Any parent that has taken a short vacation away from their kids has experienced the joys and pain that follow with being apart. Imagine having two young boys at home with a husband and leaving for months at a time.
Wayne graduate Amy (Ogden) Carpenter knows this pain all too well. Having just returned from her third deployment following a seven-month station in Kuwait, her boys Dane, 6 and Knox, 4 along with husband Brett couldn’t wait to hug her again.
Amy, an Air Force Master Sergeant, completed her third deployment before arriving back home to Wayne County on Feb. 4. As technology has made many advances in recent years, things have changed for those being deployed when connecting back home to loved ones.
Along with a yearlong tour in Korea, Amy had deployments to Iraq in 2004 and Qatar in 2009-2010. She also went to Puerto Rico for a humanitarian job as well. With the travel to Puerto Rico, most recent Kuwait deployment and trainings, Amy has been away from home 10 of the last 17 months.
In her earlier deployments, there were no cell phones available making calls back home. The first stay in Iraq a landline was used for phone calls where she was given two 10-minute calls a week.
With the addition of data and wi-fi services, this time around she was able to bring her personal cell phone, which was kept on airplane mode in Kuwait. When wi-fi service was available, she could use the Facebook messenger app to communicate with her family and would text Brett daily.
“He did most the talking since there isn’t much I could talk about, but he kept me updated on the kids which helped,” Amy said.
Working in security forces, which is equivalent to military police, Amy worked nights logging in 14 to 15 hour days. This averaged anywhere from a 72 to 76 hour long work week for her where she supervised 82 other security forces.
Working on the night shift, Amy was also able to make face-time video calls back home on her nights off. With the nine hour time change between her current location and home in Allerton, she made most of her calls between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. her time.
“It was definitely easier this time with the phone access, but at the same time it made it harder too,” Amy said of having the video call ability. “You want to focus on your job and you have no control over what’s going on back home. The more you call back home, the less focused you can become on doing your job and not have your head in the game.”
“One of the hardest things I had to deal with this time was I had five or six troops have babies born while we were there and some of them it was their first babies,” she continued on. “As soon as their wives went into labor they would contact me and I would make sure they were off and send them to a chapel where there was free wi-fi and a monitor so they could face-time in live time into the delivery room. They wouldn’t report back to work until after their baby was born.”
“I remember this one time this kid was having his first child and he came into my office a wreck. He didn’t know what to do and he was bouncing off the walls but at the same time scared to death. It was his first kid and only a month into the deployment so he didn’t meet his daughter for the first time until she was four or five months old. That’s the tough part.”
With Amy’s title when this would arise, she would need to rework the schedule knowing she would be losing a guy for a few nights. It was all part of her job while still feeling the emotions of missing her own boys.
Amy’s father Barney Ogden was in the Navy in his earlier years, but was never deployed once she and her brother were born. This made her own experience a new challenge with her own family as job responsibilities changed with each deployment.
“This was my first deployment with the kids besides my humanitarian in Puerto Rico,” said Amy. “When I first went to Iraq I was a 21-year old without a worry in the world so I could just go to work and do my job and focus on returning home. In Qatar I had moved up in rank and was a supervisor running BDOC so I had added job pressure that time around.”
“With this deployment I’m a Flight Chief Supervisor and I have to worry about a family back home, so this was a lot for me. Work wise and emotionally and I don’t know if I could do it again.”
Along with the adjustment to the time change and working night shift Amy found her eating schedule difficult as well.
“Two of my meals each day were breakfast, so I will never eat breakfast again.”
March will mark her 16 years of service and her plan is to retire after 20 years. With those years under her belt, she shouldn’t have to deploy again fortunately.
When an airman is deployed from family and friends, there are many factors making the time away less than desirable. Yet each one serves their time while there and can only count down the days until they return home while doing their best to serve their country.
When Amy arrived on day 1 in Kuwait she was greeted with the 120-degree temperatures in the middle of the worst sandstorm they had seen that year. If goggles weren’t worn out in the conditions, eye damage was possible due to the constant wind and blowing sand.
As her time neared the end of deployment, temperatures drastically dropped to overnight temperatures of 36 degrees with the constant wind. Daytime temperatures would reach 70 degrees, before the 40-degree drop.
“It was cold with constant wind at the end and I hated it,” Amy said. “I was frozen.”
While Iowa has been hit with record breaking low temperatures this winter, the living conditions while in Kuwait were rough.
“We stayed in a trailer like place that had 16 rooms within it, “she began describing. “Each room had just enough space for two beds and our bags on the floor nearby. We would try to warm up any chance we got in a warm vehicle when working.”
Being gone she has missed many family events including her son’s birthdays as well as her husband’s and her own. She was able to witness certain events in Kuwait firsthand however.
“One kind of cool thing there was the Kuwaitis there were very grateful for us Americans being there because we had basically saved them during the liberation from Iraq, especially the older ones were very thankful and appreciated us,” Amy added. “When George Bush passed away they lit up downtown Kuwait with his picture because he was the President during the Kuwaiti liberation that had us get Iraq out of Kuwait. That’s just how grateful they were for the Americans.”
Now with Amy back home, she is filling her schedule up once again, but this time it’s all around her loved ones. Since returning home her boys have been nearly inseparable from her side.
Amy and Brett are making plans for a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge as the boys requested a water park vacation. Brett and Amy also have a Bahamas trip scheduled for a five-day getaway to celebrate their eight-year anniversary.
“He (Brett) deserves something,” said Amy. “He had a lot on his plate. We also are both so grateful for his employer, Lockridge being so supportive to him and our family. We couldn’t have asked for a better employer for him to have during this.”
“There is so many people to thank truly between my own parents for all they did helping Brett with the boys along with his parents and our friends. So many people made this easier for us all.”
I have to thank our small community as well,” she continued. “Without everyone’s support for my three boys, this couldn’t have been done. Everyone has been so helpful.”
As Amy slowly recovers from jet lag and works back into her roles as mother and wife, she can’t help but enjoy all the extra hugs she has been receiving. Along with the bonding time, she also couldn’t wait to sink her teeth back into a ribeye steak and baked potato with butter and sour cream making Ludlows Steakhouse one of her stops within her first week back home.
Brett will get to hand over some of the household duties to Amy including the dreaded responsibility of grocery shopping for her family once again. She wouldn’t however trade it for the world if it means having her boys back in her arms.