In Kuwait, waiting on bird number two
I know better. I don’t know why I did it. I mean, I’ve been on a dozen or so C-130 flights, some of which lasted eight hours. And every time, I made sure I was the last to get on so I’d have the comfortable roomy seat in the back, conveniently closer to the potty bucket. But for some reason, I was the first to place my desert boots on the bird that took me from Iraq to Kuwait. See, surviving a packed C-130 flight requires patience, durable ear drums and a very strong bladder. I have all except for the latter, which is why I always relieve myself 30, 15 and 10 minutes before every flight and get the nearest seat to the potty.
If you’re in the front and you gotta go, you must walk down a long aisle of knees and shoulders, and the soldiers are normally sleeping. Nobody likes to be awakened by the guy who didn’t take care of business beforehand, so I just sat there waiting and waiting and waiting. I actually contemplated going and got up to march to the pot, and then I saw everybody’s gear crammed in between the knees and elbows. Unless I scaled the cargo-net walls, I’d be better off taking a terrorist head on than walking down the row of sleep-deprived soldiers.
Your mind plays some funny tricks on you when the bladder is exceeding capacity. Did you forget your weapon? No it’s right here. Did you do a head count of all your soldiers; I think one or two are missing. Of course I did, didn’t I? Simply put, I didn’t enjoy the flight leaving Iraq because I thought I was going to implode. And when we finally landed, I was the happiest man alive. “Sergeant, I know we’re going home, but you’re a little too excited.” You have no idea, sir. I went to the port-a-potty and didn’t leave for two minutes. While there, I enjoyed good old fashioned army graffiti. Of course, it was all too vulgar to share, but know there are some pretty good artists roaming about who appreciate the female body.
Other than enjoying graffiti, I’ve been taking it easy. But even here, there are things to stress about. “Get your hands out of your pockets, sergeant.” “Who said you could wear a black fleece with DCUs?” It’s been so long since I’ve been a part of the normal army environment where people gripe about uniform standards rather than worrying about getting killed that I almost wanted to tell the senior ranking person… Yeah, taking my hands out of my pockets is really going to save my life. I’ve been in Iraq for a year while you’ve been worrying about wrinkles in your uniform. So, you can kiss my arse. But it is the army standard and as an NCO, I am supposed to be the standard, so I adapted to the environment and just drove on.
But the soldiers in Kuwait are in a completely different environment than Iraq. They don’t have to worry about mortars, roadside bombs or car bombs. They have movie theaters, Burger King, Subway, Baskin Robbins, Starbucks and a PX that puts Wal-Mart to shame. They don’t have to wear body armor, ammo or a weapon every where they go. They have swimming pools, bowling alleys and drive SUVs rather than uparmored hummers. This place is more like a resort in Tennessee, and the soldiers stationed here receive the same combat and hazardous duty pay as soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m sure they’re doing a great job and I certainly appreciate their service, but come on, do they deserve combat pay? That’s reserved for people who are… what should I say … in a combat zone, not for soldiers who wear civilian clothes on their off time. Many of the soldiers in Kuwait have already served in Iraq or Afghanistan and most of them agree that they don’t deserve the extra pay, but they’re not complaining. I probably wouldn’t either. I guess, you could say it’s a little frustrating when your life has been in jeopardy every day for the past year and soldiers living the good life receive the same exact pay as you. They also receive a combat patch, which is a highly coveted honor bestowed upon soldiers for serving in a combat zone. To me, that’s just a kick in the crotch when you’re on a C-130 and gotta go pee.
With that being said, they are still separated from their families and the potential threat is always there. The insurgency could move into Kuwait or Qatar, and start causing trouble, and U.S. personnel are always a target anywhere in the Middle East. So, now that I think about it, maybe it’s OK that they receive extra compensation. The soldiers in real combat zones should just get more.
Either way, any deployed soldier looks forward to the day he or she can return to American soil. The next jet plane I hop on will take me there. This time, I’ll make sure I get a seat closer to the potty.