We had planned to go on a dhow* cruise on day three, but later in the evening of day two it was canceled due to lack of participation. The day before, we had wanted to do the cruise, but it was booked, so we did the picnic. Now nobody wants to go on a cruise?
Day three was a down day, then. It was nice not to have to show up early, run around while being herded by a Sri Lankan or Nepalese, and just have a relaxing day.
Day four was a repeat of the Doha tour. We had another hoot. This time I took advantage of one of the small attractions of the enormous City Center Mall; a two-story ice slide on inner tubes. That was hilarious! Watching Major Harley McDavidson, a bodybuilder type and excellent tour companion, smash into the mattress-lined wall at warp speed forcing a profanity out of him on impact was so funny I almost wet my pants.
He was unharmed. Major McDavidson is a very durable guy.
On the evening of the fourth day here, it is your responsibility to check the board at 2100 hrs to see when you leave this land of magical warehouses. Our compatriots from Iraq were scheduled to fly out in the wee small hours of the night back to Kuwait to be redistributed all over Mesopotamia.
We, on the other hand, were not only stranded here for an extra day, but we were split into two groups alphabetically and some were stranded for two extra days. I was in the latter group, while Captain Koppenkopf and Major McDavidson were to fly the next evening.
The four day pass program, and the R&R program that they run here in Qatar, are a good thing. Our command in Afghanistan is stopping the program soon, however. The reason is just this very type of foul up happening continuously. I have now been gone from my FOB for twelve days for a four day pass and I still have no idea when I will make it back to the wilds of Afghanistan.
This is an experience that I'm glad that I've had... another country upon which my feet have trod... another experience had... but there is a corner of guilt in my mind for all of those who will not have this experience.
Much of this delay has been due to the Air Force, who does not place a strong emphasis on transporting soldiers to and from this place. Unfortunately, many who do make it here are the fobbits, not the Privates and Specialists out in the tiny FOB's, firebases, and combat outposts in the hinterlands of Afghanistan and Iraq.
It's a difficult program to administer. It complicates life in the units, creates more work for the S-1 (Personnel section) and creates absences and headaches. So many units simply don't mess with it; but it is good for soldiers.
Of course, these decisions are paygrades above me; but especially with the Army going to fifteen month deployments, it is vitally important that someone learn how to make this work. We are already fighting a very distant war on the cheap. Especially in Afghanistan, the forgotten front.
We are undermanned, underfunded, under equipped, and often operating in very remote locations. Iraq gets priority for everything; it is the bone of contention. It is the place in the news. Our struggles in Afghanistan go mostly unnoticed by those at home. I have actually been asked, "Are we still in Afghanistan?"
Trust me, we are there.
Units cannot bear the strain of having soldiers missing for three weeks for a four day pass. It's not fair to the other soldiers, and someone will get left out.
Will someone please figure this out? This is getting ridiculous.
*Dhow-a traditional Arab boat that looks vaguely like a Chinese junk. It is made of wood and in the past was used for fishing and trade. In Qatar, they are often used as recreational boats.