Pass, Getting There
I hitched a ride, with our sister company, Bravo, from TQ to Al Asad to catch a flight to Qatar. (Thanks for getting me and putting me up for a few hours while I waited for the flight.)
After a 12-hour stay at Al Asad, catching up with friends in Bravo Company, I boarded the plane for the one-hour flight. There was some excitement at take-off when the C-17, loaded only with passengers, powered its engines to full throttle with its brakes set. I could not control my body when the brakes were disengaged, aven though I knew it was coming, and was tossed toward the rear of the aircraft. For the next five minutes, none of the passengers seated along each long side of the fuselage, facing the center of the plane, could control their posture. The opposing forces were just too great, making for a roller-coaster feeling.
After take-off, I decided to try to nap. As I started to drift off, the plane banked to the left and my stomach dropped to the floor as several G forces were applied to all the passengers' bodies, pressing us into our seats. We let out a collective yell of approval (intertwined with some screams). We were already having fun as we departed Iraq.
I only stayed awake for the following few minutes, napping through landing and taxiing. I woke up when my neighbor was gathering his stuff.
We disembarked the plane, processed into Qatar, picked up our luggage and boarded a bus. Now under control of the R&R Pass program, we stopped to eat as all of us had missed dinner chow and wanted to get to base and consume a beer or two. It was a good idea to get some food in our stomachs.
Upon arrival at Camp As Sayliyah, we were briefed on the rules and regulations while on pass, especially the one about purchasing or consuming no more than three alcoholic beverages a night.
With the briefing over and our room assignments issued, we raced to get our linens, unpack, dress in civilian clothes,and go to one of two bars on the camp. An hour before last call, I made it to the bus stop, but did not know which bus to take.
When a bus arrived, I looked inside and the driver asked me in broken English, "Where you going?" I replied "For a beer. You know where that is?" He waved his hand indicating I should get in and shut the door. After passing several buildings, the bus made a few turns and several stops. Eash time I asked the driver, "Is this the bar?" Each time he said no. After about the fifth stop I assumed he just would tell me when we got to the bar.
A couple of stops later he turned around and said, "It is here, sir." I thanked him, got out and headed inside. Around a corner I spotted the line to purchase a beer. With several choices I went for a 16-ounce Kilkenny. I paid and handed over my ID to swipe, so they could keep track of the three-beer max, then sat down and sipped the ice-cold beverage while watching 'Sports Center' on ESPN. Memories of life in the U.S. came back instantly. I forgot everything about being in Iraq: the flying, the heat, the people, all of it...
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