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Pope Airmen Report from the Front: 1st Lt. Jimmy Livingston receives surprise during deployment

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kris Levasseur
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Most military members expect to deploy at some point in their careers - thousands of servicemembers are sent all around the globe in order to protect and serve their country, but for one Pope lieutenant, his deployment took an unexpected turn.

1st Lt. Jimmy Livingston, 3rd Aerial Port Squadron, expected to spend his time at Camp Phoenix, but due to unforeseen circumstances, ended up working at Kabul International Airport.

"I arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan then convoyed from Kabul International Airport to Camp Phoenix," said Lieutenant Livingston. "I was under the tactical control of the Army, assigned to the 634th Logistics Task Force and believed I would be working at Camp Phoenix. It was late in the evening when we finally got to Phoenix and when personnel from the 634th LTF came to pick me up at the welcome center, I was greeted with a resounding, 'Welcome to Phoenix, Lieutenant Rizzo!'"

"As it turns out, they were expecting a different lieutenant I knew. He had been sent to Camp Eggers. Consequently, I spent the next three days at Camp Phoenix waiting for the Army to decide what they were going to do with me. When they found out I was an aerial porter, I was ordered to pack up my things because I was being moved to Kabul Afghan International Airport, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation, to work with the U.S. Movement Control Team."

Because of the change, Lieutenant ivingston found himself as the assistant officer in charge of 12 people and responsible for the entire U.S. airlift coming in and out of KAIA with limited equipment available.

"Our equipment consisted of two forklifts, one 25,000-pound loader, and one 60,000-pound loader," said Lieutenant Livingston. "This was all we had to support 11 forward operating bases and more than 24,000 coalition forces."

Unfortunately, equipment wasn't the only limiting factor for Lieutenant Livingston.

"We did not have the advantage of any of the systems we take for granted here in the U.S. because NATO would not allow any American software to be loaded on its network," he said. "During the time I was there, we kept track of all inbound and outbound aircraft, 23,000 short tons of cargo and 105 short tons of mail by hand with a spreadsheet."

While he was there, Lieutenant Livingston saw everything from weapons to food come through the cargo, but one shipment really stood out to him.

"My most memorable experience though was when we received a shipment of medical equipment for a new Afghan hospital," he said. "There was enough to fill four 40-foot flatbed trucks. We got the equipment loaded for the doctor and when we finished, he came to me, crying, thanking us for the fact that he would finally have a real hospital for his people."

The lieutenant's unit handled a wide variety of charitable goods, including 42,000 pounds of food for Afghan families.

According to Lieutenant Livingston, the first few months of the deployment were relatively quiet.

"We went about our business day after day," he said. "However, as we got closer to the end of the deployment, the bottom started falling out. By late July, it was one rocket attack after another, one suicide bomber after another, one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device after another.

"The worst attack I experienced was five days before I left. It was Sept. 8. It was about 8 a.m. and I was preparing to leave the building I lived in when there was a huge BOOM! The building was shaken so hard that I thought we had been bombed. A vehicle borne improvised explosive device had rammed a vehicle carrying munitions at the main gate which was only 100 meters from where I lived. Glass was shattered, mirrors exploded outward and people were thrown out of beds and chairs. When I got into the hallway, there was so much dust and debris in the air, I thought our building was on fire. I grabbed my armor and my weapons and made for the bunker, encouraging others to hurry and get out of the building. When we finally got the building evacuated, I secured the entrance and we waiting for another attack, all the time watching the smoke from the explosion spread over the area. We were very fortunate that no military personnel died in that explosion. Sadly, there were civilian casualties."

Even though the lieutenant went through this unfortunate incident, he still looks back on his deployment as a positive experience.

"As I look back on my deployment, I'm astounded that we were able to accomplish so much with so little," said Lieutenant Livingston. "To this day, I'm still trying to figure out how we managed to do the things we did with so few resources. For my part, I was blessed to have a great team that I would want to deploy with anytime."