• October 21, 2014

Iraq bound

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Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 12:00 pm

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Military editor Amanda Kim Stairrett, along with a group of Central Texas news media, left Sunday with troops from Fort Hood's III Corps for Iraq. Through daily articles and blog posts, Stairrett will report on aspects of III Corps' mission in support of Operation New Dawn. View more photos and articles of her experience online at kdhnews.com.

8 p.m., Sunday, Eastern time Bangor, Maine

After several hours, several time changes, one Jimmy Dean meal, one airplane meal and one and a half bad romantic comedies, we've landed in Maine. The famous Maine Troop Greeters were there to welcome the 640th Aviation Support Battalion. They applauded the soldiers when they arrived and have been handing out everything from pillows to sachets. The soldiers seemed surprised to see folks cheering for them.

I talked to a great veteran named Dusty Fisher. He's very familiar with Fort Hood soldiers, having made friends with some in the 4th Infantry Division when they were still at Fort Hood. He visited them in Central Texas not too long ago. Look for a video of him on "Inside Iraq" soon.

Maine is the last U.S. stop before we cross the ocean. The two-part flight is more than 10 hours. I hope there are no more romantic comedies.

There's a wall here at the Bangor airport where units passing through have placed stickers since the war began. There are a lot of Fort Hood units up there. I took some photos and will try to post them later.

The California soldiers found one of their unit stickers among the mass and have been taking turns getting photos next to it. Don't have much time left here. If you're into Twitter, follow me at KDHmilitary. I've been making regular updates on there. My next post will be from Europe. Ciao!

3:58 a.m. Tuesday, Kuwait City

I often work from a coffee shop in Killeen. The atmosphere is pleasant and conducive to writing and the people watching is good enough to keep any reporter entertained.

So, it's funny that I am once again writing from a coffee shop. In Kuwait. We arrived in Kuwait City at about 9 p.m. Monday. We arrived at Camp Buehring after 1 a.m. Tuesday. It was dark and disorienting.

It reminds me of NTC. I peeked behind the curtains that covered the windows of our transportation and saw what resembled the National Training Center. Concrete barriers were colorfully painted with unit insignia and nicknames. My favorite was Task Force Jayhawk. A big KU Jayhawk wearing a helmet was clearly thought up by a graduate or fan of my alma mater, the University of Kansas.

I've seen these concrete barriers before in soldiers' Facebook photos. It's good to finally see them in person, if only through a window at 1:30 a.m. I've not heard flattering things about Buehring, but I will say this: the women's port-a-johns are clean and the lines are non-existent.

We (a group of Central Texas reporters) decided it wasn't worth it to try to sleep in quarters offered to us and we took over the 24-hour Green Beans Coffee. I am now enjoying my first double-shot mocha of this trip and listening to a Fort Riley, Kan.-based NCO talk about his life plans after the Army.

There were a group of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, lieutenants in here when I first came in. Most of them were in PTs , but one of two were in their ACUs.

The guys in PTs asked what gave them away when I asked if they were with the brigade. I pointed to their ACUed buddies in the corner.

5:03 a.m. Tuesday, Kuwait City

I'm back after a break. My computer died and the only plugs at the Green Beans we're occupying (I've been told there are two or three here at Buehring) are European. The NCO who has been tasked with baby-sitting us said the Italians constructed this building.

A few of the reporters walked to the PX a mile away and bought two power converters. One, a CBS television reporter from Tyler, was kind enough to let me use the $45 converter he hiked to buy.

As of right now, three reporters and a photographer are racked out on the pleather couches. Three camera guys and an engineer are wide awake. Two reporters (me and the Tyler guy) are typing away on our laptops.

Green Beans is getting busier now that soldiers are waking up and I'm seeing more 3rd Brigade soldiers. One of them said there's a planeload stuck in Maine with maintenance problems. Bad weather is supposed to hit there, too, and could delay them even longer. We definitely don't have it as bad as some.

10:44 a.m. Tuesday, Kuwait City

After our all-nighter at Green Beans at Camp Buehring, the group is at Ali Al Salem awaiting a flight to Baghdad. I was a little sad to leave our National Guard friends behind. The unit we flew over with was made of soldiers from California and Montana.

I got to talk with a few of the Montana guys during our bouts of hurrying up and waiting and learned a little bit about what boys from Montana do when they're not being soldiers. Soldier shenanigans make my job fun and I thank them for sharing their time, Girl Scout cookies and "Super Troopers" jokes.

The unit was good to us for the journey to Kuwait. Good luck to those guys and gals. I wish them well and many happy hours of hunting, wildlife photography, bicycling and playing with their children.

The trip from Buehring to Ali Al Salem was ... interesting. All I could see was sand and garbage.

It was flat, like my home state of Kansas. It was as if someone ripped out all the wheat and prairies and replaced it with sand. The ground and the sky were monotone. It felt like the only color anywhere was the pink shirt I was wearing and suddenly I felt out of place.

Ali Al Salem is a stopping point for troops coming to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. So far I've seen every branch hanging out. This was the first chance we've had in a while for an actual meal. McDonalds never tasted so good. Now if only I could get some sleep.

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