I have a pal who has just deployed to Ramadi, where he will be spending the next year or so. He’s letting me post his e-mails with some key details censored.
This letter is to let you know that I arrived safely at Camp Blue Diamond, Ramadi, Iraq with the Marines and Sailors of my Government Support Team (GST), of which I am the Officer-in-Charge (OIC). After months of Pre-deployment Training Program (PTP) courses such as combat lifesaving, enhanced marksmanship program (EMP) and many others classes that were invaluable in preparing us to do our job here, we were ready to go.
However, we had a few adventures along the way. It almost reminded us of the Movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with Steve Martin and John Candy. After saying our goodbyes at 5th Battalion, 10th Marines headquarters at Camp Lejeune, we departed at 5:00 PM, Thursday, March 8th, arriving around 6:00 PM at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point to await our flight. The USO graciously provided us with beverages and snacks in the meantime.[# More #]
At about 9:30 PM, we were called to start loading our plane, a World Airways McDonnell-Douglas MD-11, a very comfortable aircraft. Unfortunately, to get there we had to drag our two carry-on bags and weapons about 500 feet across the tarmac and climb up the outside stairs which had been rolled up to the aircraft fuselage. Interestingly enough, this is the first time most of us have been allowed to carry weapons onto an aircraft. Some of us “special” Marines got to carry a rifle and a pistol onto the airplane. This was undoubtedly the safest aircraft to be aboard at that moment in the United States. The senior officers, including me, and senior enlisted Marines were seated in 1st Class. Very nice! Ah, rank does have its privileges! After settling in on the airplane, we took off at around 10:15 PM, arriving at Bangor, Maine International Airport at approx. 12:10 AM on Friday, March 9th, where the temperature was a crisp zero degrees Fahrenheit. After leaving the aircraft we were greeted to the gracious hospitality of the Korean War Veterans of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) who applauded us for our service. The VFW has been supporting service members departing for and returning from duty in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom since 9/11.
After aircrew preparations were completed for the transatlantic flight, we departed at approx. 2:00 AM. The overseas flight lasted about 6-1/4 hours and we landed at Leipzig, Germany at around 1:30 PM. We loaded up onto shuttle buses and went to the terminal, a stark grey-looking building that looked suspiciously like a holding cell, except for the very small gift store. After about one hour on the ground during which we cleaned up and shaved, we re-boarded our aircraft and took off at around 2:30 PM.
We landed at Kuwait International Airport after about five hours flying time at 10:30 PM. Our pilot bid us farewell and wished good luck and a safe tour of duty in Iraq. For those of us that landed at Kuwait International Airport during the fall of 2002 and winter of 2003, in the days leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom I, the sight of the tall bulbous flight control tower there was like “d