Lots of people who deploy will tell you that the worst days of a deployment are the first and the last – traveling quite literally halfway around the world via an itinerary that the government has set up for you has “gigantic booty pain” written all over it (I’m trying to cut back on the cussing, bear with me). My travel experience was actually far easier than a lot of people’s, and it still felt like the day that would never end.
There are a few ways to get in country for a deployment. The most common for the military in general is via a rotator, which is sort of like a commercial airliner except that it’s contracted by the government and has designated itineraries. A base like Little Rock has rotators actually stop there to pick up big groups of deployers, and then there are terminals around the world that are designed explicitly to handle rotators. Non-aircrew military members almost always take a rotator, and then depending on different factors, aircrew will jump on rotators occasionally, too. The other option available to aircrew is to actually fly to the destination themselves, known as “taking iron.” Since the C-130’s range isn’t great (it takes probably 6 days to get to deployed locations provided nothing breaks, which . . . yeah . . . we always break), big groups typically take the rotator over. Since I was on the ADVON team (two crews and some overhead left about a week earlier than everybody else, so I’m sure the random acronym stands for advanced . . . something), the norm would have been to take iron all the way to our undisclosed location. However a serious of unfortunate events led to that not being a possibility and the rotator’s seats filling up before we could book 20 seats, and thus, we ended up flying commercially to Frankfurt, Germany, where the rotator opened up enough seats to accommodate us the rest of the way.
So instead of 16 superfluous stops between Little Rock and . . . wherever I am . . . I got to spend a pretty sweet 24 hours at Ramstein Air Base, about an hour from Frankfurt. We’re pretty lame and because of our jacked up sleep schedules and lack of rental car we never even left the hotel for our day in Germany. Not that there wasn’t anything to do there – the base hotel was like a small city. I spent some time wandering around looking at cuckoo clocks and eating jaeger schnitzel for awhile, and in the evening I made a very distinct point of doing this:
That’s right. Final milkshake prior to deployment = happy Katie. It’s the little things.
After 24 hours in Germany we donned our cute matching outfits and jumped on the rotator – only two stops on this one until we jumped off at a major transit center around 2 in the morning. It’s like they plan the rotator schedule to depart and arrive at the most ungodly hours, where they could switch the whole thing by a half day and it would amount to a virtually normal travel experience. Shocker, though – the military doesn’t care a whole lot about that.
The transit center is a base set up specifically to dish deployers out to various locations, and they run weird hours to accommodate the weird travel schedules of everyone passing through. Our arrival at 2am was following by a freezing cold bus ride to a freezing cold tent where we were briefed on the next 24 hours, then a freezing cold walk to a comfortably warm tent where we could set our stuff while we continued to walk around the freezing cold base running various deployment errands (picking up armor, bag dragging our 150 pounds of stuff not once, but twice, in preparation for the final leg of our trip), all the while exhausted from our grand total of about 6 hours of sleep in the last 72 hours. Have I mentioned that this was the never-ending day? Also, I hope I told you it was freezing. Because it was. Zero degrees. And dark for about 16 hours of the day. That might be an exaggeration. Just go with it.
We got pretty lucky – some people spend up to 3 days at the transit center, and our grand total time there was only 30 hours before we all hopped on a C-17 (big Air Force cargo plane) that took us to our final destination. This is my aircraft commander, Chris, and me jammed with our carry-ons and armor on the bus waiting to board the C-17 at some stupid early hour of the day.
Kind of blurry. I took it myself. Don’t judge me. I’m pretty sure our faces were numb.
We got to our new home for the next four months and continued the never-ending day with inprocessing and random queep . . . nope, that stuff definitely doesn’t end while deployed. Some people would even have you believe it’s the most important thing.
Now that I’ve settled into a routine I’m definitely shooting for more frequent posts – I have many stories! They’ve made me smile and therefore I must share. But for now, it’s 8am, which means bedtime . . . that might give you an idea of my life right now.