From the Frontlines: Staff Sgt. Laura Burton

  • Published
  • By by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Her ears ring from hearing the screaming sirens for the first time on Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan. She freezes up, focusing on the tornado of questions going through her mind. Confusion is the only word to describe her current state.

She shakes the shock away. Seeing her colleagues dropping to the ground and covering their heads, she uses the 'monkey see, monkey do' mentality, and follows their lead. Her face in the dirt, she fears for her life.

She had been told about deployments to Afghanistan, but seeing it first-hand was an experience no one could have prepared her for.

She is Staff Sgt. Laura Burton, 509th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of the force management introduction program and Air Force Global Strike Command member. Sergeant Burton left Whiteman April 17, 2010, for her first deployment to Afghanistan.

"The one thing no one told me about, and I don't want to scare anyone, was the rocket attacks," she said. "You learn quickly to hit the ground when you hear the alarm or an explosion."

Sergeant Burton said the rocket attacks were the most difficult aspect of deploying to Afghanistan.

"Rocket attacks are a serious threat," she said. "Before I arrived, we were told about a group of military personnel playing volleyball one day when the sirens went off. They had never been harmed during these attacks before, so after complying with the alarm, they decided to continue their game. The one time they didn't seek shelter, was the time they were injured."

Sergeant Burton wants to inform all servicemembers who are ready to deploy to remember their training, use it, and their deployment will be a great experience.

While deployed she worked for the Army Corp of Engineers processing orderly room needs alongside civilian and Navy personnel.  She tended to Army evaluations, decorations, duty statuses and other personnel type work.

"It took some getting used to because the Army has a different method to their process, but it didn't take long and the experience was great," she said. "The deployment taught me the different cultures of our military branches, which was neat.

"You meet people from different bases and career fields and really understand how we're all there for the same common goal," she added. "We had every branch of our military there, along with foreign militaries."

The base is supported by every U.S. Armed Forces branch and multiple NATO forces.

"I've been to a dozen different countries and never left Afghanistan," she laughed, explaining her interaction with the variety of foreign military personnel and compounds on Kandahar Air Field.

Sergeant Burton said learning the ins-and-outs of the Armed Forces was great, but her supervision was the best part of her deployment.

"My supervision taught me a lot throughout my deployment," she said. "I learned how to be a better NCO, what to expect from situations and where to find the answers to problems.

Throughout the six-month deployment, she only had time to miss a few things.

"I missed my husband, my cat ... and a day off," she laughed. "It was worth missing them for awhile though.

"If the experience is anywhere near this one, I'd love to go back," she concluded. "It was such a positive experience. I don't want to sound cliché, but it was literally life changing."