Joshua’s Journey: A Salute to one of CHPRE’s extended family membersCenter News, Latest News Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
by Treniese Polk, CHPRE staff member
On August 17, 2012, Private First Class (PFC) Joshua Polk received orders that he and his unit were headed to Afghanistan; he knew that if he’d ever wanted to learn about leadership, discipline, focus, and teamwork now was his opportunity.
For six months prior, Joshua and his unit trained intensely. Little did they know that their unit would receive a highly sensitive Special Operations mission. He would later learn that his unit would be the only Military Police (MP) unit to receive such a special assignment. Joshua set off to Konduv, Afghanistan on Sept 11, 2012 with his entire camp, equipped and ready for whatever was in store.
Sister and CHPRE staff member, Treniese Polk held her breath for nine months, until the day that Joshua and his entire camp landed safely on American soil in late June 2013. While Treniese felt a sense of relief, Joshua returned with a sense of accomplishment- the unit’s mission had not only been completed, but completed successfully.
When asked what exactly his missions entailed overseas Joshua remains tight-lipped, as he should. He understands the importance of security and confidentiality. There however, are many things that Joshua did share about his first overseas deployment. He gives a brief account of one of the most life changing experiences of his life.
What did you learn overall?
JP: The true value of camaraderie- working together and learning the value of team work. We worked jointly to accomplish the mission; before the actual mission, we trained for six months completing mock runs, and the unit also received 100% completion rate for measures including accountability, training, and certifications.
What did you learn from your overseas experience?
JP: I have learned to be more appreciative, and that breaks into 2 categories: things I valued stateside and things that I valued in Afghanistan. For example, stateside I appreciate being close to family. It was also nice to sleep in a normal bed after sleeping in beehuts and tents for 9 months. Being able to see trees is something else that I appreciate. In-country, I valued having encouraging people around me. We kept each other motivated during hard times.
JP: This was also my first time in a developing country. It was a complete culture shock to see kids not attending school, because many were shepherds. This made me grateful for the educational opportunities that we have in the States. It was also common to see kids playing with scraps of airplanes leftover from previous battles over the years.
JP: Another lesson that I learned is to maintain focus at all times in a combat zone. There is a general sense of cohesion; everyone looks out for everyone else. One wrong move could cost the team the entire mission and potentially someone’s life.
What was your scariest moment? What were your most enjoyable moments?
JP (Scariest): One of our missions was a flight mission on a Blackhawk. During the entire mission the team was deadly silent. The thought that we could be shot down at any moment while flying in a hazardous airspace made everyone a little anxious.
JP (Most Enjoyable): Some of the best times were spent hanging out with other battle buddies on top of one the buildings in the operating base looking at the Afghan city skyline with night vision goggles, telling battle stories, and having a good time.
What’s your next adventure?
(JP): (Sighs)…life after deployment- I will continue to transition to the civilian world and next make the transition from the civilian world to student life. I will definitely take what I’ve learned from deployment and apply it to my daily life. Deployment touched every area of my life and completely changed my perspective on life -it’s one experience that I will never forget.
Medals and patches PFC Joshua received during his service: Special Operations and Command (SOCOM) patch, Afghan Campaign medal w/ Campaign Star, NATO medal, Global War on Terrorism Service medal, National Defense service medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal w/ Mdevice ; Joshua is also pending promotion to E4 (Specialist) in late October 2013.