Sunday, April 26, 2009

Best $13 Ever Spent/My Friend Justin

Have you ever spent an amount of money, large or small, on something that you might not ever use/need/see again but served such a large purpose in your life at the moment that it was worth it? For example, when your head is pounding and you are at your office and you have to go to the drugstore next door and buy a $5 bottle of Advil, even though you've got a 200-count bottle at home? But you need it, so you spend the money and you're grateful that you did?
Such a thing happened during my return trip from San Diego to Baghdad. On the long flight (10 hours to Leipzin, 5 hours to Kuwait) back I was the Flight Commander. A big title for just ensuring that Soldiers stay in their seats, get the required briefings, and get all their gear off of the plane in Kuwait. However, it's a responsibility I took seriously so...that meant no sleeping pills for me. I had planned to pop some once we were airborne but I did not because of my friend Justin.
You know...Justin Case.
Just in case someone gets sick. Just in case someone has a problem. Just in case the plane has to land somewhere other than Leipzig for mechanical or weather reasons. I didn't want to be in a position where I couldn't function properly sleeping pills for me. Which means I didn't sleep all that well since the audio for the FOUR in-flight movies were on the plane's speaker system AND the flight crew just kept yapping right in front of me (I was in the front row). I think I slept all of about 45 minutes. By the time we landed in Germany for refueling and crew change, I was desperate for some sleep. After an hour we were told our flight was delayed for 4 hours! I tried to get some sleep...on the chairs, on the benches, on the floor. But I just couldn't get comfortable. My hands just don't make that good of a pillow. Finally, after an hour I went into the gift shop to buy a stuffed animal to use as a pillow. Of course, the gift shop there has the usual Hostage Prices...the ones we'll pay because we really want a $4 Coke or a $25 stuffed animal to take home as a present. I searched and found a stuffed elephant for a mere $13. Best $13 I ever spent because the second I put my head on that elephant's round belly I was out like a light and slept for over 2 hours until they called our flight.
I'll never have a use for that stuffed elephant...I'll probably give it to the group who hosts the weekly Scouting adventures, but for those 2 hours it was the best stuffed elephant in the world!
And it's nice to be back in Iraq. Seriously...I missed my unit and the people here whom I consider to be my friends.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How Time Flies

