Leaving the Wild West
I've concluded, as we prepare to leave Al Asad, that the base would have been the perfect location for George Lucas to have filmed his Star Wars movies.
The base itself is in the middle of the large expanse of dirt and dust, similar to where many Lucas scenes played out. Hangars are embedded into the cliffs, with most of the taxi-ways are placed along the natural carvings that water has made in the earth.
Along the taxi-ways are concrete bunkers in the shape of miniature pyramids, about 25 feet tall. Some of the structures are strategically cut into the cliffs to provide parking spaces for aircraft and equipment. Built with concrete of the same color as the surrounding soil, the pyramids really provide a futuristic look.
Besides looking like the landscape of a galaxy "far, far away", Al Asad reminds me of the Wild West, with a touch of Mad Max thrown in -- especially the areas around the shops, mess hall and utility trailers.
Vehicles use the roads as a suggestion, randomly pulling off over curbs and sidewalks to park where they please, even though there are street signs. Everyone carries a weapon, rifles, pistols or both. The main drag is lined with shops, just like Main Street in the westerns (although we lack a saloon). Every third street lamp has been hit by a vehicle ands is bent or even on the ground. Wire is strewn about the lamp posts and you see frayed ends about every fifth post. Trash lines the streets and the concertina wire fences surround everything (think of it as just like a suburban picket fence, except that it will rip you apart if you get tangled in it.)
We will miss the friendly gate guards, Ugandans who issue a daily "Hello sir" after you learn to greet them in their native with "Jambo", meaning 'Big hello' in Swahili. We will see little of this base in the future as we are moving to a new location, and will only return occasionally to work with those left behind. As of yet, the details are unclear, but as they materialize, I hope to share them.
-- Written 4/1/2006
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