Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm here, let's catch up a little...

I know, I know!  I haven't posted much of anything lately!  So shoot me!  (no wait, I take that back, wrong thing to say around here... ;-)
Seriously, it's really safe where I am here at Camp Victory.  I got here yesterday morning, about 0900.  That was Tuesday... I left China Lake, CA last Saturday morning, about 0500... so "only" about 3 days.  Looking back I guess that's not too bad, but it seemed a lot worse at the time!

An hour flight to LAX, 3 hours layover, 4 hour or so flight to Washington Dulles, about 6 hours layover, then an over 13 hour fight to Kuwait International.  I slept a few hours on the long leg, but I was pretty beat when we got to KWI.  Then we stand around waiting for bags - until the baggage claim belt stopped moving, and there were no more bags... yep, mine was lost.  Great.  There were 3 of us traveling together (2 of the guys on my team were with me, one more will show up in a month or 2).  Only one guy got his bags, the other 2 of us were out of luck.
We filled out the lost bag claim, but I didn't have a lot of confidence that I'd ever see it again based on a little language barrier, and way they do things... then off to the bus to the military side of the airport (the APOD), to catch another bus to Ali Al Salem air base, for the military flight up to Baghdad... (yes, there is a lot involved in getting here).  But since it took a while to file the baggage claim, we missed the bus with the rest of the folks on our flight.  Great.  A couple of hours later (after a few more folks joined us in the wait), the next bus shows us, and we're off.
At KWI we get on little busses (seats about 20, or 25 if you fold down the little jump seats in the isle), and convoy around to the other side of the base.  It's probably only about a mile away as the crow flies, but you have to go off the airfield, around, and back into the base side, through security, so it takes about 20-30 min.  At the APOD, we unload with our bags, and wait for another bus (full size ones) to take us up to Ali air base.  That is about an hour and a half ride...
Once at the LSA there, you check in at one place, go wait about an hour at another desk for the Navy LNO to come back, and they help you figure out what to do next.  Since our baggage didn't arrive, we couldn't get manifested on a flight up to BIAP (Baghdad International Airport), which meant checking into billeting, and getting something to eat.
By now it was about 0200, and we'd been up for about 36 hours (with a couple of naps), and hadn't showered... (I made the mistake of not bringing change of underwear and basic toiletries with me in my carry on bag.)  So we walk over to the PX to buy a few things and get cleaned up, and get some sleep... not so fast!  The PX had just closed at midnight (normally everything is open 24/7) for inventory.  Great.  But it will re-open at midnight the next night.
I walk in the USO, and one of the wildcard playoff games is on, so I watch some of that, then head for my rack, in a tent with about 6 or 8 other folks.  It's pitch black in there, but  I just get undressed and get in bed, then I'm scared ---less by the HVAC that blows hot air (it's cold at night) in through a canvas like tube from the hardware outside, and makes a huge racket as that tube inflates!  Well, that happens about every 20 min as it cycles off/on... so I pretty much didn't get to sleep until it quit running in the morning when it starts to warm up.  I think I slept for 2-3 hours before I woke up sweating (it's hot in the day!)  Great.  So I call to check on my bag - no news.  Grab something to eat, walk around explore a bit.  We decided to just take the bus back to the airport to meet the flight (ours, but next day) in hopes that our bags would be on it.  So, we go through the whole bus routine in reverse (with a longer wait at the APOD this time), get to KWI right after the plane landed, go to look for our bags - but we can't go to baggage claim ourselves, we have to wait for the folks there to look for them... stand over there and wait for about 30 minutes... great.
But eventually our bags came rolling out with a porter!!  Yea!  Let's get back on the bus and go through that routine again.  But wait, the busses have already gone, we missed them while waiting for our bags to come out.  Great.  An hour or so later, next busses are here, and we're off.  This time, an even longer wait at the APOD for big busses to Ali.  That's ok, I have my stuff, and sooner or later I'm going to get a shower!
We got back to the LSA around midnight I guess.  I checked on the flights up to Baghdad, and sure enough there's one scheduled for check-in at 0330.  Perfect, time for a shower and dinner, then try to get out of there.  So we walk over to the PX to get soap, a towel, etc., - and it's still closed, they delayed the opening for another day.  Great.
That's ok, it's been about 60 hours of traveling, and I take a shower!  The showerhead was horrible, but it was one of the best showers I've ever had!  There's really not enough time to try to get some sleep, so I check out of my tent, get my body armor and helmet, grab a cheeseburger at McDonalds, and go wait for the flight.  The 0330 roll call finally happens about 0430, but we're on the flight!  Take your bags out to get palletized, and be back for 0545 muster.  At 0600 we're mustered for the flight and get on a bus to the flight line.  At 0725 we're airborne in an USAF C-130, on the way to BIAP.  At about 0845 we're on deck, and after a quick check in (O-5's and up get a little special treatment, so we were through there in no time).
The current OIC picked us up, drove us over to get our badges, checked into billeting, and some lunch (the DFAC is amazing, more on that later), and I was in my room ready to pass out a little after noon.  I made a quick Skype call to my wife (that was great to see her!), and I was ready for a long winter's nap.  It had been a little over 3 days, with only a couple of short naps, and I was out.  I slept about 8 hours.  I woke up to go to the bathroom (more on that later too), decided I really needed another pillow, so walked over to the PX, but they were out of them...  I did get a few things, went back, fell asleep again and slept another 8+ hours (except for bathroom break).
I haven't taken a lot of pics yet, but I'll post some in a minute, and I'll be taking a lot more.
Gotta run right now, more soon!


  1. 60 hours is a long ass time... hang in there - i mma rooting for you!

  2. I'm so glad you're doing this blog--what a great insider's perspective. Might sound perverse, but looking forward to hearing more about the bathroom and all your adventures.