A Week in Taji
Although Carlee, Jason and I had been manifested on a connecting 4am flight to Speicher the same evening we were to arrive in Taji, we wound up spending a week there. Our flight was cancelled and we were moved into temporary billeting for what we thought at the time was just one day. But almost every night, we had to make it to the flight line for a 2:30am show time and a 3 or 4 am lift-off time. This meant virtually no sleep; we had to be completely packed, wearing full battle rattle and ready to go by 2am in order to get to the flight line for show time. Then we’d sit beneath neon glare on steel mesh benches and have no choice but to listen to some type of low-end American TV programming blaring at us from one of the ubiquitous TVs you find everywhere and wait for the manifested time of the flight we’d hoped to make. Military folk seem to be able to sleep anywhere, under any circumstances, but most of the rest of us are far less adaptable.
After waiting for several hours, most nights ended in an announcement that the mission had been cancelled, changed or – for reasons never given to the unwashed – it had been decided that whoever was in charge of the aircraft had decided to give Taji a miss altogether. Why? Guy at the desk explains: “Ah done know Mam – they done tell us much. They just di-SIDE!” You don’t get a lot of reasons for anything when dealing with the military – particularly in a combat zone. It’s all about security clearances and ‘need to know’ and classified information and you get used to it…sort of. But, the constant lack of sleep and the stress of fruitlessly hauling the heavy duffel bags around while wearing very heavy body armour was exhausting and, eventually, Carlee developed a really bad headache and we had to forego even trying to get out for a couple of days.
Which was kind of a relief…just to be able to sleep through the night. Taji is grey, bleak, and huge. Nowhere to walk to that wasn’t really ugly and, somehow, it just felt spooky, unfriendly and not safe. I so wanted to get to my final destination so I could unpack my stuff and put it away somewhere. Living out of a suitcase is a little piece of heaven compared to living out of duffel bags. My time there wasn’t all bad, of course. The MWR at Taji has a really nice library and I had several opportunities to visit with Arthur.
Eventually, after a full week of trying to get out, we finally made it onto a Chinook helicopter and arrived in Speicher, there to be met by a 6 and a half foot gentle giant named “Luis” (aka Capt. Martinez).