Topic: Posts While on R&R
I made it out of Iraq! To get out, I had to take a military C-130 flight out of the country. This type of flight is generally called a "MilAir" (Military Air) flight by people inside Iraq.
I arrived at the spartan military passenger terminal (PAX terminal) roughly two hours before the flight left. I checked in at the appropriate desk by showing copies of my government travel orders, military identification badge, and country clearance form authorizing me to travel to Jordan. Surprisingly, no one asked to see my passport or visa.
After checking in at the departure desk, I sat inside a large pavilion until the State Department official responsible for organizing the flight called everyone together to "palletize" our baggage. This process involved stacking everyone's luggage on a large, flat 10' by 10' piece of sheet metal. A civilian working at the airport then reorganized all of the items so they were densely stacked together and ultimately lashed together so they wouldn’t slide off the pallet during the flight.
I sat inside a large, white tent to kill time, waiting for the boarding call. When the boarding call came, I quickly grabbed my body armor and dashed off to the flight line. I stood under a large tarp near the runway for perhaps five minutes before someone escorted everyone to the plane. We walked slowly in a single file line, and everyone walked without talking or even looking at each other. We simply focused on the C-130’s large propellers, which were already swirling in anticipation of the flight.
When we approached the plane, we were reminded not a take any photos. Supposedly, the military doesn’t want the bad guys seeing anything within a secured area, but I have always felt that the military makes rules like this because it hates when civilians like me get excited about the thought of "playing" inside military equipment.
The airmen inside the plane asked all of us to enter the plane from the rear. From the minute I entered through the rear cargo door, I knew that the next two hours would not be an enjoyable experience. All the passengers were directed onto little cargo net bench seats that offered very little comfort. The inside of cabin proudly reveled the inside mechanics (wires, panels, compressors, etc) and likely scared those people who prefer not to be reminded of how the miracle of flight depends on simple little mechanical devices. The sound of the engines also roared so loudly that I had to use little foam earplugs to help protect my eardrums.
Before taking off, I took off my body armor and placed it under my butt. I sat on if for the first 20 minutes of the flight. The last thing I wanted was a bullet aimed at the underbody of the plane to hit me in the rear end.
Posted by alohafromtim
at 5:31 PM EDT