November 2004 Dubai Trip Part II

8 Clicks and A World Away

As it turns out, there is a bird out the next morning. Poor George has been waiting for days, whereas I am lucky enough to get nice day service. A small bright spot in an otherwise FUBARed trip. The travel babysitter always recognizes me and remembers my name, which is vaguely non-John Smith and has been in the news, though not lately. She used to work in Billeting. I am assuming she caught on the name thing, instead of me making a really bad impression. Of course, she’s polite enough, so I could have somehow made a good impression too, being as I am so uber-cool, it’s indescribable. Or at least some people think that. I call them crazy. I don’t even believe that shit.

We are supposed to go around 11AM. I try to help out for my kids back at camp, and see about trying to bring along some mail. They put mail in the hard car when they have it, but due to the threat level it hasn’t run but twice in nearly two months. Mr. Travel Boss says no joy. The helicopters have all been crowded, and if they even see me with the cute bright orange mailbag they won’t let me on the bird. He won’t even let me check if there are any letters or anything small, just some tidbit to give hope. What a cock. At this point he tells me there’s a hard car scheduled to go, chock full o’ mail. It’s supposed to go tonight. HA! I’ll believe that when I see it. It’s been a long time “supposed to get the hard car in tonight” and it mostly never shows. Security is trying to be conservative on the threat level, and I understand that. The hard car doesn’t go if there are even whiffs of a rumor of a threat. That’s their call on company safety and liability, and I am not going to knock them for it. It’s a shame the mail folks can’t figure out to put the mail on any of the other trucks that will go, but maybe they have some kind of rule against that. I’ll pretend they do so it isn’t their fault. They also have a tendency to say that you got everything they had when you know for a fact there’s been a package there for some time already. Maybe you get a package that’s been sitting in their office for 3 weeks and 2 days, but you get another one before that shows up…with next day service. Anyways, given the whole lotta shootin’ goin’ on, I think they chance of the hard car going is about…zero. Why would they send it when all sorts of crazy stuff is going on versus times when nothing was going on? I force myself to leave before I become violent with this guy. On the other hand, I am about ready to quit, and would have a time or two if I didn’t have a fairly well thought out exit plan with a semi-definite schedule. (Ed. Note – 6 weeks! Woohoo!)

I “work” a little bit while waiting to go manifest for the flight, but it’s largely a waste of time, and I have to sit in the office with people I don’t particularly like. While on a mission some of the guys are talking about how bad it is here at the airfield. From where we are standing, you can see buildings in the neighborhoods, and there is no wall there. They get a lot of small arms and drive-bys. Then one mentions how at least they aren’t at the Palace, and how dangerous it is there. I find this all very amusing. I guess it’s all about what you are used to.

We go down to the FARP to wait for our ride. We get word that they won’t be in for another couple of hours, and will shut down for a couple of hours after that. During the wait, a couple of mortars land over across the street on the H-4 camp. You can see the smoke. About 5 minutes later another two land more or less in the same area. Immediately after there is a car bomb, possibly over by the police academy. That place attracts car bombs like …something that’s real attractive to car bomb fanatics. There’s another bang over another few degrees along the horizon, but it’s a smaller one, and you have trouble seeing it in all the haze. I guess they were doing a coordinated attack. Before too long, somebody nearer our side of the base, on the far side of the berm, earns some machine gun fire. There’s something else on fire in the same general swath of area. It’s interesting having a good view along the horizon, smogged out though it is, and time to burn outside. I’d probably do more of that at the Palace, but the best spot is right across from the University building, which has a great overview of our camp, much less the observation point. I don’t want to be around when some gomer decides to take that place over and fire on targets of opportunity, since it’s only about 100m away. I’d probably be safe enough if I was moving, but that kind of prevents good in-depth observation.

Somewhere around the appointed time, the Blackhawks show up but don’t shut down. The Army folks who were also waiting go out and load up. We go too. We lift, and fly real leisurely like, only to land a quarter mile up at the other end of the runway. We shut down there, and they tell us to come back in two hours. Turns out these guys are with one of my old National Guard units. They are out of Smyrna, Tennessee. That’s pronounced Suh-myrna for those of you who don’t know. That’s where my old parent company was based, and I don’t know any of these guys. It’s interesting to note the web of connections though, as apparently my old unit from Lawrenceville, Georgia is training up to head over here, too.

We lift again, moving slowly to my mind. We drop back down at the FARP again and pick up two more guys. I’m cool guy and grab their stuff so they get on easier. It amuses me to think how long it’s been since I touched a rifle. I visited my weapons last December, and bought a new pistol, but I don’t recall if I got to shoot my rifle or not. One of the guys is an SSG who’s in our office all the time. For some reason we cross over the highway awful slowly. I see a few Apaches wandering around. We don’t see them too often. We land over at Glory, across the highway. Nobody moves on our bird, and I don’t think anyone got on or off at H-4 either. No idea what happened, but we only spent a couple of minutes on the ground. We pass another flight of Blackhawks going the other way, while the OH-58s are wandering around checking things out. It resembles a well played orchestra…yaa…that’s it. People hack on the military, but sometimes there actually is a plan, even if not at the level where you’d see it.

We come in over an area of camp I have not over flown before, which is nice. I like variety, and new information. Apparently some mortars come in about the same time we do, but I don’t hear them. I don’t have my radio. I don’t miss it, either. I never do. I hate those things. I have to put up with the repeated “that was a short LWOP” (Leave WithOut Pay) from people either who realized it was short, or didn’t realize it was too short for me to have even gotten anywhere. I don’t much enjoy answering the same questions over and over, but at least there aren’t too many people here. At K2 it would have taken days to get to everyone. Well, anyway. Back home again, at least for the next 7 weeks or so. I’d say it’s back to the grind, but my days could be a whole lot worse I guess.

In a bizarre stroke of irony, later that night a hard car shows up with all sorts of mail.

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