Postcards from Tradocia

the journey home, part 2


(continued from part one)

We spent three lazy days at Camp Victory, Kuwait, living in huge, new, semi-permanent tents. It was sort of an easy, comfortable atmosphere, sleeping in late on cots and eating pizza and Hardee’s and playing computer games all day. Of course, the Signal Corps goes nowhere without at least minimal networking capability – we were able to get a roughly 10-person game of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory going, with power and network cables splayed across the sandy plywood floor and everyone crouched uncomfortably over cots and boxes of bottled water.

You might think that sitting for three days in air-conditioned tents in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert would be terminally boring, but it was really in the vein of our entire deployment. And indeed, it was only preparation for the final bout of sitting that lay ahead.

On the evening of the third day, the US Navy customs inspectors went through our duffel bags, searching for any Iraqi gold/ear necklaces/dead hookers/etc. After that, we piled the bags outside to await transport. The plan was to wait out the night at Ali Al Salem, then go to KCIA (Kuwait City International Airport) at “o’dark thirty” to get on the most-anticipated plane ride of all time.

Anyone who knows Murphy’s Laws of Combat, though, knows that one law is “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” The enemy, in this case, was a vile alliance of military movement personnel and civilian aviation employees.

I, like most others in the company, decided to stay up all night at the airbase so that I could sleep immediately upon boarding the plane. We spent the night – from about 2300 onwards – playing cards and talking in a general haze of delerium that only intensified as the night wore on. Finally, at about 0430 (13 September), we were called to load the buses (damn the buses – I hope I never see another charter bus as long as I live). On the way to KCIA I managed to snatch a short nap; we arrived at about 0600 where we inexplicably sat for another hour. Around 0700 El Capitan came onto the bus and said: “There’s good news and bad news. The good news is, our plane is here. The bad news is, there isn’t a spare flight crew so we can’t leave for another twelve hours.”

There was almost an audible crash as everyone’s spirits hit the floor. So close, and yet… The Pontiff and Bear both called shenanigans on the situation, saying that the commander must be joking. Obviously, they both possess extremely strong faculties of rationalization and denial – vastly more powerful than my own, since I realized immediately that a) El Capitan wouldn’t joke about that sort of thing and b) it was just too fucked up not to be true. It’s the sort of thing that happens all the time that you just can’t make up.

As we waited for our escort to get back to the airport, we milled around outside the buses, tired, hungry, and pissed. Ahead of us there were a few buses with soldiers just starting their journey to Iraq; they were in full “battle rattle,” with rifles at the low ready and even gas masks on their hips. They looked ready to rumble and I’m sure they thought they looked appropriately badass, but to us they just looked sort of ridiculous. I wanted to say, “hey guys, no shooting going on down here – and it’s going to be a long year if you walk around inside the FOB looking like that.”

I caught a little more sleep on the way back to the airbase – maybe an hour or so – and then it was back to the perversely-named “Freedom Area,” where we were enclosed with razor wire and confined to a tent, with nothing to do but sleep on the concrete floor and eat MREs and watch whatever movie was playing. Ostensibly, the “Freedom Area” is a holding pen after you clear customs, a sterile zone where you can’t pick up any contraband, but we all wondered if they wouldn’t just herd us around the corner to the gas chambers at some point.

I tried to sleep on the “Freedom Concrete” but bizarrely I didn’t feel tired. So I sat all day, reading and playing video games, while Bear slept on the floor next to me, snoring like a cartoon character – literally snorting on the intake and whistling on exhale.

At last, as afternoon came, we loaded the buses yet again. We arrived at the airport (again) at about 1500, where we sat for two more hours before finally moving to the tarmac. The Boeing 767 that was waiting for us, white and dark blue with the stars and stripes painted on the tail, was the most welcome sight in all the world at that moment.

A short while later, the 767 thundered down the runway to the sound of B Company’s cheering, yelling, and a few screams of “fuck the middle east!” The wheels left the ground, and after that, we no longer belonged to CENTCOM.

(the exciting conclusion in part 3! booze! women! trees and grass!)


  1. G&G


  2. The Pontiff

    BOOZE, WOMEN, TREES, GRASS, (and police)! I can’t wait!!!

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