CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
For the members of the 116th Military Engagement Team, the days are often varied. While teams in both Jordan and Kuwait are running missions at an almost continuous pace, the look of those engagements – and the days of the Soldiers completing them – is different.
Kuwait missions take weeks and sometimes months to plan, are often in different countries that sometimes require complex travel coordination and the engagement itself typically lasts at least five days The build-up for these missions requires the staff to work together to synchronize their efforts to ensure appropriate travel accommodations are booked, country entry requirements are met, products are translated and, at the most basic level, that all engagement participants have a ride to the airport.
“When on an engagement, I try to start my day by enjoying a foreign breakfast, then meet and train with interesting soldiers from partner nations, try to get a work out in and then, for dinner, experience a good local meal,” explained Lt. Col. Carl Engstrom, chief of operations in Kuwait. “Experiencing the culture and sampling local foods has been one of my favorite parts of going on engagements.”
In Jordan, 116th MET Soldiers spend a large portion of their time on the road, meeting and working with their Jordanian counterparts. They still require similar reports to be generated at the conclusion of the engagement.
“Fifty percent of the time I go out on mission, and those days fly by and are the most fun,” explained Lt. Col. Jaycee Shaver, executive officer for the 116th MET, from Jordan. “Office days are not as fun, but are equally busy and important to the mission.”
For all team members, being on mission is a chance to experience different cultures, learn from the soldiers of our partner nations and develop both personally and professionally.
“Getting out to see the countryside is special because not many personnel here get to do that other than MET-J,” Shaver explained. “Eating local foods with our counterparts is great. Trying to speak Arabic and impress or amuse folks is great too. Being away from base is the best thing, especially when you are doing something important and contributing to the effort here.”
For the Kuwait team members, every engagement is a little bit different, depending on the country the Soldiers are working with, the topic of the engagement and where the engagement will take place.
“Most of my missions are planning conferences and exercises,” explained Capt. Christopher Wille, the unit’s intelligence officer. “We typically start at 8 a.m. each day. The U.S. delegation meets with our foreign military partners to discuss the exercise objectives and the logistics of the exercise. We return to the hotel each afternoon for another meeting to prepare for the next day. When I’m not in meetings or writing up notes, I’ll try to get out of the hotel and explore the area’s cultural sites, restaurants or other attractions.”
When back in the office and with so much going on across the MET, work priorities are sometimes decided by what shows up the Soldiers’ inboxes.
“I start my day by checking emails and getting those answered,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Jackie Toy, the unit’s human resources specialist. “These emails help set me up for the day as far as determining what is most important or what will demand my time for the day.”
“When I’m in the office I work to plan and coordinate engagements, then head to the gym, or if it’s Tuesday or Friday, I attend the base-sponsored poker night,” said Engstrom.
Connecting with family members and friends back home is a favorite part of the day for many of the Soldiers of the 116th Military Engagement Team.
“The best part of my day is after lunch when I can call home and FaceTime with the family,” Shaver said. “I only have a small window of opportunity each day because Mary gets everyone up and after breakfast they head to day care and school. If I miss this because I get caught up in the office where we can’t have our phones, it’s very frustrating.”
Spending time as a team and relaxing together or with a good book is also a favorite part of the day for many of the Soldiers.
“My favorite part is the late evenings we spend relaxing at the fire pit listening to Lt. Col. Shaver play his guitar and early morning walks enjoying the quiet,” Harris said. Harris said he reads two to three books each week, which helps him relax before it’s time for sleep.
Engstrom added that talking to his family is one of the highlights of his day, as is having lunch with the entire operations team in Kuwait.
Toy said her favorite part of the day is, “Any time someone can take the time to simply say ‘thank you’ for taking care them.”
As the team moves closer to the end of the deployment, the focus of many has shifted to accomplishing the necessary tasks to get the team home. In the midst of ongoing missions, the Soldiers of the 116th MET must begin packing up their equipment, prepare for their post-mobilization at Fort Hood and ensure that everything is ready for the arrival of the 149th MET, who are slated to arrive later in December.