Nas Iqbal is a third party risk evaluator at U.S. Bank based in Minneapolis, and a 1st Lieutenant in the National Guard currently deployed in Kuwait.
From where I am stationed in Kuwait, I watched the news about Afghanistan showing people at the airport trying to leave the country.
I never imagined myself being there in a few days.
I’m part of the Minnesota National Guard and I’ve been deployed in Kuwait March 2021. My job as a Signal Officer and Unit Movement Officer involves moving vehicles, supplies and other equipment from point A to point B. Because I was involved in another project at the time, moving equipment to Egypt, I was not expecting to go to Afghanistan.
Why I got the call
When we were in Kuwait, our main job was to be a reaction force. We have tanks and Bradleys, which transport infantry with armored protection, and a Battalion of us stationed here are ready to send soldiers and equipment in the event that anything were to happen in our immediate area within the Middle East. Our philosophy is to always be at a ready status. As my Battalion Commander always says, "No one will wait on us."
Because we were in the area, when President Biden announced we were sending 6,000 soldiers to Afghanistan to assist with the evacuation, we were part of that count.
What it was like in Afghanistan
Our first priority was to get soldiers and equipment into Afghanistan, which was a challenge in and of itself – many of you probably saw video of civilians trying to get out, crowding the airport runway. We couldn’t get C-17s to land to bring in soldiers until we had crowd control and were able to clear the runway with the help of the 82nd Airborne.
We spent two weeks there, sleeping on the tarmac in an airplane hangar on the floor, controlling a strategic sector of the airport. I recall using my earplugs to drown out the constant C-17s landing and taking off, or the gunfire. Warning shots were fired every hour, on the hour, outside the wall of the airport by the Afghan National forces and the Taliban.
While I can’t share a ton of detail about our mission, I can say it was an experience I’ll never forget, and an honor to be there. Our MN National Guard, the Red Bulls, played a huge role – we were the only reserve unit in the airport, and grateful to be able to help. Everyone in my unit wanted to go to Afghanistan, wanted to be a part of history. The ones that were hit the most were the soldiers who had gone before, the whole experience was surreal – returning to close out a war that has been going for 20 years.
Now I'm back in Kuwait ready for the next mission. As a reserve force, I never know how it will go.
Two sides to my career
Around February 2022, my deployment will end and I’ll head back to Minneapolis. I’m looking forward to seeing my co-workers again. I formed a lot of great friendships. I want to see how far my career at the bank will take me. One of the main reasons I joined the Guard was to get leadership experience. As an officer, I’ve gotten it… being in charge of 25 soldiers of all ages, backgrounds and personalities is pretty much a crash course in management skills.
I've already put seven years into my career at U.S. Bank. I didn’t initially expect to be here that long, but everyone has treated me so well. Every time I requested time off for the Guard, they've always been on board and supportive. The benefits we have for soldiers are fantastic. And I know how to do my job in the National Guard better from being at U.S. Bank. I feel like both roles blend perfectly, and work with my somewhat type A personality. I can see myself sticking with both U.S. Bank and the Guard as I potentially become a Captain next year.
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