A Sign of Things to Come, An Al Asad Visit
While on pass in Qatar in June, I slyly was assigned the additional duty of Unit Movement Officer. As a UMO, I am an assistant to the commander for all things relating to our unit's journey home, from transporting people and equipment to helicopters. It's a logistical nightmare I'm happy to take on.
All UMO's were summoned to Al Asad for an initial meeting, wherin we would outline the task ahead. I had to take a few days off from piloting at TQ and catch a flight as a passenger to Al Asad.
Upon arrival, I saw many people I've not seen in months. Since the redeployment meeting was not until the following day, I caught up on the progress made by the 2/224th in the four months since Alpha company's departure to Al Taqaddum. I also hung out with Bravo company.
Bravo has moved into the buildings on base and upgraded them tremendously. Before, they were rat-infested and the bathrooms dense with mold, mildew and other unidentified life forms. Company members have established themselves in the RIB, or rat-infested barracks, a nickname reflecting the building's former condition. There are two, three- and four-person rooms, all with air-conditioning. Sand bags block the windows, providing excellent sleeping conditions for those on the night schedule.
They also have a grazing trough -- a series of tables filled with snacks, candy and baked goods set out in a common room. These items are from the care packages sent over by our loved ones. Any time you have a craving for brownies or chocolate-chip cookies, there are probably some available, although usually once one person starts to pass a bag of treats around the room, it is quickly emptied. There are also extra toiletries, which I had to dip into the morning before the meeting when I realized I'd forgotten my razor. These items are greatly appreciated and help us make our homes-away-from-home comfortable.
In front of the RIB are plastic chairs used by crews returning from work or waking up. They sit around, tell stories, smoke cigarettes, and catch a laugh or two, much like at college fraternities houses. Some of the bedizened accounts of flying or love lives are even bandied about at the spot, which ironically overlooks a newly built chapel.
Time finally came for our redeployment meeting. It did not last long, but we did discuss several questions that we'll need to answer before even start packing our bags. One issue we will have to deal with on the way out that we avoided on the way into Iraq is processing through customs. This will take time and if not approached properly could cause some real headaches.
Most of the other topics are of a classified nature and cannot be discussed in this forum until we have completed the task. I am sure there will be plenty of stories to tell in the future, especially as the redeployment actually kicks off. Being able to come back and tell everybody, including family members in the U.S., we are planning our return is reward enough for anybody assigned the extra duty of UMO.
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