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.

By Bert Stover |  August 16, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Asad, Iraq
Previous: 'Hump Day' Is Upon Us | Next: Alpha Company Sponsors Unit in Ramadi

Comments

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Congratulations, Bert! This is big news - I know you're almost as proud of being chosen for this key responsibility as you are happy to have redeployment in sight!

Stay focused, stay safe, and get the job done! We're all proud of you, your unit, and all the other soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and allies who are performing so well. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Brian Smith (onetime soldier) | August 16, 2006 10:44 AM

I cried and whined about the heat in Wyoming this year. Then I thought about you boys over there, all the gear you wear in that terrible heat and working in it. I was ashamed of myself for complaining. You boys are going through so much, we back at home sometimes forget. Please accept my apology.

I doubt if you know how much your fellow Americans love you. It is more than words can say. How about a 'WHOLE BUNCH'!!

Thank you for your service. Your countrymen can hardly wait until you are home with us again. Take care.

Posted by: Nuby Kite, Wyoming | August 17, 2006 12:53 PM

Thank you CWO2 Stover for your reports. Keep up the good work...we appreciate all your efforts!

My Marine is on his third deployment (currently at Al Asad) and I will enjoy reading your updates in my quest for reliable tidbits...Marine Mom's always stay informed.

God Bless our Troops!!!

Posted by: Marine Mom | August 17, 2006 01:43 PM

Sir.

Had any contact with the Seabees? We have several Battalions over there.

JTG

Posted by: Navy CIV | August 17, 2006 02:22 PM

heckuva job, America

Posted by: dave | August 17, 2006 04:30 PM

Beginning unit movement planning is quite a milestone! It made me feel like the time to go home would really come after all. Congratulations.

Stay safe and don't let your guard down. Anticipating movement out of Iraq can be a bad thing for the boots on the ground. Keep them focused on the mission. Thinking about going home too much is a distraction that can lead to mistakes. Mistakes lead to injuries or worse.

Everybody needs to leave, safe and healthy.

Take care.

Posted by: MAJ D | August 18, 2006 11:55 AM

Enjoyed reading your last post....just talked to my Marine on the phone, they are coming home Sept 15-16-17....he is excited and cleaning out quarters, mailing home extra items, etc.....they have started holding their mail in NC....I have 11 doz. cookies frozen I was going to send on Mon!! Guess I'll keep them frozen until they get home....it is wonderful that everyone shares their goodies!! Thank you for taking the time to write these posts....as a Mother, we cling to every word that helps us understand what ours are going through....you have been about a month ahead of John in the things that you describe.....he just came back from Qatar and it was exactly as you had described!! I keep you/your Unit in my prayers and are thankful you will be home soon....I know how I will feel the day I see John!! Our love and prayers!! Stay alert every day!!

Posted by: Mechanic's Mom | August 19, 2006 02:55 PM

Bert,
Just wondering if you have internet access why so long between blog updates? I realize there are probably more important things to do over there but I would liek to see you address how much time and how long it takes to put together one of these updates. Is the review/approval process lengthly, upload time slow, internet not reliable etc.
Just curious

Posted by: Curious | August 21, 2006 03:58 PM

It was great to read comments about Al Asad since my Marine is on his 5th deployment to this region. He has commented about the improvements and truly appreciates them as does his family back home. God Bless all our troops all over the world!!
Marine Mom 2

Posted by: Pam Mann | August 22, 2006 12:12 PM

Let me know if I can be of any assistance. I am the Customs officer at McGuire and if you are outprocessing through Ft. Dix you will probably be running into me.

Dave Martin
CBP McGuire AFB

Posted by: martid83 | August 22, 2006 12:49 PM

I enjoyed your comments on Al-Asad and look forward to future postings. My son is on his 1st deployment at Al-Asad having just recently arrived. With only one brief phone call shortly after he got there, I am searching the web for any info I can find to know to what life may be like for him.

Semper Fi

Posted by: Rookie Marine Mom | August 30, 2006 01:41 PM

It is interesting reading coments written by someone who is in Iraq and hopefully making a difference. I personally feel none of you chaps should be there, but as you are, it is refreshing to read that you are upbeat and positive.
I am looking forward to it all being handed back over to a new Iraqie government and not to be reading anymore about more young men dying.
You are greatly appreciated.
Regards. Bob (UK)

Posted by: Bob Jordan. | September 1, 2006 02:27 PM

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