Soldiers overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom may find themselves carrying out raids as they provide safety and security for the Iraqi and Afghan people. As they get ready to leave the combat zone, soldiers will breathe a sigh of relief when they encounter Petty Officer Second Class Bonnie Wysocki and her RAID…it means they are heading home.
Wysocki recently returned from a ten-month deployment as an inspector with the Coast Guard’s Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachment (RAID). While overseas, her team was trained to assist redeploying Army units with the shipping process in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Wysocki and her team were attached to Army transportation battalions and worked with the Army assisting in the drawdown in Iraq as well as the redeployment of troops in Afghanistan.
The opportunity to serve with RAID was a rare opportunity for Wysocki, who is a reservist at Coast Guard Sector Buffalo. In fact, Wysocki did not even know about the opportunity until she received a call from her Chief who knew of her desire to serve.
What was unique, and perhaps most beneficial to the team, was its composition of Coast Guard Reservists from different rates and specialties. This proved valuable for operations and camaraderie that started the moment they met each other for their six weeks of pre-deployment training.
“Some of my most memorable experiences were training with my team in preparation for the mission,” said Wysocki. “It was a wonderful experience to have reservists from all Coast Guard walks come together to train and bond as a team in support of an important mission to support U.S. troops.”
Wysocki, a career yeoman, was mobilized as an inspector for hazardous materials and containers, but was able to lend her team yeoman support while deployed. Her expertise was especially beneficial in remote bases, where access to the internet or computers was incredibly limited.
RAID teams are broken up into smaller units to serve as inspection teams throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. Wyscocki’s team was stationed at Forward Operating Base Balad, Iraq, and on a typical day, would take calls from the field and coordinate hazardous materials shipping documentation.
Her daily work wasn’t isolated to just base operations though, as RAID is a mobile force with the teams spending days and weeks flying from place to place for inspections. On these days she would travel to remote bases to inspect and seal containers for redeploying units, inspect the actual cargo for compliance with international shipping standards and perform structural inspections on containers to determine their serviceability.
“It was a breathtaking experience to fly in the back of a Black Hawk with the doors wide open above Iraq,” said Wysocki.
The only woman on her team, Wysocki admitted that being a female in a war zone came with its own trials, but she faced them head on, and with honor.
“It was a challenge at times, but one that I gladly faced because the Coast Guard prides itself in giving the same opportunities and treatment to males and females alike,” said Wysocki.
Wysocki and her team made a difference to the hundreds of troops that were leaving combat zones and were homeward bound. The RAID team quickly realized that when they interacted with other services, it would sometimes be the only exposure they would have with the Coast Guard. As representatives of the service, Wysocki and her team performed their mission with professionalism and pride.
“It made it all worthwhile when a soldier would vigorously shake our hands and tell us how grateful they were that ‘the experts’ had come in and made their already hectic trip home a little easier,” said Wysocki. “That’s why we serve, and its especially gratifying when we get to serve our brothers and sisters in arms who also serve our great nation.”