H-6 (Air Force compound) is an isolated oasis in this war. Coffee shop, Air Force friendliness, no Humvees tearing around. Organic soymilk in the DFAC, I'm not even kidding. Basically there's no Army here in H-6. It's quiet, except for the C-17s, whose pilots I can basically wave to out my front door. This trip feels entirely different than last time. I think this is because of several reasons..the premier reason being the fact that I am here this time with people I actually really like, who all have good attitudes and are hard workers.
It also feels different because it's cold here. You'd be surprised how much of a difference temperature can make in this place. It somehow feels a lot less sinister with a chill in the air. It's not stifling, it's not so foreign. Currently t's kind of like Wisconsin, actually...only more dirt and less snow. Picture Wisconsin at the end of October. With more dirt.
Everything is "bigger and better" this time. Flushing toilets everywhere. More hardened facilities. Renovated rec centers (WITH flushing toilets inside?!) I dunno. Lots of improvements I guess. We cruised around in the middle of the night the other night in search of midnight chow and seriously outside of H-6 is like the ghetto. Apparently us sweet Air Force girls are not supposed to venture outside H-6 alone. For real. Because the Army will eat us for breakfast. Anyway I have not actually had that briefing yet but that's what I heard word of mouth. 95% of the sexual assaults are committed by the Army, about 5% by the Air Force on this installation. No one said if that had anything to do with the fact that 95% percent of the troops here are Army and only about 5% are Air Force.
We've been busy here. Just to give an idea: in 2006 (when I was here last) we dropped 229 bombs the entire year. Last year, in 2007, we dropped a whopping 1,447 bombs. I read that in Stars and Stripes. They said its going to continue into this year and let me tell you, it has been. Last time I was here we didn't actually build any bombs, just broke them down and inspected the stockpile. This time we have been building. There's a lot of pressure to make sure we do a good job. If we build duds people die. If we screw up, people die. Our guys, the good guys, not the bad guys who die when we actually do our job right. Not only do I not want to get in trouble for screwing up something, I also don't want American blood on my shoulders.
I've eaten dirt a few times since I've been here...appears I was a little premature in calculating that the numbers of mortars have declined. Our base got hit over 900 times last year. I don't know. It just doesn't seem as scary as last time and I'm not sure if that's because I am more used to it or if it's because my BFF Katy has been with me during each one. Like we were walking along to work the other night and we got attacked, so we dove behind these concrete barriers while the mortars dropped (really far away) and then had to chill out there and wait for the all clear to sound. And it just wasn't scary, it was more of an inconvenience than anything. So I dug some Sour Patch kids out that I had brought from home and we munched on those with a pilot stuck there next to us.
Anyway, the people you share these kinds of experiences with make all the difference in the world, and I think anyone in the military would tell you that.
I got to watch the Packer game. Boy that was a heartbreaker. Rough. Sad :(