Monday, February 09, 2009

Long days, longer nights....

SFC McG and I had a mission recently, to an area once referred-to as "The Triangle of Death." Many of my friends who were ROTC Cadets in the midwest have served there over the years.

The area is *much* quieter these days, thanks in large measure to their courageous and honorable service there.

The air assets being what they are these days, we were scheduled to leave the office about 1530, and not scheduled to return until 0115 -- if we were lucky.

We weren't.

We showed up at the Landing Zone (LZ) at 2345, awaiting our pickup for the return flight, and felt heartened when the young Specialist (E-4) from the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) at that post showed up a few minutes later to tell us he'd just spoken with the people in the know, who'd told him that everything was on time, or perhaps even a few minutes early.


It was actually a very beautiful evening. It's gotten warm enough now that frogs can be heard singing at night, if the dogs aren't barking too loudly. With all the animal vocalizations going on under the bright full moon, I was reminded of being in the Amazon jungle the first night after landing in Iquitos, Peru and traveling an hour by skiff up a tributary of the Amazon River to our lodging for the night.

No mosquitoes, though!

The young Specialist was completely taken by the fact that he could see his shadow very clearly at midnight. Evidently, he'd never experienced -- or at least noticed -- that before. "I can't wait to call my wife and tell her I saw my shadow in the middle of the night out here!" he exclaimed several times.

The days are warming up, and probably because of the 'mackerel sky'-- lots of altocumulus or cirrocumulus clouds giving the impression of fish scales in the sky -- it was quite warm, all things considered, for that time of night.

At first.

There were lots of aircraft flying while we were out there at the LZ, waiting. And waiting. Two birds actually fly close by us, and appeared to be circling on approach (about 0145), but then abruptly flew away.

Finally at 0345, by which time it was quite cold, we went to the TOC, where we were told that our air mission request had just been canceled. "There's a convoy headed in your general direction later this morning, but the "LT" (pronounced, "Ell Tee": lieutenant) isn't getting up until 0500. We'll try to get you on the manifest."

SFC McG and I hung around the TOC for about an hour. There was an incident reported to those folks that needed attention, and I found it fascinating watching their response. We eventually went over to the MWR tent (most of the Soldiers live in mult-person tents there, and other services are located in tents, such as the "Morale, Welfare, Recreation" facilities), where we stretched out on sofas for about an hour.

The volume on the TV in that room was set to "grade-school-fire-alarm" level, and the air conditioner was set to "Arctic" (it's still winter here, and while it was relatively warm for what's been typical of the last couple of weeks, it was not warmer than 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so I wasn't sure what need there was for the air conditioner to be running in the first place); I didn't sleep. I just laid there, shivering.

I'd set my Palm Pilot alarm for 0600, but didn't need it. We showed up for the convoy brief, got assigned to a truck, finally found which of the many vehicles we were to ride in, and set out on our way home. We bounced our way back to the general vicinity of where we wanted to go, and I then found a phone to call the office to ask for a pickup from where we were.

We finally made it back to the office just before 1000 hours. Considering we'd left at 1530, the mission lasted a cool 18+ hours.

I know people *say* that my Masses feel as though they last that long....

I'm hoping to get some sleep, finally, but The Snorer next door is at it again. What's up with *that*?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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