Heather and I at the Camp Eggers Smoke Pit on my last night in Afghanistan.
Ok, so I'm cheating on the picture a bit. Photography isn't allowed in the lock down area, probably so people can't study the area to figure out where to throw things over the fence and avoid customs. So I'm using an older picture from my last day at Eggers. You get the idea. My Victory Dance was kindly provided by one LTC "Smiley". (That really is his nickname, and it definitely fits. The guy smiles even when he's angry.) And it was delicious. I have another primed for Ft. Benning, after which I will probably have to forgo this tradition lest my wife, and probably my mother, murder me.
As I write this I'm sitting in the "Freedom Area", aka temporary holding cell. The compound is fairly large with multiple tents, the world's smallest Pizza Hut (about the size of a phone booth), a coffee shop, and wi-fi. In typical military fashion our show time was 0600 this morning to drop off our bags, while our flight doesn't take off until 2035 this evening. That's more than 14 hours for the mathematically challenged, most of which will be spent sitting doing nothing. "Hurry up and wait" is more than a mantra. When we finally do leave the ground, I expect to be in the air or on layover in either Germany or Ireland for around 16 hours. However, because I am a fairly heavy sleeper and don't have a very loud alarm with me, I chose to stay up all night rather than chance missing the show time. Thus, by the time the flight takes off, I should be all set to sleep at least half the way. That's the plan at least. If you've traveled on an airplane before, you know plans to rest usually don't survive very long. We shall see.
I have very little to say about the past few days, largely because I have been doing very little, but I'll see what I can come up with.
My officemates and colonel were fantastic in getting my letter of release completed in record time. I still have a hard time believing such a large piece of information was completely unknown to the Camp Eggers personnel office. When I first told my office that I needed the letter, all of them thought the lady was off base and tried to find a way around it. I can now say that she was definitely correct. Multiple people asked to see my letter of release during my check-in for the flight, and it was also required to drop off my equipment at the warehouse here in Kuwait so I could avoid dragging it all the way back to Ft. Benning. It is evident that somewhere between here and Afghanistan is a massive rift in communication. Being that this is the military, and how little attention are paid to civilians in general, I guess I really shouldn't be surprised. This is just a lot larger issue than what normally (in my experience) falls through the cracks.
The USO is an amazing organization. Both Kuwait (Ali Al Salem Air Base, to be specific) and Bagram Air Force Base had a USO building to provide folks a place to relax and hang out. I wasn't at Bagram long enough to enjoy that one, but I used the heck out of the one in Kuwait. At the USO, deployed personnel have access to comfortable couches, TVs, a movie room, free wi-fi, phone lines to the states without having to dial an operator, PlayStation 3 kiosks, a guitar, and even hot brownies one day. My last few days were spent nearly entirely inside this building, watching movies, playing games on my laptop, or Skyping with the family. It was also a great place to get to talk to all sorts of people that served at little bases all over Iraq and Afghanistan. Waiting three days for a space on an airplane wasn't very much fun, but the USO made it a lot easier to stomach.
Did I mention I watched a lot of movies? I watched a LOT of movies. Let me summarize and make recommendations (and I apologize if the links show up with German movie titles, I can't do anything about that, unfortunately):
Repo Men - Sci-fi action flick about repossessing artificial organs when their still-breathing owners can't afford to make the payments any more. Very bloody, mostly predictable up until the very end. The ending sold it for me, though I can see a lot of people hating it. Avoid unless you're really into sci-fi or blood spatter.
Baby Mama - Comedy about surrogacy (carrying someone else's kid). Avoid like the plague. I think I laughed twice. I only finished it because I was in Kuwait and had nothing better to do.
Date Night - Pretty funny, if a little raunchy at times. Steve Farrell and Tina Fey work extremely well together. Unique in that it's a romantic comedy that focuses on a married couple. Who knew married couples could have romance? If you're easily offended by sexual jokes or cursing for comedic effect (i.e., completely unnecessary) then avoid, otherwise it's worth your time.
The A-Team - I'm old enough to remember watching the show, but young enough to not remember a thing about it. Maybe fans of the show would enjoy this, but I really did not. Generally bad acting, thin plot, and unbelievable action sequences. I will say the villain's part was played rather well. If you like completely brain dead action movies or are a huge A-Team fan then go for it, otherwise stay away.
Jonah Hex - Western-with-a-twist based off a comic book. Mildly entertaining, but I actually paused the movie for an hour and a half to watch Remember the Titans on TV, so that should give you some reference. Worst role I've ever seen John Malkovich play, which was pretty disappointing. I wouldn't bother.
Terminator Salvation - The first of the second Terminator trilogy. (Did you follow that?) Totally worth it if you're a Terminator fan, otherwise probably not so much, as the plot revolves heavily around plot points from the original Terminator movie. For the fans though, this is good stuff.
Salt - Probably the best movie I watched of the bunch. Good plot, decent acting for an action film, familiar faces on the screen, twists keep you interested until the end. Worth watching if you don't object to military-type violence.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief - The Greek gods are real and are still having kids with mortals, a la Hercules and Achilles. Those kids play the staring role when the lightning bolt of Zeus is stolen. The movie is pretty simplistic, but it's designed for fans of the young adult novel on which the movie is based, so it gets a pass. Nearly every adult role is played by some recognizable actor, which was entertaining by itself as I tried to guess who was going to show up next. Highly disappointed they couldn't land Ozzie Osbourne to play Hades. Ok overall, especially if you're watching with kids, or by yourself in a giant, foreign sand box.
I think I've rambled on about nothing for long enough. In entertaining myself, I risk boring everyone else, so I'm cutting myself off. Still six and a half hours to go before our bus to the airport. Ugh. I think I'll go watch Salt again, or something. On a happier note, the next time I post a blog it will be from the good ol' US of A. /cheer
See you soon. Out here.