As I write this entry, we are on board an Air Force C-17 aircraft flying to Al Udeid AB, Qatar. Originally, we were supposed to fly into Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan. But ever since the uprising it has affected our travel plans. One day they are accepting inbound and outbound flights. The next day all flights are suspended. Nobody on my team projected a regime overthrow in Kyrgyzstan; therefore our departure mission has been see-sawing back and forth.
Yesterday I made my final trip to ANA land. At one of the entrance gates, some Afghan local employees were working on a new building. It was a bit comical to see how they were applying the concrete mixture to the exterior wall. They would use their trowels and scoop up a gob of concrete and then throw it at the wall. Only half of it would stick, but they were persistent with this process. Then another employee would come along and smooth out the concrete. I guess this additional layer of concrete is to strengthen the integrity of the concrete block wall.
I met up with Omid and had hoped to see the ANA Sergeant Major one last time. We went to his office and found out he was still out on mission. So I will never know what kind of a cook the SGM is. I still appreciate his gesture of kindness and wish him and his family the best.
Our next stop was the Kandak Assistant Religious Officer’s office. He wasn’t there, but the ANA Mullah was present. He invited us in for some tea. He seemed to be upset about something. I learned his superior was trying to take away the cell phone I had presented to him. Somehow, this person was under the impression I gave the phone to the Mullah to present to him. This officer is also a former Mujahedeen commander, but I never had the opportunity to interview him. Based on my research, he was one of the financial managers for Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance. He also had a dislike for Americans. I rectified the cell phone issue and the Mullah was happy. We drank our tea (my last cup of chai in Afghanistan) and said our goodbyes.
The rest of the day I spent packing my gear, uniforms, books, etc. I was quickly running out of bag storage space due to my last minute impulsive shopping trip to our small bazaar outside the camp. These merchants will be sad to see me go…lol. But Mrs. T should be happy with my purchases, especially these igneous and metamorphic rocks that I bought at bargain basement prices. Some people refer to them as gem stones and are very appealing, especially the corundum. The time quickly flew by and before long it was night time.
In the morning I packed my final belongings and we loaded them on an armored LTMV for transport. This would be our last mission and this time, we would all be passengers in the back of the MRAPs. Our 173rd Army brothers would be our chauffeurs. It was time to pass the torch because now they will be responsible for running their own
missions. We had a small hiccup with the radios not communicating with each other and took some time to resolve. My Air Force team made a habit of checking the vehicles and communication equipment the day before the mission to prevent delays the day of the mission. But this is no longer our worry and hopefully this Army team will come together as a team and figure it out the same way we had to.
As we drove through the capital city one last time, I took notice of my surroundings. Being a passenger allowed me to look further back into the side streets and focus on the people longer than I normally would if I was driving. It was only fitting we had to dodge around hundreds of people gathered in the market area and swerve around a horse cart. I don’t recall seeing too many horse carts in Florida, although near my home in Pennsylvania, the Amish still travel around in them.
We arrived at the Kabul International Airport (KAIA) military terminal and off-loaded the truck with our bags. As luck may have it, after several hours of waiting, we were able to
leave there the same day. Our first stop was Al Udeid AB, Qatar. This is the temporary processing center until the situation in Manas gets resolved. It was obvious they were still struggling to accommodate the large influx of passengers and clearing customs there can be a royal pain in the butt. Unlike most other Air Force personnel processing through, my
team was rather unique. We still needed to turn in our Army weapons and gear. The Army is a real stickler for accountability and we are personally accountable for thousands of dollars worth of gear. No inventory, except for the weapons was performed. Instead, we filled out name tags and attached them to our bags of gear. Some of it has to be shipped to Manas AB, once they start allowing flights, while the majority of the gear and weapons will be returned to Fort Riley, Kansas. Either way, it was a relief to return these items.
Lady Luck was still smiling on us and we caught another flight to Ali Asaleem AB, Kuwait. This place is great and I am nicknaming it “Air Force Club Med”. To be cont’d…..