Saturday, 16 July 2011

Just a short note to say that our team miraculously made it out of Afghanistan on the first try (although our flight did get pushed back about 9 hours!) We landed in Kuwait at 3:30am local time, schlepped our duffel bags off the plane and got signed into tents. We actually were coincidentally assigned to the same tent as the other two Red Cross teams which made for a nice reunion! I slept from about 6am to 2pm in the afternoon which is actually my normal "night" so I'm still somewhat on a sleep schedule. We bummed around most of the afternoon and then this morning met at 8am for a roll call for the Freedom Flight.

And right now I am in lock down after clearing Navy customs (always a miserable experience - 120 degree heat, no AC and I had to dump the two military duffels that I had perfectly packed, plus my back pack so that customs could go through every single pair of underwear and sock and item I had. So demoralizing :-(

But keep your fingers crossed for us - we should be on American soil tomorrow!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

First off, a BIG thank you to the Stockton UU Church for the incredibly generous care packages! You are making a world of difference to the soldiers out here!

So! The incoming team is here and we've been transitioning for the last three days! Hoorah!!! :-)

The transition is always a bit stressful as the incoming team is trying to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time and we, the outgoing team, are trying to keep the shop running but turn over the reigns at the same time. Tonight we are hosting our last Timmy event and then on Thursday the incoming team will officially take over operations and our team will start the process of flying home!

This entails trying to get from Afghanistan to Kuwait by Saturday (plus whatever delightful time we get to spend in the transient tents in Kuwait). Then the Freedom flight out of Kuwait which is a 6-7 hour flight, a layover somewhere in Europe, then another 6-7 hour flight to the States with another possible layover before we land in Ft Benning, hopefully on Monday. From Georgia we have a 24 hour period at Ft Benning and THEN...home to Chicago on Tuesday!

And a small side story- I took my replacement to the hospital yesterday to teach her how to do hospital visits and in a crazy coincidence one of the civilians who I sent home on a Red Cross message for the North Carolina tornadoes was in the ICU Ward! I actually blogged about this gentleman as we had watched the coverage of the tornadoes together in the office waiting for his message to come in and when he got it, he kissed me goodbye on the cheek and thanked me for all my help. We were so surprised to see each other again and he actually got out his bed when he saw me and gave me a HUGE hug. One of the most rewarding moments of this deployment....

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The incoming team is in Kuwait!!! YESSSSS!!!

If all goes as planned they should arrive sometime in the next 24 hours. We will then have about 4 days to transition with them and ideally should be flying out of Bagram on Friday the 15th. The flight to Kuwait is only about 4-5 hours, but the problem is there are about a million factors that influence military travel and unlike commercial flights there are no "reserved seats" which means you can get kicked off the plane at any time, plus there are wind storms, dust storms, planes breaking down due to the weather conditions, rockets, mortars, bad guys, distinguished visitors bumping people off flights plus anyone going home on emergency leave gets priority. So yea.... keep your fingers crossed for us!

Also, I fun side story to share. On Friday my team and I got to go visit the Air Rescue Squad guys which was really cool. They are the soldiers who go out into fire fights and rescue the wounded. For a reference point... it's like The Guardian...without the water ;-) Their stories were fascinating and we got to explore the helicopter and learn how they lift patients off the ground. Definitely a great little field trip.

One last final story, this morning we got up to go to our last possible time at the Egyptian Hospital but it was still closed! That is three weeks in a row now the hospital has been closed due to the change over in unit. We were all quite disappointed as this means we will not have the chance to say goodbye to the kids we saw every week and I honestly regret this.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Wow, well tonight had me in tears at the office.

I got a call from a very high ranking enlisted officer calling to let the Red Cross know that he was in receipt of his red cross message. When I thanked him for calling back and asked if there was anything else we could do for him or his family... he asked me if I would pray for his son. I was so caught off guard by his request I was almost speechless. For a senior enlisted of his rank to express that kind of request tore my heart right of my chest. He told me his son's name and said that it didn't look good. I managed to get through my condolences without crying and then promptly hung up the phone and wept.

Please keep this man's sons in your thoughts if you can, I feel obligated to share this because his anguish was so compelling I think my heart is a little bit broken...

Monday, 4 July 2011

Happy 4th of July!

So today was not exactly a relaxing, lazy BBQ and sparklers kind of day, but at least it was felt a little bit special. I got up and went into the office about an hour before my shift started to meet Ingrid and Terra to stop by the USO BBQ and then attend a 4th of July re-enlistement ceremony in which General Petraeus was the distinguished guest.

Unfortunately, but the time we found our way to the correct entrance to the flight line (coincidentally right by the USO BBQ) all we really had time to do was wave hello to the folks who were grilling before we cleared security to get to the ceremony. The ceremony was being held in a hanger on the flight line so all though it was in the shade it was still 106 (plus wretchedly heavy military uniforms).

I really enjoyed the ceremony however. In addition to Petraeus were Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham, plus Ambassador Olson. The airport hanger was enormous and there were easily 500 people there. I was also pleasantly surprised at the speeches that were made. I was expecting a generic, jingoistic display of blind hoo-rah patriotism, but instead I found the speeches to be thoughtful and respectfully patriotic. They reflected the heroism and sacrifices made by the soldiers and were less about the war and more about what it means to be honorable and noble. I thought the theme was really unifying and the music was wonderful. Easily the best part was when Petraeus and his First Sergeant took the sword from a member of the 1st Cavalry drill team as part of their presentation and used it to cut the biggest American flag cake I have ever seen!

The ceremony lasted about a half an hour and then we had to miss the re-enlistment BBQ to head back to the office since we'd left another station to watch for emergency messages and we'd been gone for sometime. Otherwise there were no fireworks for me (apart from the incoming alarms that went off about 2 hours ago - all's well though), but I hope today was a day full of family, food and fireworks for each of you :-)