My first real taste of the desert came at the hands of the country of Kuwait. Because my flight was so long I missed the connection into Iraq, so I was dropped off to wait the weekend out until the next flight happened, on Monday.
Ali Al Salem Air Base is divided into two sides--one controlled primarily by the Army, and one by us. The one I stayed on was the Air Force side, fortunately. I was given a small trailer with four beds, a refrigerator with water, and not much else. When the sponsor I was picked up by dropped me off at 8 am on Friday I asked her what was expected of me. "I don't know, catch up on your sleep?"
Excellent. Three more days of my life to spend doing absolutely nothing.
One thing they do have here is reliable internet. I was able to Skype with SW and the monkeys quite a bit. The first time I did it, Princess was curled up on SW's lap and refused to talk to me. Half way through the conversation she began her silent crying, what she does when she's genuinely upset and trying not to lose it. I guess seeing me on the little computer screen let her know that I wasn't coming back for a long time.
On the first day I woke up at 3 am. After watching movies on the laptop for a few hours I decided to go exploring. The first thing I noticed was the lack of people. I made it from one side of the base to the other (it's relatively small) without seeing a single person. I did, however, see the movie theater, coffee shop, rec center, gym, huge chow hall, several internet cafe's, a decent BX, and a church, as well as several independent eateries that sell arabic food and pizza. All of this led me to a single question:
Why the hell is this base here?
Down in Al Udeid they have a bonafide mission: to flow personnel into theater, and to run the air operations from their CAOC, where I was deployed in 2005. Here? I have no idea. I left here after three days still having no idea. I went to see "Hunger Games" at the theater on Saturday and it was packed. My impression is that we have a few hundred airmen there that are working very hard to justify the existence of a base that has no reason to exist.
When I departed at 0330 (effectively destroying all attempts I had at getting my clock back on schedule) on Monday morning, I went to the Army side. Now they have a mission. Three flights went out that morning fully loaded, and a huge tent city resided just outside the terminal. It was run extremely inefficiently (I showed there at 0345 for a 0800 flight) but at least there was a purpose.
I'm not sure if I would be happy or pissed if I was deployed to Sleepy Hollow for 6 months to a year. After three days I was so bored I was making stuff up to do.