On the Town in Doha, Qatar
My recent blogging hiatus is a result of being on pass in Qatar again. For the second and last time during my deployment, my command gave me time to enjoy activities other than those associated with aviation.
Thanks to said aviation duties, my pass was delayed by a couple of days, and I missed my original flight out of TQ.
After our mission load settled, I shut down the aircraft, put away my gear, ran to my can and threw together a bag of clothes and toiletries. On the way to the passenger terminal at TQ, I had no idea if I would even get a flight since I was going on a space-available status. I got in, but the flight was through Kuwait. Quite a different story from the last time I went on pass, when I was on pass after a one-hour trip.
In Kuwait, I had the chance to spend about four hours at Camp Ali Al Saleem. I discovered their McDonald's, a franchise that surely will expand to every corner of Iraq before long. Anyway, I didn't order up a Big Mac and fries -- I don't stateside, either -- but it was refreshing to see a reminder of home. Eventually, we boarded another plane for Qatar. All said and done this time it took me 24 hours to get to Qatar.
The arrival process at Qatar was the same as the last time, except no photos were allowed on the installation. Authorities cited the recent flare-up between Israel and Hezbollah and other terror threats as reasons for the policy. It did not matter much to me as I had taken pictures last time around. The initial briefing covered R&R program "dos and don'ts," along with descrpitions of trips on offer. Having been on pass before, I was not as excited about the trips, although I would be able to partake in the sponsor program.
The sponsor program allows a permanent party member of Camp As Sayliyah to take a pass participant off the installation and into Doha, Qatar. Fortunately, two days before I left for Qatar I found out that a college friend was assigned a position at Camp As Sayliyah. I contacted him and he said I definitely could get sponsored while on pass.
Not once did I eat at the chow hall while in Qatar this time, as we went to Doha almost every night for dinner. After eating in town we returned to base for our three beers at one of the two bars. My friend would bring his colleagues and we would talk about the military and our experiences so far in our careers. After last call I would retire for the night, rarely waking before 11:00! I did not participate in any of the R&R program trips. I recommend attempting the sponsor program for those going on pass to Qatar.
As it was Memorial Day (or Labor Day) weekend I was able to order pizza and take in some college football. I also finished a couple of books I had started reading months ago. Overall it was another great opportunity to take my mind off of Iraq.
Before I knew it I was checking the board for my flight information back to TQ. Four days of R & R pass gone so quickly!
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