Friday, April 01, 2005

Back in Uzbekistan

Wild ride today. In my never-ending quest to get to Mazar E Sharif, I caught a 5:50 A.M. flight out of K2 headed to Kabul. This is a flight that popped up on the system yesterday and I was somewhat puzzled. You see the Air Force has been cancelling flights to MeS at the drop of a hat for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, the flight I was supposed to catch yesterday was cancelled shortly before this one showed up on the Air Force's Secret Squirrel Astrological Flight Decoder System. Imagine my surprise when I see not only a flight from K2 to Kabul to MeS but also a return flight a few hours later. This was highly abnormal since the Air Force usually stays on the ground in MeS no longer than 20 minutes so whoever gets off has to wait there until the chicken bones that the Air Force Flight Planning Voo-Doo Witchdoctor throws in the air fall precisely right and another plane comes in....could be 5 days, could be 3 weeks. 2 flights in one day Wow!

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I was up at 2:00 A.M. and at the terminal before 3 in order to manifest for this flight which was remarkably on time departing. With us on board was an Air Force chaplain who had been trying to get to MeS for nearly a month who also voiced his surprise at two flights in one day. Hmmm, even an Air Force officer with a personal connection to the big guy can't sway the system. The Flight Planning Voo Doo Witchdoctor's powers are strong indeed.

An hour or so later, we descended into Kabul and the engines shut down. The flight crew informed us that we would be on the ground for an hour so the Chaplain, who had been stuck here before too, served as our guide to get us to the dining facility. Since Kabul is the ISAF headquarters, there were service members from every nation I could fathom enjoying breakfasts suited for each taste. Specialist Hamericxz (I know that's not spelled right, but she tells us that the Army spells it wrong anyway) who was travelling with us was truly delighted. This remarkable troop met her husband, a Belgian national and veteran of their military, in Spain while a foreign exchange student, then after returning to the U.S. they both decided to join the U.S. Army. Unfortunately their joint assignment didn't work out quite as planned since he is an M1 tank crewmember, a commodity of very little requirement in the Afghanistan. In any event, it took her about 3 seconds to spot some Belgian troops and engage them in their native tongue. Before we left, they were laughing and kissing each other like they had been life long friends. I think she may have dissolved our Staus of Forces Agreement, sold them a few new fighter aircraft, and given them the weekend off, but I can't be sure. I have to spend more time in Belgium when I get back to Europe.

After breakfast, the mystery of the suddenly appearing flights was cleared up. The Deputy Secretary of Defense along with an Air Force Brigadier General, Lieutenant Colonel, and a host of DD Civilians boarded the aircraft. Since one of the DD Civilians sat next to me, I took the opportunity to tell him how fortunate he was to be able to catch a flight into MeS when he needed one. I continued on for the better part of a half hour suffocating him with stories of how difficult it is to get supplies and personnel in and out of the remote location, the frequency of Air Force cancellations, how long the troops there go without regular mail service or chaplain coverage. About 40 minutes into the flight, the Air Force Lieutenant Colonel decided that it would be a good time to give this particular DD civilian a tour of the cockpit. I never saw him again.

When we got to MeS, I was met by 1LT Winston and his contingent. Informed that the C-130 would remain in the ground for 20 minutes, I was given the 10 minute tour of his facility and a quick rundown of his responsibilities. We got back to the flight line and the Air Force was ready to go. We made them wait with the engines running (revenge is sweet) while LT Beverly read the promotion orders of one of her troops and then I had the privilege of promoting 1LT Winston to Captain and actually on the day the orders were effective.

So a quick flight back to K2, and now I am looking at another 2:00 A.M. wakeup and, if both the Secret Squirrel Astrological Flight Decoder System and the Flight Planning Voo-Doo Witchdoctor are willing, a flight back to Salerno and the Bucksnort where in LTC Langowski's absence, MAJ Short has assumed the positions of LTF Commander, Executive Officer, and Support Operations Officer and is insisting on being referred to as "Short the Great" and only in the 3rd person.

I hope for the sake of my staff, that the flight is on time.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Good one Brian, the Air Force does work (so to speak) in mysterious ways. I've had many similar experiences in the Middle East. I know the passenger terminals in Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi pretty well.