Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I'm Leeeaving, On a C-17...

I'm in Kuwait now, headed home on leave. Travel is a complicated process in Iraq, marked at each stage by some complicated torture designed to remind soldiers that, while they may be going home, they still have no right to expect to be happy or revel in the appearance of comfort.


It starts with a helicopter flight. In order to board the helicopter, you must first endure as few as four hours and as much as two nights sitting on the flight line, breathing dirt and hoping the next flight will be yours. It isn't yours, of course, so you go on shaking the dirt from your hair and ears after each flight leaves, and trying to nap in the thirty minutes of calm before the next flight arrives. Thanks to one of the readers of this blog, I had a fine cigar while I waited- a CAO Maduro that, besides being an excellent cigar, allowed me to ignore one round of dirt showers. My group was lucky- we got out the first night, after only five hours of waiting.

The next stop on the trip home is one of the large logistical bases scattered around Iraq. After no less than a day, and hopefully no more than four, you fly south to Kuwait. In the meantime, you will deal with obscenely early briefings in which the military equivalent of a kindergarten teacher repeats simple instructions over and over until all the sleep-deprived knuckleheads in the group remember their last names and flight times. While waiting for the next briefing to start, you are free to wander the post. I chose to do so, forfeiting sleep in the process. I proceed to get lost and get on the wrong bus (a post with buses is new to me). It worked out in the end, though- the new bus route took me by the shore of one of the large lakes in central Iraq, as well as the stripped down and graffitied remnants of Saddam's air force. I got back to the transient tent at 1400- my next 'hit time" on the trip home was 0600 in the morning, and I intended to spend the interim sleeping. I laid down on my mattress, still in the plastic wrapper and devoid of any bedspread, just in time for the lights to flicker and die and the AC to whine to a stop. Great. With the power out and the heat climbing, I had little choice but to tack a few more hours onto my day. I'd been awake for almost thirty hours at that point- not the longest I've ever been awake in Iraq, but the first time I'd been awake that long by my own choice. I won't lie- it was kind of nice to abuse my body because I wanted to. Fatigue makes the world a little sharper somehow. Your reactions slow, but the sky seems more blue, and the sounds more clear. Unfortunately, the wind also feels hotter.

0600 meant more standing around, and more retarded people who, after years in the military filling out every form imaginable with their social security number, are still unable to remember the last four digits of the same. From 0700 to 1030, I nap, and finish off the first book I've read in weeks: Robert Heinlein's classic Stranger In A Strange Land. The title seems appropriate for my situation- first as an American in the Middle East, and now as a combat soldier trapped in a world of paperwork and briefings. At 1045, we got the first pleasant surprise of the trip. Our ride to Kuwait is an Air Force C-17- much larger and nicer than the noisy, cramped sweat box of a C-130 of the sort in which we entered Iraq.

So now I'm in Kuwait. I've survived three briefings so far, as well as a minor foul-up getting into a tent (apparently, the computer classified some of us as "other" under gender, and was thus unable to decide which tent we should go to. The billeting agent informs me first that no, I can't pick my gender now, and second, that question is hardly original and thus not funny). I think it's pretty funny that computers get gender-confused. I have another briefing, a customs search (not just for weapons/ammo/explosives- I hear they have a problem with people smuggling porn out of country. Remember those knuckle-dragging idiots I talked about?), and I should be headed out back to the states for a couple of weeks.

25 comments:

  1. mamaworecombatboots6/6/07 14:43

    Well let me be the first to say Welcome Home. Hope your time at home is sweet.

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  2. TD-

    Enjoy your down time (if you ever get to it) as you and your fellows most certainly have earned it. I've heard and read about the hurry up and wait bureaucratic mess attached to war zone travel and on behalf of us real people, we apologize for the pinheads in our government. Best wishes to you and yours.

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  3. "apparently, the computer classified some of us as "other" under gender, and was thus unable to decide which tent we should go to"

    Ok, be honest man. Did you really offer to bunk with the ladies?

    If you end up in the Illinois area (central is better, but whatever), lemme know. I'll buys ya a beer.

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  4. ha ha ha, so are you sayin' john kerry was RIGHT?? too funny td. and we are so sorry to have missed your folks! we had already left west palm for podunk ga for the summer. be safe and hurry home to your mamma, she deserves it!

    smiles, bee

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  5. Anonymous6/6/07 15:49

    Welcome back home Soldier!!

    I know your short time back state-side will be filled with many happy reunions. We owe everything to you and your comrades making the real sacrifices!! Thanks for serving, and thanks for giving us all a glimpse that we never see in the MSM. You have multiple talents.

    Chris in Missouri.

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  6. Yes, have a great leave!

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  7. Oh man, I remember BIAP... Coming and going the "Stables" got you! At least the new DFAC was nice. Though most of us got one meal there before heading to Outbound Holding and staying there for 2 days.

    I remember sleeping on the floor of the "terminal" tent while some of the guys played games TV in the front.

    Glad you are heading back for well earned rest.

    Anyways, I stopped over from Tankerbrothers and ASoldiersMind to say 'hi' and give my best.

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  8. Sounds like with the military travel "fun" you could have added -- don't know when I'll be back again. "I'm in Kuwait now..." Sure were good to see. Welcome home, you have earned this respite. Hope your travels continue to be just annoying, and the stuff that make good stories.

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  9. Marieanne6/6/07 21:45

    Godspeed, TD, and enjoy your well-earned rest.

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  10. I have been there and done that, I spent 5 days once going from vietnam to okinawa, but it was worth it.....

    enjoy your r&r TD, you got it the old fashioned way, you earned it. Safe Journey my friend.......

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  11. Safe Home, TD..

    We'll all rest a little easier for a few weeks..

    wpr,

    dwas

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  12. Sorry to hear about the travel misery, but hey, thanks for sharing!

    Dude, I hope you get there fast so you can take it slow. Godspeed, TD!

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  13. Anonymous7/6/07 01:08

    zomg we are going to party like its your birthday....strippers. ..hooters..... okay maybe no strippers...but sure as shit hooters....and beer....lots of beer....see you when you get here TD.....

    Dom

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  14. Have a nice leave...If you want to/have time to hang out, let me know...

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  15. Hey TD have a wonderful leave! You so deserve it.

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  16. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/07/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

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  17. uuuuuuuh, I am expecting a piece of the Iraq pie

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  18. Have a great leave. I'll miss your posts from the sandbox ... but you deserve the break.

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  19. Come to L.A. and get free beer.

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  20. The bureacracy sounds nightmarish, and I am so happy for you that you get to come home for some r&r !!!!!!!
    Hope when you finally get there, Teflon, it is as wonderful as can be !!!!

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  21. Cool to have D-Day stand for departure day - Enjoy and good luck!

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  22. You are an amazing person and once you're a Best Selling author in the US, we can all say "we knew you when."

    I wish you could just stay home -- I wish you all could just stay home.

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  23. Have a great R&R TD!

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  24. Safe travels home and have a great R & R.

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