Good-bye; The Long Road Home
I am writing from relative safety of BIAP - everyone let out a collective sigh of relief.
Yesterday was my last day on the FOB. The day began early with several loud explosions; too early to be controlled dets (detonations of explosives by EOD personnel). The third one shook my room and got me out of bed. Outside the building there was a plume of smoke wafting on the breeze. One of the IP checkpoints was attacked with RPGs and a SVBIED. The suicide bomber's car bomb left a 15 foot hole in the ground. At least one IP died. What a way to start the last day.
At 0800 we started the move. The military Police came over to conduct our customs inspections. Everything was dumped onto the ground and poked through. They look for AK-47s, pistols, Cuban cigars, and other contraband items (and occasionally find them). Of course all that neat and orderly packing I did came undone in less than thirty seconds. Once cleared we packed our boxes and gear into cargo containers. The contaniers were sealed and they will be shipped out to the U.S. before we ever leave here.
A member of the Company who has been located on another FOB since October came to visit and pack his stuff. We went to lunch and shared the stories of our deployment. It turns out that many people went through the same personality conflicts as our Company did, furthering my belief in six month tours. Very few people are leaving Iraq "happy".
At 1500 was the highlight of the day - the awards ceremony. The awards process needs overhauling and everyone seems to know it. Some people did not get the awards they should have, some did not get the awards they think they shuold have, and others got more than they deserved. I knew the awards before hand and I knew that there would be several dissatisfied people. The tension was palpable before, during, and after the ceremony. The Brigade Commander came down and pinned on 22 medals. He spoke briefly about the fact that a deployment was not about what you wore on your chest, but the pride you wear inside from the job that was done. He went on to say that if you came for the award then you came for the wrong reason. Nonetheless, people's egos were bruised.
The awards done I worked with my replacement, Mike, to finish up any last issues he had to do his (my) job. The rest of the day was a blur. We went to dinner together and I headed back to my room to pack. I got on the computer and chatted with Lisa who had just returned from North Carolina. I drank a couple of near beers, and talked with Mike for awhile. At about 2105, another boom. This time it had to be a controlled det because it was so close to the top of the hour (when they try to do them). Mike and I continued out conversation until the Sergeants came over - we had been mortared. What a way to end my last day on the FOB.
I thought of the new unit, what must they think? Five days on the ground and already they are being faced with the harsh realities of what will be 12 months of duty for them.
My sleep was fitfull - as it always is before a big day.
My last convoy - my last mission, brought me to the airport where I will prepare for the rest of the unit to arrive over the next several days.
There is no more countdown counter. I left it for Mike.