Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I’m back, actually I’ve been back for a while and just got busy and neglected writing up this post and posting these last two posts.

When I left off I was waiting for a flight out of Kuwait.  I was able to go and get rid of the majority of my gear, well atleast the heavy stuff so that was a nice unexpected bonus.  Other than that just spent a lot of time sitting around burning time.  Kuwait sucks.  I was able to get on the flight back to CRC as scheduled, just to be sure I volunteered for baggage duty so I end up having a long day of moving bags around for everyone on the flight.  First we had to load them onto trucks after we went through the pre screen customs yard they have.  That took a few hours but there wasn’t anything else to be doing so it wasn’t so bad.  Then we got to sit around for about an hour or two before we boarded busses and took the 2ish hour trip to the airport.  I think it is the main airport there but we were off in the middle of nowhere.  Just a plane parked on the ramp so we got out and had to unload the trucks/load the plane.  I didn’t go up into the plane’s belly as that was assigned to the shorter guys.  While we were doing that everyone else boarded so we were the last ones on but they saved all the mid-range seats for us, the big wigs and the guys with the dogs got first class but we had the seats with extra leg room so no real complaints there.  We first flew to Germany and watched a few bad movies on the way.  Different airport in Germany and we got there in the middle of the night, were then bussed all over the place to some really old terminal also in the middle of nowhere where we hung out for a couple of hours and got a bit to eat and drink before getting back on the plane and flying to Atlanta.  We ended up getting into Atlanta at about 4:30 in the morning again at some out of the way terminal in the middle of nowhere but atleast we didn’t have to unload all the baggage they had one of the crew’s there do it.  It’s about a two hour bus ride from Atlanta to  Ft. Benning which is pretty uneventful, thankfully on heated busses as I didn’t have any warm clothes with me.  We went back to the terminal at Ft Benning that we had left from and they had a small ceremony welcoming us back which was pretty nice of the.  Then they fed us again.  Cold Cuts.  But they had bread that wasn’t stale so they were actually rather good.  We then went in a returned the rest of our gear before heading back to CRC for the final out processing.  Then we were free to leave.  This was about noon.  So rather speedy process which was great. Of course my flights back to NJ weren’t till the next day, but that gave me time to go to the PX and get something warm to wear for the trip back.  Flying back to NJ was pretty uneventful. 

When I got back to NJ they had just gotten about a foot of snow (yes in october) a few days before and the place was a mess.  It took about a week and a half to get power back at my house so I didn’t really start living here again till the beginning of this week.  Not to mention my roommate’s girlfriend and her dog moved in while I was gone so a few changes here.  Work is different and the same, I’m looking forward to finishing up the ending paper work for this trip and getting back into the normal swing of things. 

Overall I’m very happy that I went, it was a pretty awesome adventure.  Don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to go back or not, time will tell I guess.  I suspect this will be the final entry in this blog so thanks for reading!  It sure is nice to be home.


28 Oct 2011

So I finally left C^3.  Well really I was only delayed a week, but people were starting to wonder if I actually was going home or not.  So now I’m burning about 48 hours at Ali Al Salem in Kuwait.  One of my least favorite places ever.  I imagine that Kuwait has some nice places, but this isn’t one of them. It’s hot dry and dusty, so about the same as when I came through in May, in all fairness I guess it is a little cooler now than it was then but still upper 90’s.  Anyway I’m getting ahead of myself as a lot has obviously happened since my last entry.

At the Bazaar this week I ended up picking up a few last things, I was going to buy another painting but the painting guy hasn’t been there for the last few weeks, maybe because of all the rain we had and it had been damper than normal.  I also went to the little bank that they set up where you can change money and whatnot (you can also open a savings account but I’m not really sure what anyone would, well anyone that doesn’t actually live in Kabul but not too many locals are allowed at the bazaar.)  I was able to get the missing 5’s for my monopoly sent as well as a few more singles.  40 5’s and 23 more 1’s, all for $5.  So it will be a mix of old worthless money and current, still pretty worthless money.   We also saw a CCCP stamped multitool.  In normal Soviet fashion it was pretty rough finish wise but it had a hatchet and a hammer head on it.  The hammer head was removable and there was a set of sockets for it as well.  A bargin at only 3000 Afghani, (~$60) but I bet we could have gotten it for 1000 or less if we had actually wanted to buy it.

My replacement was supposed to arrive on Saturday but due to weather or something his flight was canceled.  He wasn’t able to get out Sunday either which caused some consternation as we already had a limited timeframe for overlap.  The other contributing factor was we couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long to get him here as we had plenty of options for different ways to get here.  (Always good to have at a minimum plans A-C worked out ahead of time for travel around theater.)  He finally made it in Monday morning, so the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday were pretty busy trying to get him up to speed on the job and all the different systems and things one needs to know to be useful.  It will be interesting to see how he does when the boss gets back.  Nothing that I did is really that hard, complicated, or time consuming but it is a rather wide variety of things and just generally trying to know something about everything.  It seems like a lot more when you’re trying to teach it all to someone in a few day’s time. 

