Me and Abilicious

Me and Abilicious

Thursday, February 20, 2014

From Not a Non-Undisclosed Location



         Before arriving we were told this base was an undisclosed location, and should be referred to as "An Undisclosed Location in Southeast Asia" in social media, conversations, etc. But upon arriving here we were briefed that Al Udeid Air Base is no longer an undisclosed location. Which was slightly confusing because of all the negatives in that statement. Almost a triple negative. Not an undisclosed location = a disclosed location = not a closed location = an open location = I can tell you where I am.
          In ROTC, our commandant told us stories of his deployments to the Middle East: long, 14 hour days, 6-7 day work weeks, rugged quarters, cold showers, pill boxes and guard towers, mortar attacks, harrowing convoys through cities dodging IEDs . This is nothing like that. At all. Those not stationed at Al Udeid refer to it as "Camp Cupcake" out of jealousy. All the amenities here give it more of a TDY feel rather than a deployment. When not working or on the Operations side of the base we are allowed to wear civies, giving off-duty personnel a feel of humanity. No one likes work clothes. The indoor and outdoor pools are more than I've experienced at any base in America. There are still pill boxes and guard towers here but they are empty, only vestiges of harder times when there was only one pool to lounge at. Comically, the base has grown much and now engulfs what was once the fence line so the pill boxes and guard towers face towards what are now the living quarters giving - with the help of barbed wire fencing - a prisoner camp feel.
         When I'm not flying my day is my own. No additional duties. No need to wear a uniform. Get up early, sleep in late, whatever. With all the free time (we are only flying 2 times a week on average) I'm finding it hard to occupy my time. There are not a plethora of activities on base. When I call home most of my part of the conversation includes what I ate for meals and what type of workout I did. Eat. Sleep. Workout. It makes for hot bods but dull stories. Even the flying itself is rather vanilla.
           Much of the last decade of flying in theater has consisted of flying exciting, fast paced low levels over hostile territories, dropping supplies to forward deployed troops or landing in an obscure, unimproved, dirt landing strip in the middle of the wilderness. Now that America's pace in the Middle East, especially Afghanistan, has started to draw down, all we've been doing recently is standard hauls back and forth between big hubs. Pile on some pallets and passengers here, fly 5 hours away to drop them off, pick up some more trash, haul it back home. After a couple of weeks we got in the grind of the routine and spend most of our time trying to fill the free time with something other than eating and working out.
            A couple of days ago my crew and I drove into down Doha, Qatar's capitol. Tons and tons of construction going on everywhere and traffic was a roller coaster. We stopped in a large marketplace area and spent most of the day there, walking around shops, talking with vendors and eating at a restaurant Damascan. When I went to Kenya after my Junior year at Auburn, the majority of vendors there attempted to make you feel like the "rude American" for looking and not buying so I was surprised by how friendly some of the shop owners were in Qatar. We talked at length with a Sri Lankan jewelry vendor. He was adamant that we come in and have tea and just talk and look, "No need to buy!"  
Devin, our AC, second from the left, bought us all these Raybans, authentic, of course

We got to see a sunrise on one early flight






The Crew, from left to right: me, Kris, Mike, John, Doug and Devin

Over Pakistan you can see where the desert ends and the rocks begin


Pakistan shore line

Load masters load mastering


The engineer engineering and I

Same but now with Raybans

Go-karts #warishell