From the front

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Name: Laura "Roxy" Erickson
Unit (current): 732nd ECES WI FLT Det. 5
Job description: Counter IED operations

What will you remember about your deployment 20 years from now? While all of my experiences "outside the wire" are burned into my mind, I will never forget the people I've worked with. They are some of the finest, bravest people I've ever served with. Words cannot describe how much I care about them. We've laughed together, cried together, screamed at each other, and prayed together. I trust them with my life.

What's the most useful item you packed? A camera. I've been able to keep an unclassified blog of my adventures in Iraq and a picture is worth a thousand words.

What do you wish you had packed? More babywipes When did you realize you weren't in Kansas anymore, aka your "Dorothy" moment? I've had a few close calls but the most sobering moments were when I was notified of my teammates' deaths. We lost three people, two to IED attacks, and one to an aircraft accident. It felt like a kick in the chest each time. My heart stopped and all I could think was it couldn't be real. I knew I was in a war zone. Bombs went off near us all the time, but it didn't bother me until that moment, then I knew without a doubt that the enemy was trying to kill us.

What has this deployment taught you? Live each day as though it could be your last. Get to know the people you work with because you never know when they might go out one day and never come back. I've learned to trust people more and not question "why" so much. When the chips are down, you have to just listen to your leadership and know they are looking out for you.

Have you gained or lost weight? I've lost about 15 lbs. Some of it was a conscious effort, but most of it was from working long hours and eating ramen and tuna all the time.

What new survival skill have you learned? When it's really hot outside you have to keep eating and drinking, whether you want it or not. I've learned how to man a .50 cal and evasive convoy maneuvers, too.

What will you buy with your hazardous duty pay or other $ garnered from your deployment? I think it would be really fun to buy a scooter, but I haven't made up my mind yet. I really want to save money.

What food are you craving most and what will your first meal be when you return? Hands down, it's sushi. I want to go out to a hibachi grill, chomp down on a mountain of yellow-tail, and have a nice drink.