Thursday, June 25, 2009


SFC McG and I have been using an NTV (non-tactical vehicle) since Easter (thank you, CSM Malloy!) to move about the Post as I did Chaplain-things on Camps Victory, Liberty, Slayer, Cropper, Steelers, Striker, and Sather Air Base. We used the vehicle one last time on Tuesday night as we shoe-horned our gear into it for the ride to BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) as we prepared to ship out to Kuwait on our way home.

Poor SGT P! She was in the back, having to fight off being crushed by our duffels and tough boxes cascading on top of her as we traversed the notoriously bad "paved" roads on our way to the airport.

We were to report in NLT (not later than) 2200, for a flight that was schedule to leave at 0015 Wednesday morning.

The plane took off at close to 0400.

I don't sleep well, in general (unless I'm driving, as I've mentioned before), so Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, I didn't get much rest. SFC McG, on the other hand, can sleep standing up, it seems, so he was zonked out more often than not.

I have tried really diligently not to envy him....

Once on the plane, scrunched in as we were on the C-130, he was asleep almost instantly.

I found myself with some sort of support strut directly behind me, so that instead of being able to lean back into the webbing which serves as a back support (for everyone else), I pretty much had to sit straight up the whole time.

Fortunately, there was more leg room than at other times when I've flown on similar aircraft, and so I could stretch my legs. Moreover, I was able to listen to a "Teaching Company" course on the Sonatas of Beethoven, so I was very happy.

(As an aside -- mindful that I have no financial relationship with the "Teaching Company," other than having spent a boatload of money on their courses -- if you're not familiar with those folks, you ought to be! They've got some spectacular college-level courses available for purchase that are well worth the investment. I just finished (again) the course "Bach and the High Baroque," taught by Robert Greenburg, who's stupendous. It's 32, 45-minute lectures, replete with appropriate detail to a college-level music course, as well as the latest gossip from the early 1700s. Awesome!)

Once arrived at our destination, SFC McG and I boarded a bus to take us to the holding pen where we'll wait out the time before our flight to the States leaves. Because we're a unit unto ourselves, and in the midst of redeploying and not just going on R&R, we didn't have to stand in line forever, and sit through interminable briefings.

We did, however, find out at 0600 or so, that important paperwork we'd been given in Baghdad was worthless, and that we needed the signature of a Brigade Commander in order to leave here. We just had our Battalion Commander's signature. No one was being particularly helpful, and for the first time, I saw SFC McG getting really annoyed.

He even asked for the phone number of the Inspector General. (Turns out there isn't one here, supposedly....)

After working the issue for the better part of almost three hours, SFC McG spoke with a Sergeant Major back in Baghdad, whose people it was goofed things up in the first place, and even *that* person was decidedly unhelpful. SFC McG then asked for the Division Command Sergeant Major's phone number, and was unceremoniously disconnected from his phone call after receiving the number.

The DIV CSM made things happen, and the BDE CDR's signature was faxed shortly thereafter.

SFC McG and I were going to be assigned to different tents when we got here, so I asked if we could be in the same tent, especially since we have so much gear between us. The woman behind the desk at the Billeting Office looked over the top of her rather large glasses at me, and somewhat witheringly said, "I cannot put an Enlisted person in a tent with you, Sir."

I asked whether I might be permitted in a tent with Enlisted personnel, then.

She looked surprised, and said, "Well, if that's what you want!"


While SFC McG was negotiating the unexpected hurdles we encountered, I moved our gear to that tent, with the aid of a Gator (a Lilliputian tractor-trailer). Actually, I say "aid" advisedly, since the third-country national guy who was driving it made as if not to help me at all. Two of our tough boxes weigh at least 100 pounds each, and are so large that they're a bit awkward to carry even when they're empty.

The two duffel bags and the two large rucksacks are are pretty heavy as well. It's hotter in Kuwait than it was in Baghdad, and by the time I was trying to get stuff into our tent the sun was up with a vengeance.

I finally convinced the guy with the Gator to help me move the two large tough boxes from the pallet in the baggage drop to the trailer, and then I had to re-convince him to help me move them from the Gator into the tent.

The rest of the stuff I schlepped myself.

I was so grateful for the ride and for his help with the two big boxes, that I tipped the guy. He seemed pretty surprised and delighted to get the money.

I was pretty surprised and delighted that I gave it.

So now we Ku-wait.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

1 comment:

Mary Coady said...

Hooray, Tim! Glad to hear you're a big step closer to California. That business about sharing a tent with McG was definitely a reprise of the chicken salad scene in Five Easy Pieces.

Can't wait to see you in person!

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