I’ve finally returned to Afghanistan from a quick trip home with stops in Kuwait and Germany. It’s amazing how long it takes to move around a combat zone. The cool thing is you can easily go to Baghdad or the Horn of Africa, but it takes time and a lot of patience. I left here on a Tuesday morning. I’d arranged a convoy of 2 Humvees to take three of us from my camp to Baghram Airfield, which is about an hour and a half drive Northwest (just North of Kabul). We arrived to check-in around 11:30 AM, found a bunk for our gear, and grabbed some lunch. There was a briefing for us at 2 PM, and then we turned in our weapons, etc. about an hour later. The next required event wasn’t until 7:00 AM the next morning, so we chilled. After breakfast, we boarded a bus at 7:00 AM to go to the passenger terminal. We arrived an hour and a half early for our flight briefing. At 9:00 AM, they told us our flight to Kuwait would be around 9:30 PM, with an 8:00 PM showtime. We did what we could to pass the time. We flew out as advertised, and arrived in Kuwait around 2:00 AM. We spent the next 2 hours unloading the plane, waiting for busses to take us to the base, and in transit. When we got to the main base in Kuwait, we spent another 3 hours getting “welcome to Kuwait” briefs, and guidance on what not to do upon arrival back in the States. For example, after 9 months of driving in a combat zone, I’ve gotten really good at driving in the wrong lane, and playing chicken with oncoming, but unarmed traffic. My wife really didn’t want me demonstrating this in our mini-van. Finally, around 7:00 AM, I chose sleep over breakfast, and we had dinner before our next muster at 6:00 PM. At 6:00 PM, they told us to show back up at 8:00 PM, and then we flew out at 11:30 PM. We flew 6 hours (over Iraq) to Frankfurt, Germany. After a 3 hour layover, we flew 10 hours to Atlanta. The flight to Kabul had been in an Air Force C-17, which has pretty good room. The flight to Atlanta was in a chartered DC-10, with the seats installed closer together than my knees could handle. I slept some, but it was rough. We arrived in Atlanta at 8:00 AM, and wound through customs and the military entry point for about an hour. A number of emails have circulated following a 60 minutes story on the USO greeting arriving military in Atlanta and Dallas with large groups of applauding travelers and volunteers. I walked through the applause with fellow service members from Afghanistan and Iraq, and the effect is extremely powerful. The first instinct is to wonder “Wow, I wonder what those guys did to deserve that greeting,” and then realize “hey, I’m one of those guys.” Once through the gauntlet, I went to the ticket counter. My flight to Jacksonville wasn’t for another 8 hours, but fortunately I was able to change it to 12:00 PM. By the time I arrived, I was exhausted, but still somehow had plenty of energy to get through the concourse to my family. I don’t think I plowed anyone over, but really can’t be sure, as seeing the kids clouded all rational thought. As I reached the main part of the airport, Brandon, my son saw me from 50 feet away and started a “road runner” sprint into my arms, with Emily trailing him. He later said “Daddy, I’ve never run that fast before.” I collected both kids, dangling 3 feet off the ground and walked several feet to close the gap and kiss my wife. It was the first time I’d seen the 3 of them in 9 months.
We had a great time playing, both at home and briefly at Disney World. Candace and I got some time, but the focus was completely on the kids, who don’t really understand all of this. The longest I’ve been away from home was 4 days before this. At least now, after my visit, they both know that things will be normal again soon. Also, they were 2 and 4 years old when I left. They’ll be 4 and 6 when I return, since I’ll have missed everyone’s birthday twice. At least I’ll only have missed one Christmas and Anniversary.
The trip back was similar, but with a 56 hour layover in Kuwait. I’ll try to never complain again about a 4 hour layover. I’ve returned with new energy, and the realization that the final 3 months in-country will go quickly. I’ve got several projects that I’ve got to complete before my departure, and will be focusing on that, rather than the fact I’m still away from home. I am, however, beginning to start planning my return to real estate, and will soon add to my current portfolio of 8 listings. I’ll be back at work in July.
Everything’s fine here, and thanks again for the support, care packages and prayers. If you’ve missed updates you’d like to read, surf to www.jonsingleton.com to read past updates, see the pictures and to post comments. Feel free to forward this to anyone who may be interested. If an email of your’s is kicked back by my SPAM filter, just resend with the word “ADD” in the subject line, and I’ll receive it. Raise a cup of Starbuck’s for me, and I’ll hurry home