i will save everyone some time and synopsize this piece before it even happens: my trip back to the U.S. was really long and not without it's ridiculous parts. that sums it up. for the full version, read on:
after sitting in kuwait for what felt like a month, we were finally given a time to leave. after cleaning out our tent and organizing our bags, we sat around for a few hours. the next step was loading hundreds of 50-pound bags onto a cargo truck and getting our sweaty asses on some buses.
military sidenote: riding on buses is about the most taxing thing one can do while in uniform. there is always at least one person yelling 'fill from the back to the front! don't skip a seat!' while the rest of the people pack into the seats. each seat is designed for children, and if you are above the height of five foot, your knees will be ground into the seat in front of you for the duration of the trip. to make matters worse, all of the seat recline, and as soon as the person in front of you puts their back against the cushioning, your patella is forcefully moved into your hip.
due to the extreme heat at 2 pm in kuwait, and because the army never lets anything good (such as going home) happen without an extremely long and painful process, the buses stopped every 50 feet to prolong the experience. i put my ipod on shuffle and passed out until the 2-hour journey was complete.
we unloaded the buses and piled into a tent to be briefed on things we already knew. after doing some professional-quality sitting and waiting, we filed out to collect our bags and proceed to the crown jewel of the departure process: customs. dumping out 4 incredibly well-packed bags, having some navy guy root through everything, then repacking everything is quite an arduous process. though i had nothing that is considered 'contraband,' i was carrying SPC Diablo-Cono's wooden baseball bat, which drew some odd looks. oh, and if the customs official who inspected my stuff is reading this, I SNUCK THE ROCK SHAPED LIKE A DICK THROUGH!
after customs, we came face-to-face with one of the more subtle terrorists i have ever encountered. this devious enemy of the state apparently cranked the heat up while we sat on the bus for a few hours, prepping us for 30 hours of travel by drenching us in perspiration and claiming that the air conditioning was broken, even though it was working perfectly well when we boarded the bus. to the bus driver: you won the round, sir, but the fight is still going. i left him a water bottle and empty bag of Corn Nuts to clean up, so i took round 2.
the plane was a 747, the largest paradox ever built by man. absolutely mammoth in proportion, the only offer 1 cubic foot of space per passanger. my saving grace came in pill form. SPC D-C slipped me a muscle relaxer before takeoff, and it kicked in wonderfully. as i drifted uncontrollably in and out of sleep, i was fed airplane food that must have contained powerful sedatives, because D-C kept passing out mid-chew.
we stopped briefly in germany to refuel and such. we got bussed to a small building with a snack bar, duty-free shop, and lots of funny words. i felt as if i was in some weird japanese gameshow (most likely an effect from the muscle relaxers), as all of the beverages had names like 'Happy Fun Shine Milk Great' and 'Mineralwasser. sadly, the duty-free booze was strictly off-limits, continuing my army-mandated AA program ('Step 1: don't drink, or youll die. step 2: refer to step 1 until sober').
the flight from germany to the states was uneventful aside from more muscle relaxer craziness. the obligatory cheer went up as soon as the wheels touched american soil, and the fanfare began. generals and colonels lined the steps off the plane, and shaking hands with all of them left me a mean hand cramp. after another busride, we turned in our weapons and were briefed on the unnecessarily lengthy process to get us out of the army. we were also briefed on how, even though we are done with the deployment, alcohol is still off-limits ('step 3: what the fuck didn't you understand about steps 1 and 2?'), wearing civilian clothes is against policy, leaving the base is prohibited, and so on and so forth. glad to be home.
we were then teased with two hours around our families. not knowing when we will see them again makes things harder on everyone, especially the married soldiers, the new mothers and fathers, and the young soldiers who haven't been through the deployment process before. we are now at the mercy of the army to determine when we can return to our normal lives, thereby completing the circle of life in the national guard. with any luck, ill have a beer in one hand and a pulitzer (they give those out for random, deployment-based blogs, right? right?) in the other within a week. cross your fingers for us!
recap: the air in new jeresy smells like sugar and trees, seeing people reunited with their families fulfilled me in a very spiritual way, i can't wait to be free of this uniform in a few days.