can vary depending on the military service providing the flight and, I swear, the temperament and sense of humor of the affected crew. In any case you have heard me before grumbling about spending hours just hanging around the PAX terminal in order to make sure that I am both there on time to check in and to not have the plane leave without me.
Just to keep us guessing on departure time, the sergeant kept coming out, looking around and heading back behind the counter. The end result at this time of year is that it is pitch black before we even think of heading toward the plane. Late flight in, we grumble. A delay to load a casket? Just a deep breath and a prayer for the family at the far end for that is all we can offer.
Grateful for my two feet, IBA, Kevlar, rucksack, weapon sans clip I fall in toward the end of ducky line headed out the back and toward the flight line. Dark – so much so that I almost make a close, personal acquaintance with a Texas barrier which spring up right in front of my nose. No clue how something that weighs tons can sneak up on me, but there you are.
Managing to slide around the end of the barrier and not crash in the rocks I stumble along over ditches, sandbags and obstacles just waiting to snag my tired boots. The line marches on, crunching on the gravel between the fences.
Here the C-130 is on the apron within what most would laughingly call walking distance from the PAX terminal. Following blindly, I try to avoid further stumbling or otherwise embarressing myself. The Brit at the end is relocating complete with Tuff Box on wheels and two duffels and a ruck. Stomping along and huffing, he tails the parade. Our Tech Sergeant finally goes back to give him a hand. Those waiting at the plane, desperately wanting the terminal, heat, water, food, toilets don’t get to hike out till they can be escorted. There we are, holding up and raining on their parade.
The plane is empty but for us, which is why we are hauling everything ourselves rather than having loaded gear on to a pallet. I had just half shrugged on my rucksack which is why (good as an excuse as any) I am a bit off balance when I start to step up onto the ramp into the back of the plane. Just like a turtle, landing on a knee, I have to be ignominiously pulled back up to my feet.
So much for dignity, I think as I scribble these lines into my notebook as we taxi out. Take off startles me into grabbing the webbing and tucking way paper and pen. First leg of my journey to Bagram is underway.
Kandahar Air Field