. “I have to separate my home life and my professional life. And I have to really stay focused once we leave the wire and go out into those villages. I have to have heightened awareness and always be cognizant of everything around me. So I can’t let my home life interfere.”

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