It's hard to believe that my time on R & R...military coming to and end.  Only two more full days in San Diego and then off to Dallas on the early (and I do mean early) morning flight.  I'll stay there until the next morning then I have to report to the Dallas Airport by noon to the military airline check in.  
People have asked me how long it will take me to get back to Baghdad and I answer the only way I know how:  I'll get there when I get there.  I'll leave Dallas when there's a plane (or actually a seat on a plane) available.  I'll leave Kuwait when there is a seat on a plane going to Baghdad.  Could take 48 hours, could take 4 days.  Rumor control from the unit that we replaced hinted that some of the Soldiers waited in Kuwait for up to 7 days waiting for a plane.  Oh my, I hope it doesn't take me that long.  Don't have that many pair of clean socks!
I've been busy since I arrived in San Diego on 8 April.  First thing I had to do was buy some clothes.  I had a pair of jeans and 2 shirts when I arrived so I bought some sandals, two pair of shorts, and some casual shirts.  Nothing much, but it also means laundry ever 3 days.  After that I did some shopping to pick up a few things that I can't get in the PX in Baghdad:  Tom's of Maine toothpaste and fluoride rinse, The Body Shop wild cherry body butter (for some reason they don't ship to APO addresses), and a bottle of Chanel No. 5.  Plenty of people have asked me what I miss the most being in Iraq.  That's easy...being a girl.  A real, live, girrrrrrrrl.  I miss putting in my earrings and choosing outfits and spraying on girly-girl perfume and just being a girl.  And wearing pink.  Well, I can wear pink, but it's unseen.  :)  
I spent 3 1/2 days in Vegas...that was fun, relaxing.  I went to the Hoover Dam, the Shark Reef Aquarium, Body Worlds (but I had to leave because...that's just gross).  I also wandered from casino to casino, taking in the catchy things they had to offer, like the lions at MGM Grand and the flamingoes at, well, The Flamingo.  
I spent 2 days with my friend B, who has the best friends in the world who are getting me (and my unit) LOTS of DVDs, including the first 2 seasons of CHiPS.  They'll get thanked by me later, but in the meantime...thanks!  Lots!  Went to my favorite store while in LA:  It's a Wrap.  It's a second-hand store but their clothing, shoes, etc. all come from studios and TV/Movie productions.  Most of the clothes in my closet come from It's A Wrap (and I still have great clothes).  It's hit-or-miss with them and, of course, most of the women's clothes are a XS or a size 4.  But I scored a fabulous Lucky Brand denim jacket for $7...what a deal!  One time I got a pair of Ralph Lauren khakis  They were $3 but they gave them to me for free because there was a small, almost unnoticeable ink stain on the back pocket.  Such a deal.  
Friday I was at Balboa Park museum hopping...the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Modern Art.  Saturday we went to the Women's Expo at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.  Talk about lots of girl stuff!  Whew!  Women, and women's stuff everywhere!  Today we went back to Balboa Park for the Earth Day Fair.  Lots of fun and I took pictures of Ed Begley, Jr., who led the parade through the organ pavilion.  Lots of organic cotton, hemp, and natural products.  Lots of chants of "eat green, don't eat meat", which I thought was funny since the only food booths that we could find were...cheeseburgers and  hot dogs.  There was probably a better food court somewhere, offering the usual fresh, organic fair, but we didn't venture that far.  Too funny!
After lunch and a nap I'm ready for whatever my friend has to throw at me.  After she wakes up from her nap.
Monday and Tuesday left.  Then Wednesday with another friend in Dallas.  
Shhhhhh, don't tell anyone, but I miss my unit.  I feel separated from them.  There is a sister unit, the 314th PAOC, in the IZ that also keeps a blog, blogsoverbaghdad, com.  Their Command Sergeant Major, CSM Falardeau, is on leave and said he felt like he was part of the Borg Collective, like on Star Trek, and now has been separated from that Collective.  I understand how he feels...does that make me the Borg Queen?  ;)  Anyway, I miss talking with my Soldiers, listening to the things that effect their lives, reading/watching their stories.  I miss lunchtime movies with 1SG and XO or just plain goofing around.  I'm looking forward to seeing them again and catching up on what's been happening in my absence (which, according to my XO, hasn't been much!).  
What I don't miss...walking 150 yards to the latrine at 3 a.m., multiple meetings, wearing combat boots all the time.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Freedom Flights

In the months preceding my unit's deployment I had to travel to different cities for conferences and classes.  Most of the time my flights were routed through Dallas, which was nice because it's a large airport and has a lot to offer someone waiting for a flight.  The USO is top-notch although I only went in there to grab a bottle of water a few times.
While wandering around the airport I noticed the "Freedom Flights"...the chartered airplanes that bring troops (and civilians) from Iraq back to the states.  There are two stateside gateways for troops on R & R or emergency leave:  Dallas and Atlanta.  I remember looking at those planes, often parked on the tarmac away from the terminal, and thinking "one day, I will be one of those Soldiers coming back for some rest and relaxation". 
Well, here I am, sitting at my friend's computer in San Diego, updating my blog.  I left Iraq Monday afternoon for a long (and somewhat painful) flight from Kuwait to Dallas with a brief stop in Germany.  I was finally one of those Soldiers on that Freedom Flight, away from Iraq, and ready for some down time. 
It's surreal, being here in San Diego.  It's almost as if my time in Iraq was merely a dream and now I'm awake and moving on through the day.  Perhaps that's because I was only in Iraq for 2 months before I went on R & R.  That sort of sucks, but this was the only time left for my R & R after everyone else picked their dates.  Regardless, I'm here and I'm enjoying myself.
Today I went shopping to get some civilian clothes to wear while I'm here...some shorts and T-shirts and a pair of sandals.  I also went to Target to get some things that I can't get overseas, including my favorite sunscreen and toothpaste and some Gold Bond lotion for my feet.  It has menthol in it so it makes my tired feet feel much better.  
I'm having a great time with my friend, Cindy.  It's nice to sit down to a nice dinner of steak and rice and watch some TV.
I was a bit miffed to find out that President Obama was in Iraq while I was on R & R~!  I've been waiting for that meet our new Commander in Chief while I was deployed.  But alas I'll have to wait for the next "surprise" visit.