I recently returned from my R&R leave, and wanted to share story about my adventures in just getting to my leave destination. When we go on leave, many of us are very excited to go leave however the frustration of just traveling in order to go on leave is almost not worth the hassle. While no one ever has, many of us have discussed just turning around and going back at the frustration involved with getting home or to our leave destination.
In my case I took the nightly convoy shuttle from my base (Camp Spann) to Camp Marmal, and arrived near midnight. As I got off person at the passenger terminal told us that we needed to be back at 0200 tomorrow, 26 hours away. As you could imagine it was a little frustrating to travel the 15 or 20 miles across town, only told to have to sit around for a day before the next report time. Perhaps worst though I was put in a transient tent with beds but no heat for the tent. In the desert, this time of year especially, it may still get hot during the night however it gets down right cold at night. So I shivered for several hours in my bed till the sun came up.
Upon showing up the next day at 0200 we were put on a lock down at the terminal for the departure of the flight at 0500. The funniest and most memorable event for me leave travels when we boarded the C-130 for our flight to Baghram. We were crammed into the cargo jet, everyone wearing body armor and helmets. Because of the tight seating each man had to interlace his legs with the person across from. The load master (glorified flight attendant in this case) was giving us a safety brief before departure. The typical where to go in the event of an emergency. The best part though was that he asked everyone to turn off their iPods and MP3 players. Not because of the lie that tell on airlines, that it might interfere with aircraft communication equipment. The reason they asked everyone to turn off their individual players was because of his fear of the light given off from the small stereos. He said that he didn't want the light from iPods lighting up the cargo bay of the aircraft, allowing the enemy to see us as we took off and shoot at us. For those who have never ridden in a C-130 there are 3 small little windows, about the size of a paper plate, along each side. For enough light to escape out the windows and thereby make the plane visible to the enemy we would need to be having a disco party in the back of the plane. I just had to laugh to myself at his statement; all I could think was that if an enemy is so deaf that they weren't able to hear the plane fly over, but yet has good enough eyes to see the faint light from a iPod through the window at the mile or more that they would be away from the aircraft. My thought is that he has earned the right to try and take that shot. I still don't think he would hit the moving aircraft at night, but try and hit that faint bit of light from the iPod.
Fortunately everyone complied, turned off their personal music players, and we made it safely to Baghram around 0600 or so. Much like my arrival at Marmal, the folks at the passenger terminal essentially told us to come back at 2300 for the evening leave brief. Also like Marmal, I shivered in the transient tent for several hours till the sun heated the tent up.
The 2300 leave brief took approximately an hour, just to do attendance and tell those lucky enough to have their name called that they would be flying on the next leave flight. So we were put in another lockdown tent with a TV about 50 chairs, and dozen cots for 150 people to wait out (shiver) the night till we were called next. We were told that it probably would be around 0400, however the powers that be did not show up till around 0600. So we were moved and put in a different lockdown tent till our flight departed at 0930.
After a four hour flight along with a 1.5 hour time zone change I arrived to the gateway for leave in Kuwait around noon, I think as I was still pretty tired. Because I was going OCONUS (overseas) for my leave I was separated from the main group and processed very quickly. I was fortunate because we arrived to the travel booker before 1300 (1pm) I was told that my ticket would be booked that day and I might possibly fly out that night. I was told to turn in my body armor, changed into civilian clothes and told to return at 1500 to pick up my itinerary. Fortunately my flight wasn't till 0900 the next morning out of Kuwait City, allowing me a little chance to catch up on my sleep before departing to Johannesburg.