15 July 2009

A Very Long Day - First Leg Home

Last morning in Iraq and I’m unable to sleep in (just kept waking up). Was it the anticipation of the beginning of the end?

Breakfast and phone call home. Happy anniversary Ray - my homecoming is my gift to you.

Early CrossFit workout on my own. Did the Col Dolan (our wing deputy commander) legacy WOD: 480m run, 13 hang cleans (65#), 16 pullups (graduated to the purple band), 22 burpees, 35 knees to elbows, 80 walking lunges, 332m rowing, repeat. Finished in 43:30 and took my shower wearing my PT gear in order to rinse out all the sweat (hung it outside and it was dry for packing in a couple of hours).

First time back in uniform since Sunday – it felt strange after wearing it virtually for six months straight. Our squadron’s Change of Command ceremony was at 10:30a– I was there when it started (January 15) and I was there at the end (July 15). Afterwards kept myself cool in the Rec Center and finished watching Survivor (thanks to Chixor & Spuds).

Show time to load up and final out processing was at 2:30p (only two trips to lug my stuff to the basketball court for pickup). Bus to the PAX and human chain to unload all the bags (didn’t know there would be a second workout this morning). Very hot, very sweaty – so much so that my socks and boots were soaked. After getting checked in and a Pizza for lunch I suffered the cigarette smoke outside in order to take off my boots and enjoy the benefit of hot air drying.

We loaded up in the C-17 and took off around 6p. By now I wasn’t feeling too great (should have had more water while I was in the terminal). However, I was better able to handle the dehydration than someone else. Almost an hour into the flight (and out of Iraqi airspace) someone a few rows behind me had a medical emergency. Passed out and had a seizure. Fortunately we had a plane full of nurses and a couple of doctors. Unfortunately no IV fluids so we diverted to the US base in Kuwait (now I can say I’ve been to Ali Al Salem AB). That delayed our trip by two hours. She’ll be okay and just be a couple of days late getting home.

Arrived in Qatar at Al Udeid around 10p. As I feared, the in processing was long, very long. I was fortunate to be on the first bus off the plane. First we had the immigration, then the briefing and notification of our mission out of here in a couple of days. Helped to unload all the luggage off the pallets while the second group got ready for their briefing. Moved slowly through customs and then the real slow down occurred: Before we could turn in our IBA (vests) and chem bags we had to break down and rebuild the padding and straps in our helmets. Problem was there were only four screwdrivers at the table. I was in line for 40 minutes (and this was considered the first group, it was now after 1a.

The bus from the PAX to the Coalition Compound took us all the way around to the transient tents instead of directly to the housing office – good thing I was already used to hoofing it all over the place (even in the dark). Got to the transient housing office and another wait (but at least they had ice cold water). Got a bunk around 3a - the shower felt so great! At that point I thought I’d just stay up and maybe nap at the pool in the afternoon, so I walked across the compound to the dining facility. Reading the newspaper I found I was trying too hard to not fall asleep in my breakfast. Yeah, better to go all the way back to the tent and get some Zzzzzzs. This is the part when I blessed the lucky stars that I was one of the first group off the plane, because at 5a there were still people waiting for their bed assignment.
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Three hours later I’m sitting in the coffee shop and typing about my longest day. Traveling in big groups is never smooth, never fast. But from touchdown to bed down 6-8+ hours is ridiculous when it’s the middle of the night. On the plus side, I’m scheduled to be in the states in less than 72 hours!

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