I was really hoping that this weeks blog would be of my homecoming, however, military transportation isn't exactly non-stop. Dr. R and I left FOB Salerno early Tuesday morning. We flew on a "puddle hopper," a small two propeller, 8 seat cargo plane. It had brought mail to Salerno. We actually helped empty the plane's contents, then got on board. What a ride. It went through the mountain passes and was rather bumpy. Some of the mountain sides were just a stone's throw away. Now I understand why some of our patient' couldn't be transferred to Bargram due to weather conditions. When we reached the hospital in Bagram, of course no one knew we were coming hadn't book us a flight out of Manas, as they had told us. I was a little ticked off. We hurried and did the required paperwork and left to find our own way home.
At the PAX terminal (Airport) there happened to be a flight to Al Udeid AFB in Qatar (picture # 2) leaving within a few hours. We were able to catch this flight. It was on a C-130, a four propeller cargo plane. We rode with a country band that was touring Afghanistan, Matt Poss and Rolling Thunder. We were delayed and waited on the tarmac for about an hour and a half. During this time, the band sang some of their songs, pretty cool. They performed at Al Udeid the next day. Again, it was good to hear live music. They did a shout out for us while on stage and we took pictures with them after the show. I really appreciate their time and effort to come and entertain the troops stuck in the sand. The plane ride was just over 5 hours and we arrived around 11 PM, too late to catch the flight to Baltimore (BWI) leaving the next day. When we checked in, we were informed that we were booked for a flight to BWI on June 3rd. Huh?
The last 5 days have been filled with excitement: sleep, eat, watch movies, eat, sleep, swim at the pool, eat, sleep, read, eat, surf the internet, sleep, walk around, eat...you get the picture. All in all, it's not a bad base to travel through. Notice I said travel through. As a surgeon, I wouldn't want to be deployed here. Among the many different missions of this base, one is to house and entertain troops to and from their area of responsibility (AOR). It is also a place for troops who are deployed for more than 6 months to come and enjoy some rest and relaxation (R&R). Therefore, there are more amenities here that help accomplish this mission. For example, picture # 3 shows what is referred to as "the Bra." It is a tarp in the middle of the coalition camp, where the majority of the troops stay. Wireless internet is available, and different activities occur here throughout the week. Additionally, 3 drinks containing alcohol can be purchased every 24 hours for those that want it (picture # 4).
Because so many of the troops here are "in transit," there are many rows of tents that serve as temporary barracks (picture #6). They contain 22 pairs of bunk beds. Much better than a cot, but after the last 4 months, it will be nice to have my own room! The base also contains multiple base exchanges (BX), one of which is indoors, like an indoor mall. It contains a food court, movie theater, wireless internet, barber shop, store, post office and large TV and game room (picture # 5). The best part is that it is air conditioned. This is greatly appreciated in 120 degree, 80% humidity weather. The base also contains a swimming pool (picture # 7). Part of my day has been spent laying by the pool , reading, and taking a dip to cool off. I will probably still come home without a tan. While walking through the base I came across picture # 1. I always loved the sign like this on the TV show MASH. Just a few more days and this adventure will be over. Take care.
I received this picture from Capt L. I was already gone, but the young man we took care of with the heart injury came back for follow-up in clinic. He is doing very well and posed for the camera to show off his scar (picture #8&9).