Going home from a deployment is a lot of hurry up and wait. You probably didn’t realize the process it takes to get you from your deployed location and back home. I was in Afghanistan and the process to get from my Forward Operating Base and back to the United States was almost a three-week process. Some of it makes sense, we arrived at Bagram (the main base we could get a flight home) a week or so early because of logistics and preparing to be there for the new team’s arrival. But then they were late. And then our flight was delayed. Then finally we got our flight to go home scheduled. And then just as we were about to board the plane and go home we had to walk back to the holding area and wait again.
But you don’t leave Afghanistan and fly directly to the states.
We had to stop in Kyrgyzstan at Manas Air Base for a few days. Partly to decompress from being in a war zone, turn in our gear, and then finally waiting for the next flight to go home. I wrote this letter home to family and friends via email while at Manas. It gave my family and friends an update on where I was and let them know I was on longer in harm’s way.
Since I am sitting at Manas without much to do I would write a quick note about going home from a deployment and what the process is like. Or at least what it was like for me. It will give you an idea of what the past few weeks have been like. Although there was a process and things did get done, it did seem all we did was wait and wait until it was finally time to leave. Somehow we found things to fill up our days. Working out, watching movies in the Morale and Warefare Tent, and other less exciting work that needed to be done filled our days to make our days left in Afghanistan disappear. And then the day finally came.
Going home from a deployment
It was time to start the journey home. We had to go to one appointment after another until it was finally time to go through customs. Customs was a “thorough” search of everything in our bags. With four bags, plus a carry on this took a while. I had my chemical weapons gear, two weapons, three personal bags, and one rucksack full of army gear. And we also had our body armor and helmet. I was unaware this was what was going to happen so I had carefully packed up my stuff making sure it all fit. Then it was ungraciously unpacked by a Sergeant and searched and then shoved back into a bag. Somehow it all fit.
Then we waited.
Next, they came out and told us to put on all our gear and grab our weapons, it was time to go. We lined up headed out to the plane. When we were about 300 yards away from the plane and they told us they weren’t ready for us.
So we turned around walked back and waited for another hour or so to do the same thing.
Finally, it was time to leave Afghanistan
We were finally going home from our deployment. Going home from a deployment we were ready to be done with. We got settled into our seats on the C-130. Crammed in tight with all our gear. Do you know what it’s like to sit on a plane with two weapons, your body armor, and your personal bag all shoved into an airline seat?
Not fun or comfortable, but it was a short flight. As uncomfortable as I was I fell asleep shortly after takeoff. I guess being exhausted has its benefits you can sleep anywhere in any position.
We arrived at Manas Transit Center
Early in the morning half awake and sore from carrying all our stuff and sitting cramped on an airplane. Next, we sat through a number of important briefings about where we were to stay and how to turn in our Army gear. Luckily, we retained all the important information. Once the briefing was over, threw our gear down at our temporary home, a tent. You might think sleep was the next thing on our list. But we were not done with our in-processing checklist yet. Now it was time to go and pick up our bags. The Army gear went in one bin and all of our other luggage was put into storage for a few days.
Although sleep would have been nice.
We couldn’t sleep yet. We needed to stay awake for an appointment. And when you can’t sleep you might as well eat. So we went to breakfast at the 24-hour Dining Facility at Manas. Manas’s Dining Facility had so many choices especially after being on a FOB with no choice in what we ate. It was so nice to have a yummy breakfast. After breakfast, we still had time until our meeting so we watched the World Series (game 2) in the MWR tent. We got to see innings 2-8 we thought we were going to see the whole game, but the 8th inning was never-ending and we left when the score was 4-0. Go, Giants!
Turning in our gear
We turned in our chemical weapons gear, Army gear, and weapons. We felt free! I was so happy I no longer had to worry about where my weapons were. And every once in awhile I still feel like I am missing something. After all our tasks for the day had been accomplished we had a snack and then went to bed. We slept until about dinner time and then went to eat and then went to the bar to hang out.
Fun at Manas
Air Force members are allowed two drinks a day. I don’t really like beer so I wasn’t too excited about this until I found out they had wine. So we hung out at the bar (Pete’s Place) and then they started doing karaoke. It was fun to watch/listen to everyone and they sang. I am ready to go home from Afghanistan, and now Manas. I am tired of waiting for the next show time, but we are almost there. Soon, I will be home. Thanks for all the love and support. I can’t wait to see everyone soon.