ENCS Shawn Etheridge talks about IA deployment

Senior Chief Engineman (SW) Shawn Etheridge

Senior Chief Engineman (SW) Shawn Etheridge

Story and photos by MC2 (SW) Mark Logico

Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

Senior Chief Engineman (SW) Shawn Etheridge, assigned to waterfront operations based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe, is one of hundreds of Hawaii-based Sailors who has been sent on an individual augmentee (IA) deployment. Etheridge received overseas contingency operation orders to Afghanistan from November 2009 to November 2010.

“It was a form of retirement plan,” said Etheridge, who has served the Navy for more than 17 years.

Etheridge explained that after serving back-to-back sea duty for nine years, it left him with one extra year to use before he can retire on shore duty.

“It was also something I want to do,” Etheridge said. “It was something I had never done before. It seemed enticing, I guess I would say.”

In Afghanistan, Etheridge was initially assigned to work alongside an Army National Guard unit for four months as part of the maintenance shop, but after talking to his superiors, he requested an assignment “outside the wire.”

“We are trying to build them up just like we did in Iraq. We’re doing the same thing. We’re working with the Afghan National Army (ANA),” Etheridge said.

Etheridge was able to get out of the maintenance shop and worked outside the wire every day. He worked there the rest of the time, for eight to nine months, issuing vehicles to the Afghan National Army at depot two, the primary vehicle receiving, storage and staging location.

Etheridge said that their mission was to help build the ANA as the Afghans prepare to stand on their own.

“We issue them vehicles,” said Etheridge. “It was a good time. It wasn’t too bad.”

Etheridge said that some of the challenges he faced while deployed to Afghanistan were experiencing the mortal dangers the assignment brought.

“We had a 300-pound VIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) blowing up outside the base in front of the gate,” Etheridge said. “We also had an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) going over the base. One of the petty officers I went through training with was KIA (killed in action).”

But despite that, Etheridge said he was glad he was able to experience an IA deployment.

“It’s a good opportunity for career advancement, something different, out of the norm,” Etheridge said. “It’s not shipboard life. You got out of your element. You get to see the other services and how they work and operate. You’ll be able to reflect more and appreciate the Navy, our morals and principles.”

Overall, Etheridge said that his Navy career was quite an experience. He has served aboard ship including USS Princeton CG 59, USS Devastator (MCM 6) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

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Category: Warrior of the Week