Leaving Kuwait

Because I was to spend a few days in Kuwait City meeting the Program Support Team, I needed a visa.  The Army runs a visa service out of Ali Al Salem LSA.  It takes 24 hours to get one's passport back for both entering and leaving Kuwait.  So, I spent another couple of days sitting in sandstorms and wondering if I was going to get out.  Other Soldiers and contractors I spoke with told me horror stories of being stuck in Kuwait for a week or two while flights were filled by higher priority passengers or flights delayed by weather and mechanical reasons.  The bummer was that I was spoiled from staying at the Courtyard and Hilton for three nights and now I was back to dusty and dirty tents holding up to 16 guys. 

I got up early to pick up my passport and went over to the flight manifest tent.  Put my name on the list for Bagram.  There's usually no direct flights to Kabul so one has to fly either to Bagram or to Kandahar and then get manifested on another plane to Kabul.  I was told to return at 1630 hours for roll call.  I did, made the roll call, and made the manifest.  The dispatcher told me that normally flights to Bagram are filled and folks spend days trying to get out.  I was lucky.  I probably would make this flight -- my first day on the list.

In typical military fashion, those who were flying to Bagram were told to standby in the tent and wait for a formation at 1800 hrs.  I asked one of the dispatchers if I should go get my gear and haul it up to the line.  She replied no, that I would have plenty of time to grab my gear before the buses arrived at 1930.  So I waited.  At 1800 hours, we all filed outside to stand in another formation, a last roll call, and then we were supposed to palletize our baggage.  I ran to my tent, packed up all of my shit, and hauled it to the pallet area.  One of my bags weighed 80 lbs and the other weighed 45.  Plus, I have my backpack with computer gear and other documents and cables.  It's no easy task hauling all of this up a gravel pathway for 150 meters.

Got to the pallet area and saw no one.  No pallets either.  Dropped my shit where I stood and walked over to two cargo guys and asked them where everyone was for my flight.  They looked at me, looked at the road leading to the air base, and said that I was too late.  Panicked, I ran to the manifest tent and spoke with the lady who told me I had plenty of time.  She was starting to give me the usual bureaucratic double talk but I was in no mood for that.  I resorted to my infantry officer behavior, causing another guy came round the cube to assist me.  He called ahead out to the runway and spoke with the USAF.  Word came back that there would be no problem for me to haul my baggage onto the flight.

I was on the phone with my wife telling her my sad stories when the buses arrived and we loaded.  The sandstorm that I feared would cancel the flight subsided and we boarded a C-17 headed for Afghanistan.

  Traveling with Soldiers and 120mm mortar rounds.

I don't know how many Taliban we've killed with 120mm mortars, but I guess we've been expending some ammo on them.

First glimpse of Afghanistan out the cargo ramp of a C-17.

We arrived at Bagram AFB at 0215 hours on Sunday.  Afghanistan is 2.5 timezones east of Kuwait.  I am 11.5 hours ahead of Colorado Springs.