DLA supervisor shares deployment experience as resiliency lesson

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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DLA Aviation’s director of Business Process Support recently discussed her six-month civilian deployment at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in a lunch presentation.

Teresa Smith spoke at the DLA Aviation Senior Leadership Conference about deploying in 2015 as the DLA Support Team deputy commander at Bagram.

Smith held the audience spellbound as she related her experiences while the audience alternated between laughter and tears.

She said the three most frequent questions she gets are: "Why go?" How was it?" and "Would you go back?"

Answering the "Why," Smith said she had worked for DLA for more than 30 years and thought she knew everything about DLA. But she had become complacent and wanted to follow, as closely as possible, in our warfighters’ footsteps.

Smith said she was humbled by the tremendous experiences and the resiliency of the DLA team and her family. “It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, and if asked, I would go back,” she said.

“I learned it’s not all in my swim lane; it’s not all about my directorate or Teresa Smith,” she said, joking that you haven’t lived until you have served in the Army. “DLA provides food, fuel, class-nine parts [and] disposition services; partners with local nationals; and provided humanitarian assistance after a large earthquake.”

While Smith was deployed, two of her team members were injured and one killed when indirect fire stuck their vehicle. Six airmen and five civilians were also killed when a C-130 crashed during takeoff in October 2015. She said planning and attending memorial services “brought home the danger and importance of what we do.”

Smith spoke about the social support, one of the four building blocks of resiliency, she received during her deployment when her husband had a heart attack.

“We aren't islands unto ourselves,” Smith said, as she spoke about her fears during this time and the support her family and DLA command officials gave for her to return to finish her deployment.

“It was important to me, after seeing what our team members endured, to honor my commitment,” she said. “It's okay to rely on others, to accept help and support.”

Smith said there wasn’t a lot to do in Bagram except work, so she started to participate in physical training, lost 40 pounds, grew her hair out and decided she loved flying in helicopters.

“Resiliency is all about maintaining a healthy life balance...physical, family, work, spiritual and mental,” she said.

The Senior Leadership Conference was March 1-3 in Richmond, Virginia.     

(Editor’s note:  This article is the first in a series of four on how DLA Aviation employees use the building blocks of resiliency to succeed in their professional and personal lives)