I climbed out of bed at 0300 to clean my CHU, and make final preparations to leave with a show time of 0700. In the military, there are flight times and show times. Flight times are just as you would imagine, they are times of the flights. The show times are anywhere from 3-4 hours prior to the flight, and if you don't make arrive for the show time, you lose your ticket - it is given to a standby customer. (This is just like commercial air travel, except that Delta doesn't give away your ticket until you "no-show" at the boarding call.) The 1100 flight was delayed, however, until 1545. So, I sauntered about the base until the new show time of 1245. I then lugged my gear - 125lbs of my belongings, 70lbs of battle armor and kevlar helmet, and 50lbs of chem gear - to the meeting spot, where we proceeded to tag and load our bags and take the bus to the terminal 1/2 mile away.
I thought our trip from my base to Al Udeid would consist of the 2+ hour flight over 1000+ kilometers of desert packed into the Air Force's favorite tin can: the C-130 Hercules. I was overly optimistic. Clad in
IBA and helmets, 40 of us, packed tightly as cigarettes in their case, made our way north 300-400km to Kirkuk, where we dropped off 6 and picked up 13 soldiers and airmen, back down to Baghdad where we dropped off 10 more, changed pilot crews and added some cargo, and then, finally, south to Al Udeid, Qatar. The 4x4000hp Allison Korean War era engines buzzed as a mammoth wasp for the entirety of our 3 legged, 5 hour voyage. The blessing of our delay left us landing on our desert peninsula within the Persian gulf at 2130, mercifully, after the setting sun.
Soaked through our undergarments and battle-ready burlap-canvas camouflage (ie. ABUs), we sat through an hour of briefings, dropped our checked luggage in a bin, lugged our the remainder of our gear through customs, dropped off chem gear and IBA, and then waited in the steamy night for a bus to the transient housing office. My psychologist colonel friend had a driver taking him to the DV (distinguished visitor) housing unit, so I caught a break, skipped the bus, and hitched a ride with him. My attempts to hole up in DV quarters posing as his aide-de-camp were apparently more transparent than I had guessed, so I was curtly shipped back to second class. I shrugged, picked up linens, and walked 1/4 mile to a 45 person tent filled mostly with hygiene-challenged 18-25 year old soldiers that smells like 3 day worn sweaty socks dipped in a septic tank and left to dry on a line. But at least the air was cool in this tent, so I stripped off my saline-laden stink, took a deep breath, and re-dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.
I walked another 1/4 mile to the bar, had three glasses of water and a Guinness. All is forgiven. Counting down hours until commercial air takes me north and west from here.