We formed up at 0730 and went to the gym for farewell speeches by Lieutenant General Shalikashvili, BG Campbell and COL Beahm, commander of the 354th CA Group at 0800. The remarks were short and highly complimentary.
I had volunteered for vehicle detail but everyone dispersed after the farewell so the rest of the morning was uneventful. I spent the afternoon packing. At 1800 formation, CPT Pressner cracked up the whole unit. Every time 1SG Gerlach talked, Pressner did a convincing imitation of translating into sign language. Top knew something was going on, but every time he looked back, Pressner just grinned.
In the evening we loaded up our weapons and took them to the MAC terminal, only to be turned back because we couldn't provide an armed guard. Our officers and the MAC people brainstormed every way they could think of to get around it, but nothing worked. Eventually we brought them back. Everyone is keyed up. I finally got to sleep at 2300.
It really happened today! We got up at 0300, loaded up and got to the terminal at 0400. We processed through Customs and boarded at 0600, but our hopes of an early departure were dashed by slow loading. Our unit decided to lean on the no-shows at formation; they got baggage detail. The other units had volunteers. Our no-shows ended up getting "punished" by having to ride in First Class! We taxied out at 0830, then spent an endless half-hour at the end of the runway waiting for clearance from Ankara. Our great dread was that somehow the flight would be cancelled.
Wheels up at 0910! We headed west and crossed over Izmir, then south of Athens and across the Adriatic to Brindisi. From there we flew up the coast to Ancona and across Italy to France. Being a military flight, we couldn't fly over Switzerland. We glimpsed the Alps through holes in the clouds, then on to Rhein-Main at Frankfurt. The views were beautiful, with green and bright yellow fields lit through holes in the clouds. We later found out the yellow fields were canola (rape) seed.
We spent an hour and a half in the very nice USO tent at Rhein-Main, then boarded again. The flight was mostly cloudy for some time, but I did see northeastern England and the Outer Hebrides. I slept most of the way across. We didn't see the ground until the pilot announced we were in U.S. airspace, over Maine. We spent 45 minutes at Kennedy Airport. I called Shawn, who already knew we were in Germany. The support group has quite an intelligence operation.
We arrived at Pope Air Force Base about 2130. There was a short welcoming ceremony, then we were bused to our billets, not too far from where we had been in January. Our baggage arrived about 2300, after which we settled in for the night.
I got up at 0630 for breakfast, did laundry and spent a lot of time sleeping off jet lag. It was a day off, and we just relaxed. In the afternoon I hiked up to the PX, about a three-mile hike each way.
I got up at 0630 for breakfast, and by 0745 was so bored I went for a run, then did more laundry. The current rumor has us getting a charter flight to Green Bay, then the 308th and 415th people would get connections from there. They were upset, and I can't say I blame them (they eventually got to go directly home). Most of the day was spent relaxing and reading. At evening formation at 2000 we got the new word on departure. The 432nd will fly to Green Bay on two Wisconsin Air National Guard tankers, the rest will get commercial flights directly home. We also got some word on events after we return, a parade at 1900 on June 21, a picnic, and so on. I called Shawn. She told me Sky King (the nickname for my roommate during my first tour in Turkey) wanted me to call him collect. I tried but couldn't get through.
Up at 0500, formation at 0600, then went over to the clinic by the JFK Special Warfare School for medical outprocessing. I didn't even get in until noon, and we were all out by 1600. Almost all that time was spent waiting in lines or waiting rooms.
Up at 0530, formation at 0630. The morning was spent on briefings about benefits and legal matters. We also filled out forms for our DD-214 (discharge form) and Finance. Most of the afternoon was spent on paperwork for travel vouchers for our time in Turkey and Iraq. It got ridiculous because some people got hung up on petty details (they bought a meal at the airport on the way to Fort Bragg in January!)
The first two days here were very nice: 80 degrees and dry. Since yesterday it's been over 90 and very muggy.
Up at 0530, formation at 0630, then off to the dental clinic for a quick checkup. I was out by 0900. That, amazingly, was the activity of the day. The morning was not bad, cloudy and cool, but it got sunny and muggy later. In the afternoon I walked to the PX and visited the base library. On the way back I tried a short cut through the woods behind the riding stables. The trail dead-ended, and I got scratched and muddy cutting through the woods to a horse path. I also picked up loads of ticks. I found two after getting back to the barracks, plus a third one later on my clothes, plus a couple of others that turned up later.
Mars, Jupiter and Venus have been getting closer together for the past couple of months. Tonight they are very close, but the sky is murky and the view is poor. I couldn't see Mars at all.
Nothing scheduled today. I read and did laundry in the morning, then started hiking to the PX. The Commander and COL Miller came by and gave me a lift, then I hiked back. I stopped off in the snack bar and got trapped by a fierce thunderstorm. It rained heavily and flooded the street, but did nothing to cool the hot and muggy weather.
We were off until 1430, then went over to the Transition Point to check our discharge forms. We were done in an hour. SGT Bill Sieja, SSG Wally Coyle, SSG Jeff Poh and I went out for a Chinese dinner in the evening, then drove back through Pope Air Force Base in a futile attempt to find something to do.
Formation at 0730, then we went to the Transition Point to sign off on our discharge papers. I joined a detail to assemble our personal files, which were scattered all over the place. We were done by 1030, then returned to the barracks to pack and clean house. It was cool in the morning until the clouds broke, then hot and muggy.
CPT Pressner and SGT Hardy left at 1700, the first to go. Hardy was back by 2100 - he missed his flight. People got into serious partying. An MP dropped by to lay out the ground rules "for when you really get rowdy. You're not there yet". His reminder that any serious problems would cancel our departure kept a tight lid on things.
The sky tonight is beautifully clear for the first time since we got here. I got a good view of Mars, Jupiter and Venus in a tight cluster.
Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 14 December 2009
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