Big Day! The trip overseas truly began. We loaded our bags onto the bus at about 0830 and left Fort Riley by 0945. Each one of us (25 in all) had 4 sea bags (green duffel bags), 1 ruck sack (like a large mountaineering backpack) and a carry-on bag (personal backpack) for the trip. In addition, as a team, we also had 12 gun cases with our personal weapons inside (locked of course). Mind you, that’s 125 large bags weighing around 40-70 pounds each and 12 more gun cases. This will be vital information as the trip progresses. As a means of loading them, we formed a line and handed the bags one by one down the row to the last person, who would place them in the bus. It may not sound like much, but it took us about 15 minutes and we were all a bit sweaty by the end...glad I put deodorant on.
(Bus trip from Fort Riley, Kansas to Kansas City International Airport)
Traveling by bus to Kansas City International Airport, we watched “Wedding Crashers” on the overhead monitors for the entire trip. It certainly helped pass the time. By 1200, we reached our destination and unloaded our baggage onto the curb.
(Curbside at the airport)
The following process I am about to describe is quite complex and likely took years of education to procure. (no sarcasm at all)
(It may not look like much...but that's my luggage for the deployment)
On a large, wheeled cart, we loaded the equivalent of 2 team members’ gear and pushed it into the Southwest Airlines terminal where we unloaded them. 13 trips later, all the baggage was in the terminal. Subsequently, all the baggage was tagged in the same manner one would see on any airline. This next part is fabulous. After tagging all the bags, we (again) loaded them onto the wheeled carts and moved them 30 feet to be scanned by the X-ray machine and finally loaded on the plane (I feel bad for the poor souls that had to load all our bags onto the plane…they probably needed a massage afterwards). Obviously, I’m writing this in retrospect, and the continual movement of these bags from point to point throughout our journey was 1) laborious 2) never ending and 3) riddled with poor planning. Sometimes it’s best to work smart…not hard. We chose the latter.
Following a quick bite of lunch, we all moved past the security lines and into the gated area where many of us, including me, Skyped our loved ones. By 1450 we were flying to Baltimore and landed around 1830. The trip was uneventful, yet as the passengers were set to depart the plane, the Southwest Airlines flight attendant made an announcement. In honor of our country’s armed forces, they would allow us to depart first. Everyone on the plane clapped in approval. I’ve heard stories of this happening, but to actually be there; I was honored.
We claimed our bags, put them on carts and wheeled them from one end of the airport to the other, to a terminal I had never heard of…Air Mobility Command. This is apparently the main airline tasked with sending our troops overseas. After checking all my bags, I made my way down to the USO site and proceeded to Skype once more. I love this Skype; what a great tool. By the way, the USO (Uniformed Services Organization) is an organization that, by way of donation, provided free creature comforts to service men and women in different venues. They offered free sodas, juices, candy, soup, sleeping accommodations, showers, a place to watch movies and free internet wi-fi. What a wonderful thing to provide our troops.
(Rob and Holly pushing luggage in the Baltimore airport)
(That's a lot o' luggage)
(Wolf lookin' tough)
(Both Lach and Travis are pointing...but one can you see which finger Travis is using?)
(Fascinated by pictures with luggage...?)
Always pushing the time limits, I just made it through the security line in time for our flight to board. We stepped inside the plane at roughly 2230. It was a 767, chartered flight for military services. As I sat on the plane, talking with Isabella, time seemed to drag on with no advancement in our position. Approximately one hour later, the attendants informed us that there was a weight and balance issue. Over the course of the next 2 hours of waiting, the 15-20 civilian passengers were asked to exit the plane and the attendants counted the passengers about 20 times. It became humorous after a while, watching the attendants continually walk up and down the aisles, pointing at the passengers, silently mouthing numbers. I wanted to randomly shout out various numbers to throw off their count, but after 3 hours of waiting, my patience was growing thin and I simply wanted to get in the air. Finally, by 0130, we took off and made our way to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
(Chief D givin' the thumbs up on the plane)