Finally the nineteen hours of flight has ended. As the plane lands the seriousness of our situation sets in. Our captain stands up and begins his briefing, although who is really listening? We just want to get off this plane and find a smoking area. There is however one word that an officer can say that gets every junior enlisted soldier’s attention, the dreaded baggage detail. Oh gosh, how I certainly hope I don’t get selected for that job opportunity. I just stare out the little window of the plane as the names are furiously being called. It sure is dark out there. A different kind of darkness that assures you of three things; yes, this is real; yes, you are here; and no you are not staying on this plane. Fortunately for me the baggage detail volunteers are being selected from a roster that is going in alphabetical order. This very well could be the only time where having a last name starting with a ‘w’ has been helpful in the army.
The first impression I got from Kuwait and also one of the most memorable was the heat. It had to have been close to 0400 and as soon as I walked through the door of the plane I was overtaken by this heat. It is so immediate and unlike anything I had ever experienced before. To me it felt like someone was pointing a giant blow-dryer on my body constantly on speed ten. They say the sun is going to start rising in about an hour, I wonder what that is going to be like?
After being hurried down the plane’s stairwell, we are then just continuously moved straight into these shuttle buses that are about 100 meters from the plane. Getting onto the bus, I quickly caught my first glimpse of a Middle Eastern man who was the driver. The bus itself was creepy to me. All black on the outside and inside there were curtains that kept us from seeing out the windows, but at least it had air conditioning. The bus drives us on this trip that lasts about an hour before stopping. There was almost some kind of secretive feeling going on, because no one ever told us where we were or what the plan was going to be once we got off the bus.
So now we are just standing there in a formation right outside of this bus waiting for someone to come over and direct us. The sun is indeed starting to rise and this place, wherever it is, has sand. There are some port-a-johns and some buildings in front of us. Other than that it’s all sand for as far as I can see. I never would have thought that sand could be harmful, until a sudden wind gust blows past, blasting us with this hot wave of heat and that sand just adds to it so badly, getting into your eyes and mouth if you’re not expecting it. Eventually everything is explained to us, that this is our staging area before we make our push into Baghdad. We will do all our briefings here as well as inspecting all that equipment that we had spent the last four months getting ready to ship over here. They tell us that this process takes about a month and it is also a great way of getting use to the conditions without actually being in a combat zone. We are told that after the baggage detail arrives and we are all with our belongings we will be moved into our tents and our first briefing will begin shortly after. The last thing told to us is that there is a McDonalds on this camp and we better take advantage of that because it will be the last one we see for awhile.
Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq