Sunday, July 30, 2006

Safety Comes in Cans

I Can

It's been quite some time since I last posted. I've been on leave and since my return to the job, I have been busy trying to line up things for our return trip home.

You Can

Going home, I managed to get stuck in Kuwait for 2 days and the flight itself was about a day to a day and a half. I was pretty stinky most of the time, I managed to pack away only 2 days of undergarments.

The first day was a lot of shuffling and baggage dropping - then waiting for the flight. We flew a C-17 down to k-town, the entire flight was in body armor. I was the only guy in my chalk sporting D.A.P.s on my IBA. Daps stink!

We finally made it into k-town in the afternoon (1300ish) - the bus ride was short. I nabbed a quick bite to eat at the local DFAC and returned for my paper work processing. Processing our 2 leave forms took all of 4 hours of time. We then turned in our armor to a storage facility and nabbed our housing assignments.

That night I ran over to the local MWR internet cafe. The guiding light to that facility was a huge McDonalds sign (in arabic), it was really weird seeing that display out in the middle of a make shift shopping area.

I wrapped up some email and waltzed over to the USO building on the installation. It was practically next door. Inside I was treated to a Ben & Jerry's-esque display. This place had a large wooden bus that was painted in 70's "hippy" stylings. The stylings included the ever-so-famous etchings of Greatful Dead Bears holding hands, frolicking across the neon green and purple trim. The manager for the site was a lady who worked behind this large deco of a by gone generation that served as her desk.

The USO offered video games, DSN phone access, desktop computer access and movie viewing stations. The entire place was very very relaxed. Some type of Yanni or Chanting music was rolling in the background. The furniture consisted of cushion cubes for sitting, soft floor matts were conveniently placed near the video game and movie stations.

After awhile, I slapped my boots back on (there was a no-boot policy in the building) and made my way back to the tent area.

We Can

The next morning, I was up early, grabbed breakfast and picked up a shaving kit. From there we had a "formation" and moved to the briefing tent for a days worth of briefs covering "what you can/can't take home" (don't bring weapons back), "how to re-integrate with your family", etc. That wrapped up around noon. I had lunch and then we formed up and moved through the customs system.

I spent a lot of time talking with a medical flight chief that works in an area where we have people stationed. I had a great conversation with him about his job and the demands/requirements that come with that territory.

It was tough for me to pull that off because I managed to lug 2 duffle bags full of stuff with my day pack that was loaded with books and things I wanted to leave at home.

After customs, we were placed in "lock down". Basically we were placed in a tented area that had access to a "Green Beans Coffee" cafe but all around us were retaining walls and barbed wire. The idea was to keep us isolated in order to prevent us from violating customs laws.

We did a role call, got onto our buses around 5 and then off loaded our busses because there was an inconsistancy with the role call. We did another and re loaded the busses. After a 3-4 hour long drive, we made it to the flight line, moved onto the plane. And did another role call on the flight.

At this point, I figured we were free and clear! I was sitting next to two marines that were taking up asile seats. We chatted about home. I recall one was from St. Louis and the other was from Indiana.

The guy from missouri was a vehicle driver and the other marine was a signal support guy (much like myself). We had a couple of great coversations about the differences between our organizations and I was amazed at how very similar they are in form and practice.

At this point a very attractive, blond, stewardess came by to pass us drinks and snacks.

The marines to my left...well, let's just say he thought she was attractive. In anycase, she came over to our section and I reached for my cup. Well, I managed to "fumble" for my cup and it dropped onto the marine's lap and then to the floor.

She made a statement to the effect of "Well, I'm not reaching for that!" So, he picked up the cup and I nabbed my share of drink and food.

Afterwards, the marines both looked over at me. The one on the right asile seat said to me, "Thanks sir! That was awesome!"

"I don't know what you mean?"
"Dude, that made my leave!"
"Oooooh, ok. Yeah, well what can I say? I do what I can for the enlisted folk."

The marine to my left chuckled a little bit, and mentioned that I needed to keep up the good work. Apparently, he picked just the right guy to sit next to on his way back.

I seriously didn't intend for all that to happen, and I felt pretty bad for those stewardices. Some of these guys were acting like total dogs!

Just when I thought I was on easy street

We were on that plane for 6 hours before we were told the commercial airliner was experiencing "technical problems". Basically, the "reverse thurster indicator" was on when it wasn't supposed to, we off loaded the plane, stumbled on to the busses and returned to our lock down site after another 3-4 hour long drive.

