Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kuwait to Baghdad One More Time

07 Dec 2005

We finally pulled out of Kuwait airport enroute to the APOD at 7am Tuesday morning. As I guessed, I missed my reserved flight to Baghdad for which the roll call was at 0330am. Got myself lined up for a “Space A” or space available flight, but according to the boards there were no more scheduled flights to Baghdad today. Time for a good sleep.

I got checked into the billeting on the APOD. I’m assigned to tent H1, a cozy little 10 man tent complete with bunks that have mattresses. Naturally, I forgot my alarm clock at home, so made a quick trip up to the PX for an alarm clock so that I’d wake up in time for the required 1800 roll call. Didn’t even have the energy for a shower.

Just as I got back from the PX and was ready to hit the bed, Josh walked in. He just got in from a long and circuitous series of flights from Phoenix to Kuwait, so we were to be traveling companions again, this time on the way back to Victory. I was still really wound-up, so I took a couple of melatonin to relax me and next thing I knew, it was 5pm.

What a difference sleep, a shower and clean clothes will make. Went to the roll call at 6pm and to our surprise, a “pop up” flight to Baghdad manifested itself while we slept. Back onto a bus to take us all from the APOD to Ali Al Salem. So now here I am at 2200 sitting in a Quonset hut each of which holds probably 100 people, at Ali Al Salem awaiting Chrome 47 to take off for Baghdad sometime around 0030.

About ten minutes ago, a group of soldiers just came into the two Quonset huts connected looking for cots to crash on. I told then not to worry that we’d only be here another hour or so. She then said that they were told that no more flights are coming in or flying out tonight due to weather. More fog.

I went outside to see if I could confirm the rumor, but no one has said otherwise thus far. Our bags which we palletized when we got here are already gone, so I’m hoping that maybe our flight will still get out and onto Baghdad.

2300: We got loaded onto the bus, but in the 15 minutes it took to call roll and get us loaded on the bus, the fog rolled in quickly and as thick as pea soup. It was pretty unbelievable how fast it all happened. So while we’re sitting on the bus, we heard over the radio that the incoming flight was diverted and we are to return to the Quonset hut until further notice. So now we wait.

Well, it’s after midnight and now Wednesday the 7th and the old stomach is growling again. I had a chicken sandwich at KFC in the food court around 1830 or so, but both Josh and I are hungry again. No choice out here at the staging area but to dip into the MRE’s. Josh let me in on the secret of thoroughly enjoying the MRE dining experience: mixing.

He warmed up and mixed the mashed potatoes into the meatloaf. I ended up mixing the wild rice medley into the Tai Chicken packet along with that little itty bitty bottle of Tabasco. No way was I going to eat the crackers, but once I traded my plain M&M’s for Josh’s crunchy ones, I opened the peanut butter packet and stuck a few M&M’s onto the peanut butter and squeezed it out of the package into my mouth like a four-year old to complete this gourmet dining extravaganza.

Bob squared, (real name Robert Robert), one of the new NSC guys that I just ran into here who is also headed for Victory was relaying experiences from his Army days with MRE’s. He mentioned that one of the big challenges is to get the crackers from the veggie meals (for some reason they are drier) and bet someone $20 that they can’t eat them all without water over a two minute period.

The pound cake is also pretty popular. When you open up the package, it like springs to life as the air that had been previously vacuumed sucked out of it once more gasps for air and rejuvenates itself. As you rip the package open, you almost expect the pound cake to gasp for air like a person held underwater for 30 seconds!

Okay, full belly. Maybe it’s time for a nap. My makeshift pillow is my computer case and my jacket. They always tell you to take your sleeping bag along on the trip, but who the heck wants to lug along a sleeping bag around all over the world? I did have my pillow with me, but it was packed in the suitcase…a lot of help that was now!

It’s now after 1am and I don’t feel like reading and the computer is about out of juice. Looks like there aren’t going to be any flights out until the fog lifts in the morning. I should have bought a converter plug for Kuwait and only have my German converter plug right now. Guess I'll try to sleep some.

It’s now 5am. I woke up about every hour from when I laid my head down at one until now. I woke up to Josh preparing his breakfast…another MRE. Deciding that food didn’t sound like such a bad idea, I went out to the shelter area and looked over the choices. One guy out there just after me knows his box number that contains the one specific meal he likes. He was living on MRE’s for two months after the chow hall in Mosul was bombed, when was that now? I want to say sometime back in Feb or March.

I decided that the cheese tortellini sounded good and I wasn’t disappointed. Chef Boyardee couldn’t have done better. Josh had scrounged some more M&M’s during his search earlier, so I had something to mix again with my peanut butter packet.

Six thirty and now they are telling us we should be ready for an 0830 roll call. 0830 comes and goes and no roll call and no plane. At 10am, we get word not to expect a flight and that they were finding busses to take us back to the APOD; our flights were cancelled.

At 1030am, someone must have had a change of heart; roll call was to be at 1130 and we would be on a flight at 1330.

1330 and we’re taking roll call and getting on a bus to take us to the flight line. I’m not holding my breath on this one. We’ve been so close before, anything could happen at this point as it has before.

1415, we’re pulled up along a C17 at the far end of the flight line and loading. Next thing you know, we’re in the air on our way to Baghdad.

The normal one hour flight has now been extended. For no known reason, we are told that we will be held in a pattern above Baghdad for at least 30 minutes. At the end of that 30 minutes, it is announced that we will be held up to another 45 minutes while the flight line is checked for IED’s (improvised explosive devices) to have been reported.

Finally, at around 1630, we are landing back home on the military side of BIAP (Baghdad Intl Airport) and deplaning. As soon as we’re removed from the plane and walking around the rear side of the plane, another group is walking around the front side and preparing to board the C17 enroute back south and out of Iraq.

It’s now around 1815 local Baghdad time and I’m now back to the hooch and juicing up the computer and unpacking the suitcase. I want to take a shower before hitting the rack, but don’t have the energy. Boy, it’s nice to be back to my own “other” bed and my own “other home.” After all that, I…just (yawn)…want…sleep.
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