For the month prior to my return numerous people came up to me to ask me what the first thing that I would do when I got home. My answers varied and required great thought. Just as if I were pulling into port after a long at-sea period, there were so many things that I wanted to do.
After getting relieved of our duties from our task forces in Afghanistan, those that arrived with me met back up at Bagram Air Base. We shared the many stories of our varied adventures in the countryside and continued to speculate about when we would get home. Matt, being stationed in Bagram, still had his farewells to attend. So, being a good friend, he invited me to them. His unit had a good farewell with Pizza and awards and stories about how great he is and one of the South Korean Cols had a farewell dinner with him involving Karaoke and good food.
We spent a week in Kuwait dropping off our weapons and gear which would be sent back to South Carolina for reuse and then we made preps to pull chocks and get the heck out of the middle east. The day BEFORE our flight we got up at 4am, you have to love the army, so that we could drive to the other base (about a 3 hour drive). Having arrived there, we went through customs and spent the rest of the day just hanging out with each other and eating. Come early evening we went into customs lockdown, where they searched our bags again, only the carry ons this time because the others were already locked up, and then we waited. Around 3am Kuwait time (6 pm EST) we boarded the plane and started the long flight back to America. With one refueling stop in Ramstein, we arrived at BWI around 1330 and I set about to getting an early flight back to Norfolk.
We were the conspicuous ones in the bunch, the 100 or so guys walking around BWI in ACUs or DCUs. Some were invited into bars for free drinks and others entered into intriguing conversation with other (normal) people waiting for their flights. As we walked through the airport people would stop, shake our hands and say "Thank you for what you do." I am amazed at the support that the military gets, even though the media portrays the wars in such poor light. Boarding my plane for Norfolk, I said goodbye to my good friend Matt, whom I met just six months before, and set out for the final leg of my way home.
I arrived at 820 PM, a mere 26 hours after leaving Kuwait and was met by my good friend and roommate Jess. With the exception of some short catnaps, I had been awake now for 46 hours. I wanted nothing more than to find a shower and my bed. When I arrived home, I stayed up a talked for sometime with my friends, and then found the loving embrace of the bed that I left in July 2006. It spoke loving tones to me as I fell into it and did not get back out of it until the morning.
The first thing that I did when I got back to the states. . . I went to sleep, it was wonderful. Other highlights from the weekend? Good Tuna Steak and Superbowl with Turducken, the third annual.
Having returned now to my normal life, I find that it is very surreal. The most interesting thing to get used to. . . brushing my teeth with the tap water, not bottled water. The least interesting thing to get used to. . . going back to work and underways on submarines. The most annoying thing to do. . . move into my house, which I moved into right before I left. The least annoying thing to do. . . buy new furniture, which I sold most of before I left (although the 6-8 weeks delivery thing is quite annoying!).
Afghanistan is in the past, and it seems to have been so long ago, even though it really was just last week. . . very surreal. Everyone asks me what it was like, and the only quick response that I can give is. . . hot chicks and cold margaritas, who could ask for more. Sadly, none of those were in Afghanistan, so I would say that it would have been better with hot chicks and cold margaritas. As for the politics of the region and the hopeless battle against he fourth world economy that they can't struggle to get out of, well that is a topic for the more seasoned author and politician. Perhaps one day I will write down my feelings on those topics, but for now just know that it was not good.
As for Bubblehead Joe, the blog, I believe that for now I am finished with it. It has not yet answered the question of why a Submarine Officer is in Afghanistan, but rather it answered the question of what one guy did while he was there. As for why. . . that also may wait for further publishing, but for now I would say that I was there to change mindsets on certain equipment and tactics. Politically. . . the Navy wants to show face, to show their continuing support in the War on Terror, regardless of the cost to its own retention rates. Many volunteered to go, but a far greater number are forced to leave the job they know well, and may love, to fight a ground war in a foreign land.
Until a time comes that I feel compelled, dear readers and friends, this the last entry for Bubblehead Joe.