Meet Erik. Erik has been serving in the Spanish Army for 25 years, and last December, he was sent to Afghanistan to provide critical support to NATO personnel in operational theatre.
Here is his story.
Erik Sepulveda Madsen from the NCI Agency's CIS Support Unit in Torrejon, Spain, worked as an Information Systems Expert in Afghanistan from December 2015 to June 2016.
The Warrant Officer was deployed as part of the Agency's peace enforcement support to the Afghan Mission Network Operation Centre (AMNOC) in the North Hamid Karzai International Airport Base (HKIA), just 5km away from Kabul. Travelling to a country where violent terrorist attacks are a regular occurrence is a nerve-wrecking experience for anyone. Warrant Officer Erik Sepulveda Madsen was not sparred this anxiety when he first arrived in the central Asian country.
"Six hours after landing in HKIA, a group of six Daesh terrorists attacked the Spanish Embassy in Kabul, killing two Spanish policemen", he recalled. In order to cope with this difficult environment, Erik kept in touch with relatives. "The best way I found to fight against those stressful situations was phoning my family in Spain and trying to explain to them that the situation was better than was being showed in the news."
He explained: "Even though the security situation in the whole of Afghanistan has been extremely bad for the last year - more than 5,000 civilian killed in 2015 according to the media - the working environment in HKIA and AMNOC is quite safe. However, during my tour we had many rocket and attack alarms, but fortunately we only had a couple of terrorist attacks towards NATO forces in the Kabul area."
Erik revealed that he applied for this mission to fulfill a personal ambition. He said: "I was looking for new challenges and I believed that this deployment would help me progress in my military career." Erik held the position of Theatre Change Coordinator during his time in Afghanistan, and he was also the point of contact with Thales User Support Team in HKIA. "As most of the Resolute Support Signal Support Group (RSSSG) personnel in Kabul, in order to accomplish our mission and tasks, we worked extended hours most of the days - from Monday to Sunday from 8am to 9pm. I found my post as Theatre Change Coordinator in RSSSG very demanding and interesting. During my tour in Kabul we handled more than 4,500 Requests for Change for all 22 different sites in theatre, including real-life operations."
Erik was grateful to the CSU Torrejon Commander for supporting his request to be sent to the mission, and also thanked the whole Air Command and Control team who stayed behind in Spain with the extra workload during his deployment. "I left Spain knowing that any family or personal problems that may arise during my tour in Kabul would be immediately taken care of by any of the Torrejón CSU members. I knew I could rely on all of them, from the fist soldier to the Commander!"
Despite the ongoing security situation, Erik enjoyed his time in Afghanistan. "I can't mention best moments because all the 182 days I spent in theatre were quite good. I met such a good bunch of dedicated professionals, both military and civilian. I learned so much from their technical knowledge, managerial skills and NATO experience. I would said that every day had a best moment."
And while everyone was working long hours during their tour of Afghanistan, there was still time to socialize. "Every Saturday evening we had a Morale & Welfare approved event called "Pizza-Poker Night" during which everyone paid for the pizza. Our gambling stakes were that the one who lost the plastic chips first would be the 'pizza-boy' who had to carry the pizzas the following week. The one who won the game would be the 'king' and would not have to pay for his pizza the next week. Every evening we had multicultural, multinational gambling while sharing a really good time, telling stories with players from Poland, Belgium, Turkey, Romania, Lithuania, USA, UK and many more."
"I must also mention, I shared very special memories with the 10-member Spanish HKIA community, my military family, with whom I spent unforgettable times over Christmas and New Year's, birthday parties, etc."
He added: "Definitely, one of the best times I had in Kabul was when I received a huge Christmas present full of Spanish delicacies from my CSU Torrejón colleagues. I wasn't even bothered by the fact that it arrived in March due to logistic problems!"