Monday, June 11, 2007

(For some reason I can't move the pictures to where I want them so you get them now. Guys sleeping on the floor, waiting for a plane, "tent city" in Kuwait, Arabic McDonald's and Me and Superman on the plane going home.)

And so it begins…the journey home (OK, I’m actually writing this after the fact, while sitting in the Dallas Airport waiting to fly back to Afghanistan, but work with me here).

The convoy that took me to BAF (Bagram Air Field) left at the very reasonable hour of 1030 in the morning. Didn’t’ have to get up early or anything. Of course I didn’t get any work done that morning as I was too excited to finally be going home on leave. But I at least made an appearance at the office to keep up the illusion that I am a hard working Army officer.

After the convoy got to BAF, I checked into the R&R tent and had the rest of the day to myself. Not much to report other than I spent an hour or so at the gym.

The next morning we had to report to the passenger terminal by 0830 and our flight was scheduled to leave by 1130. Of course we were all quite excited by the prospect of an early flight especially since the flight from the previous day had been canceled. Well our excitement was soon squashed as we were told that the plane hadn’t even arrived yet and wouldn’t be there for 3-4 more hours. We were told to simply wait in the passenger terminal until our next muster time but being the slightly rebellious soul that I am, I left, got something to eat, wandered over to the PX and tried to pass the time as best I could. When we mustered again we were told that the plane had barely left and wouldn’t arrive for another 2 hours or so. Once again we began the waiting game. Finally our patience was rewarded and we began the boarding process.

Since I was the senior officer on the plane the crew saved me a seat on the front row of the C-17. I thought, “this is great. Rank certainly does have it’s privileges.” It was great, lots of leg room! But, it was right in front of the only on-board bathroom and I swear, every one of the 120+ people on board used it. Every time the door opened I was hit with a wave of that nasty port-a-potty smell. By the end of the 4 hour flight I was about ready to use it myself, only it was my dinner that was rumbling around in my stomach that I was going to deposit in the bowl.

Well we finally arrived in Kuwait. Hot doesn’t really describe the temperature. When we left Afghanistan it was in the mid-90’s. While I don’t know the exact temperature it was A LOT hotter, even though it was the middle of the night when we got there. The next day the temperature soared and it made me grateful not to be stationed there.

I won’t bore you with the details of all briefs but will simply mention that we got there after midnight, had a 0200 briefing to submit our names for our itineraries, had to be back at 0600 to pick up our itineraries and then had to be back at 1130 for our customs inspection. Not a lot of time to sleep but that was OK. I was still too excited.

After we cleared customs we were sent into “lockdown.” We were basically “prisoners” in a secure area so that we couldn’t sneak back onto the unsecure area of base to acquire something “illegal” to take home. Again, due to the fact that I was on the way home made it bearable, but just barely.

By the light of day I was forced to admit that Afghanistan is “beautiful” compared to Kuwait. At least in the Kabul area there are majestic mountains that surround the city. Kuwait was a dry, barren wasteland. Oh, did I mention that it was hotter than Hades? If I didn’t, it was hotter than Hades and once again, I was glad that I was not stationed there.

Here are a couple of pictures of the base. Not to scenic is it? The base had a McDonald’s – didn’t eat there but did take a picture of the Golden Arches in Arabic.

Finally it was time to get on the plane. We were bused a 40 minutes to the airport where once again, senior officers were afforded some privilege. It was a commercial plane, chartered by the military to transport soldiers. Twelve First Class seats were made available to the 5 Lieutenant Colonels and Senior Enlisted soldiers. Talk about comfort. The seats fully reclined and there was so much space between the seats, even when fully reclined, that I couldn’t touch the seat back in front of me when it was reclined. The food was great, the service impeccable. Needless to say the flight home was really great.

We stopped to refuel in Scotland and while a layover shouldn’t count as having visited a country, I’m going to now claim that I’ve been to Scotland. I think I should qualify as having visited as we had to walk across the tarmac to get into the terminal. That’s a little more than simply walking down an enclosed jetway, don’t you think?

Anyway, that was our trip home. I’ll write about Dallas in a separate entry as it was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in a very long time.

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