Thursday, September 16, 2004

Baghdad Bound via Kuwait...again and again and again and again

Baghdad Bound via Kuwait...again and again and again and again
13 September 2004

The flight from Frankfurt back to Kuwait City went flawless. (this should have been an omen that nothing else from here on out would go well.) I called the ITT rep once I got through customs. He said to look for some Army guys holding a sign for military members and I could catch a ride on the bus back to Doha that way. The plane arrived at Kuwait at 1930, but we didn't finally pull out of the airport until after midnight. They didn't want to go until we had a full bus. So what should have been a 45 minute ride was a 5 hour wait.

Once off the bus, I reported in to building six that I was back and then over to building ten to see if the flight manifest for Baghdad flights were posted yet. No flight availability postings until between the hours of 2 am and 5 am.

So I took my lazy body back over to the "ITT Hotel" in bldg 18, which as a matter of fact still does exist. I had bad info back in my posting on my way out. Well, who should I see sitting in front of bldg 18 but Harvey (one of my tech control coworkers) and Jeff McLellan! It was great to see familiar faces again. We spent time catching up with one another as we all just got off of leave, checking the postings for flights out. Got word of an 0830 roll call, and it was already 0300. I took the chance to wash all the dirty laundry that I've been dragging around Europe before having to go back to Baghdad.

0830 rolled around and we went over to bldg 10, but didn't get manifested on the flight. Next roll call was at 1330. I caught a few winks, but not any REM sleep, which would have been nice at this point. We made the roll for 1330 and dragged ourselves and luggage on the truck and bus and headed out to Alli Al Salem. I'll try to make this short. Finally at 0430 the next morning, the Army (in all their infinite wisdom) canceled the flight, but never told us! We sat in that damned quansit hut they were using as a terminal with everyone sprawled out on the hard wood floor because there were no sturdy chairs to sleep in and no cots and waited for the knuckleheads to let us know flight status. "Oh, we forgot you were out there!" What a way to run an operation.

I did get to eat MRE's for the first time. The Thai chicken was tolerable with the hot sauce added for flavor (which most of the food is required to have removed) and the crackers were so dry....(how dry were they?) that they could haved been used as that sawdust stuff the janitors used to throw down on vomit at school!

Each trip requires the passengers to load all luggage onto the trucks, then off of the trucks, then build the pallets-stacking all luggage on the pallets. Now let's do it in reverse. Now we're depalletizing luggage for 45, then moving luggage again from the broken down bus which broke down in the parking lot before we even got out of Alli Al Salem. Finally we arrived back at Camp Doha at around 0630am (some 14 hours after original departure).

It's now Friday the 10th and we have roll call again scheduled for 1330. Tried to catch a few winks again, but you get so wound up from all the back and forth stuff, who can sleep? It's to the point that I don't know if I'm coming or going.

1330 Roll call, only 27 of the original 45 pax (passengers) are called. Space available means if space if available you get to fly. We are cargo, sheep, things according to how the loadmaster manifests us. Our convoy leaders wait for the Balad flight so that two Humvees are needed instead of four for our convoy to the airport. Halfway to the airport, the Balad bus breaks down. About 20 people sitting in a broken down bus in 120 degree heat is not a good thing. But, not to worry. Someone has phoned ahead and they will hold the flight for us. 1-1/2 hours later, the replacement bus never arrives. The Balad pax bring all their bodies and carry on luggage onto our bus and our convoy proceeds to Kuwait Airport on the military side. The Balad people get off and we are told that we are at the wrong airport. Baghdad passengers are supposed to be at Alli Al Salem--and our flight has left already. Well, that was a nice wasted afternoon. We get back to Doha about 8 pm.

We struggle to stay up until 0200 to find out if flights are going to Baghdad on the 11th and how many seats might be available after our little snafu this afternoon. Finally about 4 am we find out that there are no flights to Baghdad for today. It's almost a relief. I go to bldg 18 after dragging my luggage 1/2 mile AGAIN from building 10 to 18 and prepare for a big sleep. I'm exhausted. Sure wish those nimrods could get their act together. When the APOD was at Camp Wolverine, we never had problems like this.

Sept 12th, Roll call at 0830. They didn't post that until about 0230am. Go back to bldg 18 and catch a few winks until 0800 and then do the bag drag AGAIN. We made the flight manifest again. Get on the bus and get out to the military side of Kuwait Intl in an hour at around noon. Palletize luggage and wait for an hour or so until we get the news that we're canceled yet again. Depalletize the luggage and load everything back onto the truck and buss to unload it again at Doha. Actually, we've become quite efficient at all this loading and unloading stuff. Line 'em up and pass 'em over. When you work as a team it goes pretty quickly.

Bag drag the 1/2 mile again to bldg 18 and try to catch some sleep before the 0200 flight postings. 0200 rolls around and nothing--0230--nothing--0300--nothing. Finally at 0330 on the 13th, roll call for Baghdad is scheduled at 0630am-45 pax available.

Drag 'em back to building 10 for the roll call. All made it again...well not all, there are still a backlog of 90 people waiting to catch flights back to Baghdad (what a shock with the efficiency this group is working at!) but all of our group made the manifest.

Load the truck, load the bus, once again departing from the military side of Kuwait Intl. It is almost like a real terminal too with seats and a TV to watch. Also has a Subway Sandwich shop and a Pizza Inn. A far cry from that waiting/staging area at Alli Al Salem.

Now we find out that the flight isn't even due in until after 12 noon and it's now 0830 am. Who the hell schedules this stuff. I could have slept in another 3 hours! Sorry, just a bit cranky. But, we made it out this time. What a process! Inefficient might describe it, but that might cause them to conclude that they've done something correctly albeit slowly. I like the German descriptive term better...abgefickt! (loosely translated and gently abbreviated...F'd up)
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