Sunday, February 25, 2007

The End of Pass

Well “pass” came and it went but it was a great seven days. “Seven days” you ask? “I thought pass was only for four days?” Well you’re right. On the books, pass is only four days. However, the day we arrived was not counted as Day One, it was day zero. Official Pass” then started the next day (day two). On Day Four (day five) we had to check to see when we were flying out. Some of the guys going back to Iraq actually left the evening of Day Four (day five). We, however, did not have a flight that day or the next (day six). No flights to Afghanistan. Dang it. And I was so looking forward to going back. So on Day Five (day six) we checked and we actually had a flight scheduled…for the next day at 6:45 p.m. That meant that our travel day (day seven) ended up being an additional day of pass.

OK, I’ll have to admit, I was ready to get back. Not that I necessarily wanted to go back to Afghanistan and a war zone. I wanted to get back to work so that I could feel like my “time in country” calendar would continue to count down. While on pass I realized that I was now under the 90-day window to go home on leave. Then when I got back from leave I’d have less than 60 days in country. For some reason that made my remaining five months seems so much less when compared to a straight five months.

My last few days of pass were spent at the pool. I swam, I slept, I read, I listened to my iPod, I ate. I did everything that I wanted to do on pass. It was great.

With seven days in the sun I realized that I was starting to turn pretty brown, but I’m sure no one would notice. I mean, I wasn’t that tan.

Well when we finally got to the passenger terminal we received the bad news…we were flying out on another C-130. You could hear the groans of despair around the room. Not only was it going to be another painful flight of knees crammed into someone’s elses, uh, thigh, we were going to stop in Kandahar, Afghanistan on the way back. And since we would be landing around 4:30 in the morning, we would not be let off the plane. That made the though of the trip even worse.

Well when it came time to load the plane, I realized I was the senior officer on board and I made the executive decision that I was NOT going to be crammed into the knee to thigh seats. I stepped aside and let everyone go past me and I remained at the end so that I could sit in a jump seat that did not have a seat across from it. The folks from Kandahar were supposed to be in those seats but I decided that rank had some privileges and some junior enlisted Kandahar passenger could look at someone elses knee approaching his, uh, thigh. So while the flight was chilly and the seats were uncomfortable, at least I got to stretch out my legs.

Now my uncharitable act did not go unpunished though. As I sat down and leaned back, I painfully realized that there was a metal beam running up the back of my webbing/backing of my seat. Of course I didn’t notice it when I so selfishly picked out my seat. So it meant I could not lean back and get comfortable. Instead I had to lean against this metal pole for the 3 hour flight to Kandahar, the 45 minutes we were on the ground and the two hours to BAF. But you know what, I’d do it again just to be able to stretch out my legs.

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