All of us had gotten showers and slept on and off for at least a bit – as the accommodations in the airplanes were not that comfortable. The hours we were traveling were odd as well, so most of us were not what I’d call ‘rested’.
Al Udeid was an interesting place. The bathrooms were called “Cadillac’s”. I have no idea why. ‘chow hall’s’ were very large – with a huge variety of foods, drinks, deserts and assorted things to make you fat. There were seve There were cases of water everywhere – mostly by the Cadillac’s but also other areas around base. The water on base was considered non-potable – in other words not safe to drink. Theral types of ice cream – Baskin Robbins no less, there was Gelato – which is an Italian ice cream, but less ‘airy’ than American ice cream. There was a ‘grill’ line where foods were made to order, like burgers & such – and then there was the main line, with at least a couple main courses to choose from. Then there were the ‘buffet’ lines in front – which I gathered would have different or special types of food. The day we were there it was shrimp etouffe and chicken gumbo. The gumbo was mighty fine.
Walking around base was interesting – in that everything looked the same. There were mostly tents – albeit very large tents – and not many permanent structures. The BX (Base Exchange) was a tent, and the venders outside were in trailers. As a quite funny side note – there was indeed a large selection of what the Qatar folks would consider porn – sports magazines, Maxim, FHM, etc. – all for sale at the BX. I guess the ban was only on bringing those magazines into the country – not buying them once you were inside. Interesting.
Included around the BX was Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway and a couple local jeweler & rug shops. There was a very nice flag line next to the common area – under the ‘bra’ – which was a large tent shaped like a bra but that was just a cover, no sides. There was a base theater that ran all day – and showed recent and first run movies. It seemed to be going 24/7 – I did not get a chance to take in a movie, but wanted to. There were a couple gyms on base, with a gymnasium for basketball and another workout building with different machines & treadmills. There was a ‘media’ building – with computers for checking email and even some with webcams for chatting with friends & family – and a bank of phones for morale calls. These are the phones folks can use to call home during a deployment. Folks were supposed to be limited to two 15 minute calls a week. Although the only accounting they did was for the 20 minutes you were in there – you get 5 minutes for connecting the call – which was sometimes enough.
After checking out everything, I decided to get a bit of shut eye. I asked Major Bill Thomas to wake me before heading to his meeting at 12 to confirm our flight and figured I’d get some midnight chow with them before we headed out on our flight. We did that – got some breakfast and headed back to the tent to get ready with the guys. I did sleep a little bit more before being waked at 2 to head out.
I didn’t end up sleeping much – but did listen to my iPod a bit, and charged it getting ready for the 5 hour flight to Kabul. We started the out processing by starting out with turning in our linen and keys, turning in our alcohol ration cards, and ‘signing out’ of billeting. That didn’t take long, so we got on the bus to head over to ‘ops town’ for our flight. We started off getting our ____ gear – which consisted of our body armor, helmets, chem. Gear and what nots. That was one more heavy bag we had to carry. We then went and gathered our ‘checked baggage’, which still remained on the other side of the customs wall, which was going to be palletized for our trip. After doing that, and out-processing through the Qatarian government’s customs – which was a simple check off on their form – we were in the herding area waiting for our flight. We grabbed some food from the ‘grab and go’ facility – which turned out to be pretty decent travel food, and hit the waiting room. It was now about 5 am – this had taken about 3 hours, and our flight left around 8. So we got to ‘sit and chill’ for 3 hours. Fun indeed.
When the time arrived, we were rushed into another waiting room, to wait we thought – so we took off the body armor, and prepared to wait. Not 2 minutes later we were hurried outside to get on a bus to be taken to the plane. We waited about 10 minutes, and drove to the plane – which wasn’t prepped yet. So again – we waited about 15 minutes on a bus with no heat (it was about 20 degrees outside), but at least we were out of the wind. After waiting, and watching the maintenance crew perform some odd ritual of all standing atop the wing furthest away from the fuselage, and waving back & forth. . . we entered the plane. The wait was much shorter – we were given a briefing and on our way.