It was a little more than 30 hours before his flight.
‘I’ve had fun,’ said CSUN kinesiology major Brenden Nakamine with a laugh that hinted to mischief in his activities. ‘For the most part it’s kind of been like a two-and a- half week spring break for me.’
The impending flight wasn’t taking him to another in the list of spring-breaklike excursions he’d taken in the past two weeks, rather it was taking him back to a place few choose to go; Afghanistan. Nakamine, 21, deployed to Afghanistan as a specialist in the Army Reserve in August of 2008 and returned home at the end of March 2009 for a 15-day leave. Now, at the end of his leave, he’s returning to Afghanistan to finish the last three months of his deployment. ‘It kind of sucked when I first went over there. Having to say goodbye to everybody and stuff like that, but overall coming home has been nice.’ Since being home, Nakamine, known to friends as ‘Naka’, crammed as much fun in before his April 15 departure. That fun started with a long-earned shower. ‘I think I took like a 20 minute shower when I got back, standing under the hot water just soaking it up,’ he said, after sharing that unlike in Afghanistan, his shower at home doesn’t require sandals. Since being home, some of his outings included a Lakers basketball game with his dad and a trip to Palm Springs and Disneyland with friends. Nakamine will be returning to a provinceof Afghanistan called Khost, located in the southeastern part of the country along the Pakistan border. As a part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) his job is to help establish governance in the country. ‘We’ll go into villages and we’ll meet with elders or whoever is in charge of the village and ask them what problems do you have,’ he explained. ‘Do you have schools? Do you have electricity? Do you need clean water? Do you need pumps? Irrigation systems?’ During his time in Afghanistan Nakamine said he was fortunate to have very few costly enemy attacks. ‘You always have to be conscientious of what could happen and you always have to be on the lookout for stuff but for the most part we’ve been pretty lucky as far as not really encountering anything that that bad,’ Nakamine said. The fact that he was in Afghanistan during the winter may have played a role in the minimal attacks. ‘I know in the winter time it gets really cold in Afghanistan because it is so mountainous,’ said Nakamine. ‘I mean the Taliban are idiots but they’re still people. They’re not going to go down the mountains when it’s like negative 20 degrees and snowing up there just to launch a rocket.’ But Nakamine knows that this time around he will be in Afghanistan during more people-friendly weather. ‘Since I’ve been gone I’ve been trying to avoid reading anything about it,’ he said. ‘I know the weather is starting to heat up so who knows what’s going to happen this summer.’ Unlike many students who cringe at the sight of a textbook, Nakamine is looking forward to coming back to school. He said his life in Afghanistan can become monotonous and that he misses the diversity that comes with attending different classes. And there is a lot of learning to be done as military life has left him a second semester sophomore while many of his high school friends are graduating and heading off to law school. ‘I’ll graduate eventually,’ Nakamine said with conviction. ‘I’m on the Van Wilder six-year plan.’ All jokes aside, each minute that passed was closer to the time for Nakamine to say his goodbyes and board his flight. Only friends and family will know what his goodbyes will be like but a little over 30 hours before his flight they were marked by gratitude and assurance. ‘When I say goodbye to my friends I’m definitely going to thank them for showing me a good time when I was back,’ he said. ‘Just let my friends and family know that I love them. Tell them try not to worry because I’ve made it this far. I’ve just got to make it another three months.’ ‘