Our flight out of Manas took place on the 19th. Once again we had to go into lockdown but fortunately this time, it wasn't for as long as the flight crew was ready to fly before our scheduled departure time.
We flew from Manas to Baku, Georgia. It was about a six hour flight during which I slept the entire time. For you James Bond afficionados, "The World is Not Enough" was filmed there. I was hoping to get off the plane so I could say I've been there. At first we were not going to be allowed to deplane but because it was going to be a 2.5 hour layover they let us off - but only under "guard." They weren't military guards - or maybe they were but were just wearing civilian clothes. Unfortunately the airport was nothing exciting. I did get my picture taken, me and the Super Heroes, in front of a caviar advertisement just so I could prove that I'd been there. I then took pictures of our group in the lobby but one of the "uniformed" guards came over and wagged his finger at me. At least he didn't confiscate my camera.
The next leg took us to Shannon, Ireland. Same place we flew through on our way to Afghanistan. From Shannon we flew to JFK in New York. As soon as we flew into US airspace and flew into Maine, the pilot let us know where we were and you could hear lots of guys cheering. Then when we landed on New York, the cheers once again rose throughout the cabin.
It was so cool to walk around JFK and finally be in America where everything was familiar. I got a bowl of clam chowder and a roll and it was delicious. Disappointingly the food on the plane was pretty bad this trip. Oh, and did I mention that there was no first class seating for the senior officers? I couldn't believe the inconvenience of the whole thing. Ha, ha.
We finally flew into Shelby, arriving around 1100. And just as I knew would happen, as soon as I stepped from the door of the plane was hit by a wall of humidity. Yuck.
BG Wilson and an entourage of officers and senior enlisted had flown to Shelby to greet us and that was cool. SGT Aaron's parents who are serving a mission in the area were also there to greet us and it was nice to meet them.
It took us 26 hours to get to Shelby but it was so worth it to finally be at the final stage before we actually got to go home. As much as I didn't like Shelby the first time around, I was glad to be back.