Right now I am at Fort Bliss, Texas. When you leave Iraq, you don’t just hop on a plane and go straight home. You must follow a de-mobilization process, which is similar to (but much shorter than) the mobilization that you go through before getting to Iraq. The basic way to demobilize is to fly from Iraq to Ali Al Salem (AAS) air base in Kuwait, and then spend a night or two at Camp Virginia, which is quite close to AAS. If you are unlukcy, you’ll spend many nights at AAS. We were lucky, and spent only two nights in Kuwait total. All Army personnel must clear the CENTCOM theater through AAS, and then clear customs, and then wait in the Freedom tents for at least 10-15 hours before getting a bus over to Kuwait City Airport, and then flying back to the USA. There are several routes, but the routes usually involve a stop on the flight from Kuwait City in either Leipzig Germany, or Shannon Ireland. You then continue on to the USA, with possibly a stop in Bangor Maine, and a final destination that could be anywhere, but is often Dallas or Atlanta.
If you read my previous post about the 15-day leave trip, you know how miserable the process of getting home is (Link is HERE). It was just as miserable this time, perhaps more so, but at least I was expecting it, so it didn’t discourage me as much this time.
Anyway, there are several more pictures that I took at Camp Virginia that I wanted to share. This was my last day in the Middle East, and it’s worthwhile to share the pictures from Camp Virginia and the road home.
Camp Virginia is mostly a holding area for troops returning to the USA. They have more things to do than AAS, and it’s slightly nicer. One thing I liked is the Cinema, which plays sevearl movies every day. The highlight of my day was watching the Hannah Montana movie, and part of “007 Moonraker.” It’s in a tent, of course. Here is the Cinema:
It’s air conditioned and has chilled water. Not a bad way to spend a few hours.
There is a very nice chapel on Camp Virginia, complete with a grove of trees that must take a lot of water:
That’s my NCO, SSG Freddie Scott in front of the chapel. Here is an inside view:
There are several hard-working third-country nationals (TCN’s), mostly from India or Nepal. They do tough jobs, like cleaning the restrooms, picking up trash, and other such maintenance work. Here is one guy with the unenviable task of emptying the trash can outside my tent in the blistering, 100+ degree heat:
There’s also much shopping, so that soldiers can blow their money in normal fashion. Here is the Camp Virginia Food Court:
And a shop run by Indian guys, selling jewelry and exotic clothing:
I eat at the DFAC and avoid shopping for tshcotchkes. I’m playing a game, to see if I can spend the entire month of September without spending a penny. So far I’m succeeding.
There are many other things to do on Virginia. There is a nice phone/internet center, a USO, and a rec center.
Anyway, we packed up and left for Ali Al Salem around midnight. We cleared customs at about 3AM. Our flight left around 5PM that same day. We spent a hellish day in the Freedom Tents, imprisoned and hot with little to eat or drink, and waiting for our ride to the airport. But like I said, we were expecting a hellish day, so it wasn’t that bad this time.
We finally got on the buses and headed over to KCI airport. Here is the terminal. For security reasons, we don’t go to the terminal, of course. They bus us right up to our airplane, and we get on the plane and fly out:
We flew for 5 hours, and stopped in Shannon Ireland. Not much to report about that place. It’s just an air terminal that we visited in the middle of the night. We then flew from Ireland to Bangor Maine, where we were warmly greeted, even at 2AM on a Tuesday night/Wed. morning!! To view the video of our return to the USA, click below:
These folks are very nice to come out and meet every single flight that leaves or returns to the US from the Middle East. To get more info, please visit their website: http://mainetroopgreeters.com/
We spent perhaps an hour in Maine, and then continued our flight on to Biggs Field, at Fort Bliss, Texas. It was good to be back in the USA again. Here is our plane sitting on the runway at about 6AM, with a band that had come out to greet us:
And that is the story of my Road Home. I have much more to post about, including how things are going here at Fort Bliss, and a few other Iraq-related posts I’ll get to later. So stand by for more on the story of my deployment to Iraq, and how I will get back home.