Travels and Travails
The first part of our journey started in the typical way that all travel starts here - early in the morning with all kinds of changes. We arrived several hours before "wheels up" only to learn that our time had been changed to several hours later. We grumbled a bit, thinking about the extra sleep we could have had, and dreading the five hours we were now going to have to wait. Then the pilots came, and lo and behold, we were the only passengers! Suddenly things changed and we were leaving in 30 minutes. We added a stop to the journey, picked up two new passengers, and then found out that one of them had a son who had been killed back in the US in a motorcycle accident. Well, that certainly took precedence over what we were doing, so we returned to Balad in order to get him on his way home. We finally made it to Tallil eight hours after we showed in Balad - all this for what should have been a 90 minute flight!
We were to fly from Tallil to Al Kut the next day. But what is that old saying? "Man plans, God laughs." That night we had 60 mph winds with gusts to 70 mph. Visibility was reduced to zero as the dust swirled, and we spent an extra day in Tallil.
The next day we flew to Al Kut where we had the opportunity to meet with some of our medics and find out what they were experiencing. They took us to the makeshift hospital there, and we met the Polish docs who work there. The staff showed us some pictures and video of a skin graft they had done on a young Iraqi boy who had been badly burnt. Later in the day we caught a Medevac bird for Diwaniyah.
As soon as we landed and the blades stopped turning, I ran into the Soldier you see pictured above. She had emailed me several months before, and I had made a trip to Diwo to see her. She wanted to tell me that the issues we discussed had worked out well. It's rare to have someone report back how things turn out, especially when they live in a hard to get place. It made the trip worthwhile just to hear she was doing well.
Not long after this picture was taken the base was attacked. We spent a while hunkered down in a bunker, and the rest of the night listening to the sounds of rockets and mortars. They have been hit pretty hard lately, which is why we wanted to make sure to make it to Diwo.
We flew out of Diwo the next day on a Medevac mission. Again we were diverted and a short flight turned into three hours. The day after that we grabbed a Sherpa back to Balad and "normal" life.
I'm pretty sure these will be the kinds of things I will miss about this place.