My out processing and all that went well, until we found out Tuesday afternoon that my flight out had been canceled.  Plan B didn’t look realistic either at that point.  So I that Wednesday morning I’d head over to one of the other bases in Kabul and try to get out from there since they tend to have a fair amount of helo traffic in and out on any given day.  Of course when I got there I found out that my chance of actually flying out from there was probably pretty remote, it just isn’t set up to handle cases like mine.  But I was there and pretty much willing to hop on any bird that would get me to Bagram so I could catch my Thursday flight to Kuwait.  I used the back of a notecard to write a note to show the helo crew chief since having a discussion right next to a Blackhawk doesn’t tend to work out well, go figure.  Set of birds lands that I’m 99% sure is going to Bagram, so I walked out showed my little card to the crew chief, he reads it and gives me the thumbs up. Score one for non-verbal communication.  Grab my bags and head out, to hop on the bird as instructed.  Turns out the bird I was told to get on was pretty much empty anyway so no biggie for them to randomly pick up someone with three bags.  The flight to Bagram was awesome as helo flights generally tend to be and went pretty well.  The countryside was pretty nice as the few trees that there are, are changing color.  Mostly yellows and reddish browns mixed in with a few still green with snow capped mountains rising up at the edges of the valley.  It really is a beautiful country from a few hundred feet up. 

Got to Bagram and hitched a ride to meet up with the guys.  I spent most of the day just chillin as they were somewhat busy.  They let me play with some of the new thermal gear that was coming into theater.  Ended up taking that out at night (it works well during the day but it is a lot more impressive at night).  That was awesome.  We have some really great gear, it’s gotten to the point that it’s on par with or maybe even better than what I’m used to seeing in video games.  You could see the mountains through the haze and helos/planes taking off and landing.  All sorts of stuff.  Again really cool stuff.  And it could be yours for only, well ok they probably wouldn’t let you buy it and you probably wouldn’t want to afford it if they did, cool gear isn’t cheap.  But boy is it cool. 

Called up the pax terminal to check on my flight in the evening and while it said it was for the 27th it really wasn’t till the 28th.  Apparently since it was a multi leg flight that originally started late on the 27th the whole flight is listed for the 27th instead of the parts on the 28th being listed as being on the 28th like one might expect.  The air force flight system is really goofy. But they had some early morning flights that I could try for.  While I didn’t want to get up early not trying and then having problems later and being delayed would be significantly worse.  I ended up having carry my bags to the pax terminal, the original plan was to get a ride but that didn’t work out.  It was longer than I wanted but shorter than I feared.  Slow going as I was carrying probably an extra 100+ lbs of gear.  Atleast it was cool out so I wasn’t dripping sweat when I got the terminal.  Actually I ended up being lucky, as soon as I walked in set my bags down and then went to the desk to sign up for space-a they asked if anyone was going to Ali.  Apparently while the flights I knew about had gotten delayed there was one that just showed up somewhat randomly that they could take people to Ali on.  It was a callsign I’d never heard before so I didn’t know what plane to expect.  I got signed up for that flight and went to the waiting area for an hour or two before they called to load up.  Turns out there were only 6 of us that were taking it, probably a combo of the early hour and it not being on any of the schedules.  So we head out to the ramp and board up on a C-130.  Not the most comfortable plane for long distance trips.  We get on and the plane is set up for pax transport so basically we have the whole plane for the six of us, plenty of room to stretch out and even lay down.  So of course that is huge as the C-130 is pretty slow compared to say a C-17 and the flight is going to be significantly longer than I had anticipated.  (it ended up taking about 6 hours.)  I managed to “sleep” for the first half of that using my IBA as a pillow. (Ceramic armor plates are about as soft as they sound but ehh better than concrete.  I tell you sleeping outside that gas station in England is going to be pretty hard to beat when it comes to crappy sleeping locations.  Good thing I got it out of the way early.)  Between that and carrying bags around my neck/shoulders are a little sore at the moment, but I’ll live.

I got to Kuwait about mid-day aka right after the DFAC here closed.  They have fast food here but as good as that smells it wasn’t that appealing.  Got all checked in here with my bags secured and a bed for the few nights I’ll be here.  Not a whole lot to do, especially if you’re traveling by yourself.  So I walked around some yesterday, read on my kindle, watched a few movies. (Most of which had Justin Timberlake in them, strange but whatever.   Friends With Benefits is actually pretty funny, or it was at midnight last night.  But to be truthful Mila Kunich, no idea how to spell that,  is just smokin hot.  Not really news just an observation.)  Right now they are showing Cowboys and Aliens, I’m not watching it but I probably would be if I wasn’t writing this. Also watched Bad Teacher that had ? Cameron Diaz in it (and Justin Timberlake), the first 5 min or so was pretty good, the rest of it was just so so.   Saw some other movie but it was soo awesome I have no idea what it was, ohh no it was Brooklyn’s Finest.  (without Justin Timberlake)  It wasn’t exactly what I would call good but ehh it isn’t like I have a whole lot of other things to be doing.  Also I found where I can turn in some of the gear I have before I fly back so I’ll have less to carry, but it was closed last night.  Went back today and was able to get rid of a ton of stuff so now I’m down to my assault pack and a duffle bag which is much more manageable, not to mention easier to carry.   I’ll probably actually put my assault pack into one the empty duffle I have and just travel with two duffle bags till I get back to Benning.  Looking forward to that and dumping off the rest of my gear there.  Not much else going on today, I found out some info for the boss so when he transits through he’ll be prepared and I found out info for my flight back to the states on Saturday.  Schedule looks ok, not too early but I imagine it will be a long day of sitting around not doing anything and not being able to go anywhere.  Oh well, Not much else going on.  Just plan on spending the rest of the day hanging out inside watching movies and reading, I might go hang out outside once it gets dark and cools off some. To be fair they have a pretty decent setup here just everyone is transiting through waiting to go somewhere else trying not to get stuck here for days if not weeks.  We’ll see how I do but I should have a reservation for the Saturday flight so that might help. (May not mean much but it’s better than not having it.)   Will I make it home as scheduled?  Will I have an extended unwanted stay in Kuwait or at Ft. Benning?  All these answers and more in next week’s episode! Stay tuned....