Saturday, February 28, 2009

Outbound

I'm sitting at the military side of Baghdad Airport now, having left the Embassy earlier today for the last time. Since my last post, I've been busy with packing, cleaning, passing on the last bits of wisdom to Pat (the guy who's taking over most of my duties), and all the other things associated with closing out another phase of my life.

Our weather looked like it was going to have an impact on my travel. Yesterday the wind picked up and last night it got really dusty - I mean really dusty. Looked like a heavy San Francisco fog, except it was orange and gritty. Fortunately, I knew the weather might be an issue, so I had arranged for both a ground and an air option to get my butt over to the airport today. Then this morning the skies were bright and rapidly clearing. Great day for a helo ride! So right after noon, I caught a ride over to Landing Zone Washington. I was a couple of hours early but had nothing to do but hang out anyway. Then began the Great Bag-Drag Caper.

I checked in with the air ops people to let 'em know I was there for the flight later this afternoon. The kid checked through his paperwork, but I was not on the manifest. Ooops. I had a confirmation email yesterday, so I knew I was on the flight. Then he asked if I was a State Department guy. Yep, I am. So he said, you gotta go check in with the State Department air ops office. They're on the other side of the LZ. Okay, no problem. I grabbed my bags (one wheeled duffle, one wheeled carry-on, my shoulder bag, my body armor which weighs almost as much as my duffle bag, and my helmet) and waddled off to the other side of the field. Once there, I found the air ops office and reported in. The guy flipped through his paperwork and asked how my name was spelled two or three times before deciding that I wasn't on any of his manifests. So he called and talked to another office back at the embassy. Somebody there found my name on a list (yay), only I had to go back to the first side of the LZ to check in. All right, what else do I have to do, anyway? So I grabbed my bags and walked back across the LZ for the second time to the first office. About a half hour later, one of the ops guys came out and told me that the flight I was supposed to take was cancelled due to weather. Huh? It's beautiful outside! Yeah, but not up north, where the helos were flying from - it was dusty and they were grounded. However, the State Department guys might have something flying that afternoon. So I grabbed my bags and tootled back around the LZ for the third time. Turns out there was another State Department flight scheduled for later in the afternoon and I could probably get on it. So I sat and waited.

A while later, with a bunch of us sitting there hoping, a guy with the flight manifest came out and rounded us all up. He'd scored a hop for us with a couple of military helos. Except - you guessed it - it was going to leave from the other side of the field. Now a whole bunch of us made the LZ Bag Drag trip, me for the fourth time. We stood around for a little bit and then the guy came out and said that half our group was to catch the military helos and half would catch the blue State Department ones. Guess which group I was in? So for the fifth time, I dragged my bags around LZ Washington.

Hell, with as much walking as I'd done, I could've been at BIAP by then!

But finally they took our bags and loaded us into the helos and off we went. After all that trouble, the actual flight only took about six or seven minutes. We lifted off, arched over the old Palace, down across the Euphrates, and over the west side of Baghdad. In no time we were crossing over the runways and then settling down at the military side of the airport. After collecting our bags, we were shepherded through the military facilities (big steel temporary buildings surrounded by T-walls, not exactly the most picturesque environment you can imagine) and into Sully Compound. I got checked into my room, explored the adjacent BX compound, and then had dinner at the DFAC.

Now it's time to kick back and unwind. I'll go watch some mindless TV and hit the rack. I've got an early showtime tomorrow morning for a flight that doesn't leave until much later, but that's the way the military runs things. Let's just hope that I don't have to drag my bags all over BIAP tomorrow, too!

2 comments:

SillyLittleLady said...

Momma and I want to let you know that we are thinking of you and please travel safely, don't do anything stupid ;)

Storypainter said...

Stupid? Me??

Too late!