I arrived safely at BWI after a VERY long “day” at 2300 on Sunday, 18 July. The day began for most of us at 0400 Saturday morning Kuwait time (2100 Friday night East Coast time). Lots of bus rides, long hours on planes, and waiting to get in line to wait some more. The whole process went quite smoothly.
We arrived in Atlanta about 0800 Sunday morning. In 30 minutes we were in a bus heading toward Ft. Benning. There was a short welcome-home ceremony in Freedom Hall at Lawson Army airfield, a quick lunch, and then off to CIF to turn in weapons an gear. Many of you will remember the old days of CIF in which they played games with you about whether the canteen cup you never used and was still wrapped in plastic was clean enough to turn in. Those days seem to be gone. Clearing CIF was just making sure you had the equipment and it was serviceable.
By 1515 many of us were ready to leave. I shared a shuttle to Atlanta airport with several other guys. I was going to cut it close for my 1900 flight. Fortunately, there is a state law in Georgia that no flights in or out of Atlanta area allowed to be on time. It had rained somewhere in the Western Hemisphere that afternoon so my flight out of Atlanta was delayed almost two hours. That gave me time to change out of my reeky uniform, scrape a piece of metal across my face, and get a salad for dinner.
My bags arrived (hooah!) and came off the belt quickly, so we were on our way within 30 minutes of landing. Candy had a cold Vernor’s ginger ale for me in the car. It is a short ride to APG from BWI, but I still had trouble staying awake. The bed felt great!
I’m currently in Ali Al Salem in Kuwait awaiting the “Freedom Flight” back to the Ft. Benning to turn in my weapon and head home. It’s difficult to get the Air Force to do anything in a hurry. They are also famous for “crew rest” that stops aircraft from flying right when you need them most. Strangely enough, just about every flight I’ve been on during my tour seems to get to Ali Al Salem at 0230!
This trip was no exception. We had to form up at 1900 for a 0245 flight. Yes, that’s not a typo. We had to be there 7 hours early! By the time we pulled our bags off the pallets and I was assigned a space in the “VIP tent” (yes, you read that right a VIP tent), it was almost 0500. Fun.
Anyway, I’m safely in Ali, and will get two days to read and decompress before heading home. Looking forward to a real pizza. The food was great in Iraq, but real pizza was rare.
I have been in Iraq for a little over six months. Later this evening, I’ll head to Sather Airbase here on Camp Victory for the flight to Ali Al Salem in Kuwait. There I’ll wait for a couple days and then fly to Ft. Benning to out-process the CONUS Replacement Center (CRC) and fly home.
My tour here has been a tremendous experience. I was able to really make a difference and get a lot done. Despite popular belief and the dearth of coverage in the media, there’s still a war going on here. US soldiers are still getting killed. As the Science and Technology Acquisition Corps Advisor (STACA) I was able to help ensure the right technologies were brought into Iraq to ensure the safety of US soldiers.
Rear Admiral (Lower Half) (RDML) Morneau said a very nice thing to me as he was pinning on my award. He said, “Many receive this award, but you earned it.” That made me feel that my tour was worthwhile.
I’ll be changing jobs when I return home. I’ll become the Military Deputy Director of the Communications Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) on Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), MD.