Question: What happens when you combine crazy sandstorms, thunderstorms, an awesome new team, birthday bash, visiting general, 5K, sprinting to a plane in boots with a backpack (AFTER the 5K), and not sleeping for 27 hrs?
Answer: Our trip out of Bagram!
Nope, this is not a joke. Who knew that getting out of Afghanistan would be much more eventful than the trip into country?
You can’t plan the weather, and as a result Team 30 was slightly delayed on their trip into Afghanistan. We had a short transition period, but both teams worked together to get everything done.
Early in the deployment we collaborated with the Army Reserve Affairs office to help plan their 105th Birthday 5K! In a chaotic turn of events we found out that we would be flying out the same day as the race and hoped that the flight would be later in the day. The night prior, we were told our flight was scheduled to leave at 8am! Talk about cutting it close! Luckily we worked with the awesome Customs folks and the PAX terminal to get our duffels in early so we could run (little did we know it would be a SPRINT) from the race to the flight.
Our bags were ready to go as race time approached. Lt. Gen. Talley arrived and the runners and walkers lined up across Disney, the main road, and started the 5K course. Despite a rainy night, we had a great turnout!
Our volunteers are simply the best and helped us every step of the way from planning and logistics, registration, setup, t-shirts, refreshments, and cleanup. We definitely could not have done it with out them!
I ran straight through the finish to the shower so I would be in uniform post-race and for the flight home. As soon as the race finished and awards were presented, we sprinted back to the office, grabbed our backpacks and ran towards Customs and the terminal.
After we put our bags through scanner and were cleared to board, we walked to the driveway where a van was supposed to shuttle us out to the plane. To everyone’s surprise the van was no where to be found, so we RAN a bit more. Our plane was across the runway and we made a break for it. We arrived just as the last person was boarding and checked in, screaming over the engines of other planes and helicopters to talk. It was a packed flight and I was suddenly very thankful (as were the soldiers sitting on either side of me) that I showered after the muddy race.
5 hours later, we reached our first stop in Kuwait. As we checked in, we recognized the names of service members traveling home on emergency leave. It was a strong reminder of how our Emergency Communication Messages made it to service members across Afghanistan and gave them updates from home.
After being awake for so long, I crashed hard during our day and a half layover. Who knew you could sleep so soundly in a tent in desert? After getting some rest and linking up with the Kuwait team, we got ready for the next leg of the trip. After a day of briefings and pouring out our bags at the customs check we got on the buses and headed to the plane.
The most memorable part of the flight was flying along the eastern coast of the US trying to pick out the cities with the soldier in the row in front of me. I pointed out where my family lived on Long Island and he was the first to spot the lights of Manhattan. 16 hours and one layover later, we landed in Atlanta.
We had a whirlwind of a trip through Ft. Benning turning in gear and finalizing paperwork before we were cleared to leave. The team parted ways at the airport in Atlanta as we departed to our separate corners of the country.
The whole trip took us on 4 flights through 4 countries in 5 days. It was truly an amazing experience! A big thank you to all of our fabulous volunteers and the amazing people we met and worked with over the last 5 months!