Saturday, November 22, 2008

Now For A Little R&R

Yep, you read that right. I'm on R&R. Where else can you get a 2 1/2-week vacation after just 3 months on the job? Must be the federal service ...

The past couple of days were hectic, which has been the norm lately. I've been trying to get things settled down in my area of responsibility so that others in my office can cover me while I'm gone. You may as well try to control the weather. We had a bit of a crisis pop up yesterday about a proposed project and I wound up spending hours running around trying to find out what was really happening and why and who did it. Turned out that one person had thought that it would be good to add what he thought was a small task to the project, so he copied some words to that effect from another project and pasted them in. Only the words he used required a massive effort and would've brought the project to its knees. It would be like trying to get a Mazda Miata to pull a loaded 18-wheel trailer. Ooops. So is it fixed? I dunno - I got the fix in motion and then had to pass it off to my officemates and head out. Here ya go, guys - I'll see you in December!

So I grabbed my vest and helmet and bags and hoofed it over to Landing Zone Washington. This is the helo area across the street from the Embassy. I checked in and sat down on the wooden bench outside to wait for the call. Military flights don't even try to stick to a published schedule like civilian ones do. They tell you to show up at a particular time, and then you might wait ten minutes or you might wait ten hours. I was fortunate: it was only about an hour before the woman came around asking "where ya goin'?" I told her "BIAP" (Baghdad International Airport) and she said "git yer stuff and git movin'". I was part of a group that was put onto two Army Blackhawk helicopters that were churning away on the pad. We barely had time to climb up (with our bags more or less on our laps) before the blades dug in and we lifted off.

I wound up sitting in the "hurricane seat". I think everybody ought to have that experience. The hurricane seat is in the back row, facing forward, next to the door. Which was open. Actually, it might have been completely removed. So the person facing forward gets the full rotor blast and air blast, as well as the visual thrill of looking STRAIGHT DOWN on kids playing soccer in the street about 500 feet below with absolutely nothing in between us except 500 feet of air. It's quite the thrill. I took a bunch of pictures and will post some once I can get them onto a computer.

So we arrived at the military side of the airport about noon. I checked in to the Department of State's compound, had lunch, and have been decompressing ever since. This is a pretty good compound: nice clean hooches for us travellers ("hooches" are small prefab trailer-style living quarters), another hooch with computers (guess where I am right now), and another stocked with a bunch of La-Z Boy recliners and a big-screen TV, and the DFAC next door. A bunch of us just got done watching "Twister" with Helen Hunt ... gotta be one of the worst movies ever made ... but when you're racked back in a recliner and your blood has congealed and you're half dozing, who cares? But when they switched over to Fox News, that drove me out.

Tomorrow I get on some kinda military plane (probably a C-17) and fly to Kuwait, then get on a United flight direct to Dulles. On Monday, I'll go visit with some State Department people and then head to Asheville in the evening. I'll be in my own home on Monday night. I can't wait!

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