It was about 7 in the morning when we came back. We were released to get cleaned up and I shuffled over to the little PX to pick up more shaving supplies.

After cleaning up, I went back to the DFAC where I caught up with one of my 1SG's. We grabbed a quick breakfast and then hussled over to the lock down area.

The entire day was spent in lock down watching movies on tv and trying to catch up on sleep. For some reason, I was completely exhausted and faded into and out of my book.

By night fall, we reloaded onto the buses, and rolled to the airport. A quick pit stop later, we were on a different air liner and we were on our way home. These stewardices were a little older and for some reason they kept bungling up the head count.

I was sitting near a NCO that helped me a couple months back schedule flights to a place I was visiting. He looked at me and said, "Get on it LT!"

I guess he could tell from my facial expressions that I had enough of it. So, I stood up and tried to talk the stewardess into letting us take care of the head count. She insisted they manage that and it was suggested I take a seat...

Downtrodden, I stuffed myself back into my chair. I was sitting next to 2 other guys that were pretty buff. The flight home was uncomfortable to say the least.

When we got into the skies above k-town, everyone let out a cheer and we made a stop in Ireland to refuel.

I had to run through customs again once we hit Atlanta, and with 15 minutes to spare, I made my way through security, customs, etc and made it to my flight. I was running through crowds of people, doing the old "Duck, Dodge, Dive, and Duck!"

On my flight, a lot of people picked up on where I was returning from. I was offered a 1st class seat (which I turned down) and the lady next to me spent the entire 1-2 hour flight asking me questions.

In VA, I picked up all but 1 bag and called my mom. She was hussling over to the airport. While she was on her way, I went to the delta desk to ask about getting my other bag shipped to my parents place.

That took a bit of time and as I made my way back to the empty baggage claim I saw my mom crying her eyes out. She had been looking for me and was worried I was at a different airport. I gave her a big hug and tried to calm her nerves when some woman came by and with a very serious tone said, "You stay safe over there!"

Home Again, Soon Enough I'll be on the Road Again

My parents took me out to a couple of movies. I picked up some clothes and spent most of my time just trying to decompress.

Every morning I would spend walking with my mother and we would usually spend time out nabbing lunch at a new paneras up by the local university.

I was able to catch "superman" with my dad and we went to see the new "pirate" flick the day before I came back this way.

All-in-all, leave was pretty nice. I lot of people asked me if it was surreal. Considering my job is probably not the most dangerous thing you could do, especially if all I have to concern myself with is a random mortar striking near me, all I could really say is "not really".

I've also spent the past 3 years traveling to and from the middle east, so for me, this is almost business as usual. Even the impact of seeing the trees and the lushness of east coast vegitation wasn't as much of a shock as my first time back from S.A. to Georgia.

I managed 2 weeks at home, spending time with my parents, I managed to attend a great wedding, went to D.C., research the cost of scuba equipment, and I made a couple of purchases (books, video games, and music) for my remaining time here.

The wedding was excellent! It was a very interesting event, as it was a Jewish ceremony. I finally managed to meet all of the people that couple had mentioned in previous conversations and I even managed a dance or two with a Miss Ohio.

My sister was up in DC, she held a 4th of July party for myself and some friends. I brought up drinks, a grill, music, and a stereo - she's got a great apartment - we spent the first day prepping for the party and the next day walking around DC before the fireworks display on the 4th. The party was a big success - we held it on the roof tops.

Some of her friends came by and we watched fireworks with most of the apartment residents on the roof top - the explosions echoing through out the DC skyline was a little unnerving for me and while I enjoyed the display, it seemed as though the sounds were punctuating that I was going to be returning to my "other home" with in 3 days.

When those days burned out, I was saying good byes and back on a plane. I spent 1 day in Atlanta. Where I ran into the NCO that helped me line up flights over here. We chatted a bit, and ended up watching episodes of "the shield" and "smallville".

After doing another customs/security run, we were back on a flight and after another short stay in Germany, I was in Kuwait for 1 day. After getting my body armor and my temporary tent assignment, early that morning, I was back in line and waiting on my flight to my area of assignment.

One particularly long flight later, I was back in Iraq waiting to pick up my back pack and the bus to take me to my office/trailer area.

So, that was leave.

In a day or so, I'll comment on my time back here! Later and thanks for reading!