Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Game Face

Game Face

It's 6 AM,  the tent seemed warmer than usual, and the air conditioner seemed to be working overtime. I assume it's going to be another day of record setting temperatures.  If all goes as planned I'll be leaving Kuwait for Bagram, Afghanistan this afternoon. I'm anticipating cooler temperature and a quick transition to Jalalabad (JBad), Afghanistan. JBad will be my new home for the next 6 months and where I'll be the only orthopedic surgeon for 200 + square miles. I'll be using my skills for our U.S. Troops, coalition forces and likely Afghan nationals. I hear it is busy this time of year, so I'm preparing to put on my game face.

Joe J and I hit the gym one last time and then we went back to the tent to organize our gear for the trip. Today has to be the hottest day thus far. Its not humid but my skin is bleeding sweat, and my thirst is unquenchable. Once our gear is ready a John Deer Gator comes to pick it up a transfer it to a preflight holding center.  The majority of the 20 person medical team is already at JBad. The remaining 7 member are here with me; this includes 2 general surgeons and myself. Our biggest excitement of making it to JBad outside of meeting up with our team is to get back to a pseudo "normal" life. We are told we will have our own air conditioned rooms, and other amenities including satellite wireless nternet. There is something about living in transient land that is unsettling as a person. Your life is in the delirium of limbo, and tiredness sets in from lack of motivation.

We checked in for the flight and were informed we are on lockdown for 3 to 4 hours. We are now POW's of flight manifest. Fortunately the tent is air conditioned so excessive bitching is on hold at the moment. An hour later my feelings took a 180 degree turn. The preflight briefing was to be held outside in the scorching heat. We all sat there sweating bullets from our balls (well most of us) for 20 minutes before the briefing began. It lasted 10 minutes and then we were told to move all of our personal bags and equipment on a pallet.  Honestly, if water was not in excess here we wouldn't last long. This heat is unbearable. I was informed after returning to the comfort of the holding center it was 126 degrees outside. I was so tempted to crack an egg on the metal walkway outside and videotape it to show you how hot it is, but the army doesn't issue them, just like children and wives; it's not on their priority list.

Two hours later we were finally loaded on buses and transferred to the airbase. We were loaded on a C-17 like cattle and made to wait in this metal oven for 1 hour. After sweating every electrolyte out of my body, the doors shut and we departed. The flight was 4 hours; which seemed like an eternity. It was very cramped and leg room was nonexistent. Conveniently, I forgot my earphones for my iPod so escaping this uncomfort for melodies of Zepplin and Zaza is gone.  We finally, began our "combat" decent into Bagram, Afghanistan. This is when a steeper approach is made to decrease the risk of small arms fire and other types of threats.  I was alert and full of nervous anticipation. This is a combat theater.  Trust no one outside of our military ranks and realize some people here would slit your throat if given the chance.

The first noticeable fact when I got off the plane was the temperature was much cooler.  We checked in and were fortunate enough to be met by 2 members of our team, MK (the CRNA) and the XO of the unit. They were held over because the flight to JBad was booked yesterday. I guess the soldiers coming back from R&R had priority. When Obama decided we were drawing down troops it shortened soldiers deployments and they were forced to take R&R sooner. This backed up everyone from getting to their assignments. MK said it would be Saturday or Sunday before we leave for JBad, not only because of this backup but also because there had been rocket attacks on our base today. It appears the  insurgent summer season has started; game face is on.

We were assigned tent bunks and ate a late dinner.  I'm beat and going to bed. Goodnight my friend


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