Assignment Afghanistan: Texas Troops Make Stop in Kyrgyzstan

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News 3's Steve Fullhart and Rachel Cox from KWTX News 10 in Waco are on assignment covering Texans serving in Afghanistan.

Texas service members are making the trip to Afghanistan, and along the way, have stopped at a transit center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan.

The center is usually the last stop before troops make it to the war zone, but is often the first stop for the men and women in uniform who are on their way home.

One of those heading to Afghanistan is Joaquin Santos, a 19-year-old Army private deploying from Fort Hood with the 151st Movement Control Team. He recently married Justine, a 20-year-old living on post at Fort Hood deploying to Afghanistan for the first time. Thursday, as PVT Santos waited for his flight to the war zone, he used Facetime on his mobile device to talking with Justine.

"It's really hard," she said of saying goodbye to him. "I had to tell him to go because I just kept wanting to hold onto him. It was really tough, but I'm surviving so far."

PVT Santos expressed pride in being able to serve, but knew that he was going into an unknown situation.

"It felt to be a part of being able to go to Afghanistan, be part of the last people coming out, saying that I actually got to go to Afghanistan," he said, "but it was also hard because I'm a private, and coming in, I don't know what to expect. Especially being newly married, it's hard being away from my wife."

Since the start of the conflict, Manas has been a go-to place for thousands of service members, but the U.S. lease with Kyrgyzstan is up in July, meaning the transit center will be no more, and operations will move elsewhere.

"Until that moment, we will be moving on with our mission, getting our airmen, sailors, soldiers and Marines through Manas," said Air Force SMSgt Angelique McDonald, who serves in the public affairs office.