KABUL, AFGHANISTAN --
7,000 miles from New Jersey, two 177th Fighter Wing Airmen unexpectedly became neighbors at a forward operating base (FOB) on the outskirts of Kabul while serving on separate missions.
Lt. Col. Jesse Arnstein, assigned to the 177th Logistics Readiness Squadron, is deployed as the Public Affairs Director for the task force that oversees U.S. detainee operations. Tech. Sgt. Chris Donohue, from the 227th Air Support Operations Squadron, is deployed as a combat advisor and Joint Terminal Attack Controller for the joint U.S./Albanian mission.
Arnstein's duties include responding to inquiries from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press, as well as coordinating on updates to senior U.S. government officials.
"The mission is tremendously rewarding," said Arnstein. "It [the mission] has the potential to be very high-profile; from answering congressional inquiries, to preparing responses to questions from the most well-known western media outlets, to dealing with other national governments."
"It's also exhilarating to regularly interact with foreign soldiers and civilians," said Arnstein.
Arnstein was amazed to come across a fellow "Jersey Devil" at his FOB.
"I did a double-take as I spotted the New Jersey State flag outside a cabin on the FOB," said Arnstein. "I went inside to investigate, and to my amazement I saw a familiar face - Tech. Sgt. Chris Donohue."
Donohue, already a seasoned veteran from his time in the Marine Corps and the New Jersey Army National Guard is an advisor for the Afghan National Army's (ANA) 1st Mobile Strike Force (MSF). The MSF is a quick reaction force designed to preemptively attack, disrupt, and destroy enemy operations.
"We have a very busy schedule, but it is rewarding to see the ANA take the lead as we begin to transfer into Operation Resolute Support," said Donohue.
Operation Resolute Support is the post-2014 NATO training and advisory mission, which will see the ANA self-sufficient and relying less on coalition forces.
Arnstein reflected on the deployment, and how the people back home have made him Jersey Strong.
"Communications have been difficult, but the expressions of concern, gratitude and support from family and friends are humbling and so very meaningful," said Arnstein. "The mission here is fascinating, and I'm working with some of the finest people I have ever known."