09 August 2010
Finally, however, I was able to make it to the CONUS Replacement Center (CRC) at Fort Benning for my pre-deployment training. For the inquiring minds out there, they did not teach me how to shoot an M16. In fact, it turns out that I'm not even allowed to carry a knife. I'll just have to cower behind the nearest Marine, if it comes to that. Instead, they stuck me with myriad needles and subjected me to dated PowerPoint presentations. The president of Pakistan is Musharraf? Please, no more! On the up-side, they did teach me how to spot an IED and field dress a sucking chest wound. Important life lessons, those.
After passing the day staving off boredom, we were told to pack our gear in a hurry late Sunday night, as some seats had opened up on the 1:45am flight to Bagram. We scampered to the air strip, only to be bumped to the 5am flight, and then bumped again. All told, we tried to leave Al Udied three times and sat on the tarmac in temperatures well over 100F for more than 15 hours.
Once I finally arrived at Bagram, I felt no small sense of triumph. That's not to say everything was perfect - I was still living out of my duffel, didn't yet have reliable internet access, and the disconnected bath houses made the base feel like summer camp without the fun or potable water. Still, I've already learned some great things, like riding in a C-17 is really quite fun, and that I look super cute in body armour. And, actually, as I watched the sun set on the epic mountains surrounding us, I thought of how much it felt like Colorado, if you managed to ignore the armoured vehicles and fellas with guns.