Almost immediately upon getting on the plane returning from Leave I was homesick. I missed my family, my dog, my home and fell into a mild funk. Getting back through Atlanta to Kuwait to BIAP to Kalsu was not going to be a treat.
The weather had changed here while I was home. It was now easily over 100° in the dust bowl of Kuwait. Bad weather set in wreaking havoc on all out going flights to Iraq. Bad weather in the Middle East means either dust or sand storms. I experienced both within twenty-four hours. While I am familiar with the “red air” syndrome of a dust storm, I had never sat through a sand storm before. The sand moves at the speed of the wind, which in this case, seemed to be fifteen to twenty miles per hour. If you’ve ever seen blowing snow, a sand storm has the same visual effect as it passes over pavement. The sound however, reminds you of a driving, pelting rain against a pane of glass. It can be intimidating.
Fortunately I was in the safety of a bus and did not have to go out in the storm. Within thirty hours of landing in Kuwait I was on another C-130 en route to BIAP. Trying to get a ride – anywhere – at 0330 in the morning out of Baghdad is impossible. I had been up for almost a day and was seven hours ahead of my body clock. When you are that tired you don’t care about where you are or who sees you. I sat in a chair, made myself as comfortable as possible and nodded off for three hours of broken sleep. My mood deepened.
I discovered that a convoy was heading to my base at 1130 so I spent most of the morning sitting in the shade reading. At about 1015 the sun was high enough in the sky to eliminate my shade altogether and the heat really beat down. In Baghdad there was no dust to block the sun and the temperature was around 105°. When it gets that hot your clothes absorb the heat radiates inward and your body feels like it is wrapped in a giant hot blanket. When it gets to 120° and higher it’s suffocating.
The ride back to Kalsu was uneventful. I looked out the window at the landscape going by. The heat had already drained all of the color out of the ground. I have never seen a place look so inhospitable.
And then it hit me. All of the travel, the homesickness, the heat, the jetlag, the Army – all of it all at once; I hate this fucking place.
When I got back to my room and back I reset my countdown clock that Lisa gave me. I entered the date that we’re supposed to leave Iraq. It read, 99 days. And suddenly the gloom began to lift. A new urgency crept into my brain – it’s time to prepare to go home! Upon entering my office and opening my email there were urgent requests to start the redeployment process.
And now the heat is on to start the checklists to go home. There are awards and evaluations that need to be written. There are movement plans to write. Packing needs to be done. There is coordination with the home unit. There is enough to keep me busy for the next three months. Three months seems like a long time when you arrive but it goes by very fast at the end.
Right now, Iraq isn't so bad. It's hot only from my air conditioned room to my air conditioned office, or the air conditioned gym or chow hall. The end is in sight for my team as we get out the countdown calendars and mark them off.