Every reserve unit has a “Mob Station” from which it mobilizes and de-mobilizes. The 304th Sustainment Brigade’s was Fort Bliss, which is in El Paso, Texas.
As discussed in the last post, we had a very long trip from Kuwait to Texas ona chartered airplane. When our airplane arrived at about 6AM, we were all very tired and beat. The first thing they did was they made us all line up in a hanger-like building on Biggs Field, the Fort Bliss runway. We then turned in our weapons. Here is a photo of me a few minutes after our arrival, parting with my old friend for the last time:
After that, they gave us a TB test shot, and let everyone eat a little breakfast. The eggs were runny, the potatoes rubbery, and the french toast was burnt to a crisp. We were then taken to our barracks, where we were to spend the next few days. The barracks were freezing cold, and dead cockroaches littered the floors. There was nothing to do, and we were stranded in the middle of this inhospitable military base. This was the first time I remarked that dining and living conditions were better in Iraq.
We were all quite exhausted, and so the first day there was nothing on the agenda. I ended up sleeping from 10AM to 5PM, and then going back to sleep at 10PM again. I wasn’t that badly jet-lagged, and woke up around 4AM the next morning. They say that it is easier to travel from East to West, and this is true, judging by how severely jet-lagged I was the last time I flew from the US to Iraq. On that occassion I had a terrible time with sleepless nights for about 10 days.
Anyway, the days after our initial rest-day were spent at the SRP site (Soldier Readiness Processing). We were doing our out-processing and de-mobilizing. Basically this entails sitting through 4 hours of briefings, and then making sure our finances are correct, calculating final pay and our military separation date (as well as issuing DD 214′s), being medically and dentally checked, and turning in body armor. Here is a view of the SRP site, which is in a big circus-style tent on Fort Bliss:
Note the lovely mountains in the background. I think El Paso is a nice place.
Soldiers spent lots of time sitting in lines, waiting for their out-processing:
Occasionally someone would come out and shout at us for some various infraction. By the end of this, I was becoming increasingly disgusted at the way the permanant party staff talked down to everyone, and treated us like cattle. But the process was over after a couple of days. Nobody got into trouble, even though alcohol was available at shops all over the base.
We had a farewell ceremony at the El Paso VFW Post 812, which is located in a very scenic spot on top of the mountain overlooking El Paso. About half the unit left the next day on flights to their individual homes. These were the cross-levels, people who were assigned to the unit only for the duration of the deployment. The permanent 304th SB folks stayed on.
Very early on Sunday morning, we went back to the welcome site next to the airfield. It’s a huge structure and it looks like this:
This is the same facility that we flew out of at the start of our tour last year. We had a chartered flight by Southwest Airlines, and I have to say, this was a real pleasure. The Southwest crew was very friendly, and the flight went perfectly well.