I arrived in Dubai on Monday night. Staff from the Al Bustan Rotana hotel greeted me at the terminal. They carried my bags to a van that had waiting for very likely an hour while I was working through the long lines of customs and passport control. “How was your flight, Mr. Beamon?” they asked.
The Al Bustan Rotana is an opulent place. Marble floors shined beneath my dusty boots, well dressed staff opened the doors, smiling all the while. The sounds of piano flitted through the air of the lobby atrium, like butterfly wings, as I checked in. I turned around and there was a real person sitting at a real piano whose job was to fill the place with pleasant notes.
I had a king-sized bed, which was so big I scarcely knew what to do with all the real estate. I ate sushi from the Benihana’s that was one of the many restaurants in the hotel. The next morning, they took me back to the airport, this time for Afghanistan.
As I got out of the van, someone called my name. Al, one of the guys from Camp Atterbury, was there getting dropped off as well. It’s a small world, this one of government contracting, but still it was strange running into one of the guys from Atterbury. This was my first time going into “theater” (Iraq/Afghanistan) from Dubai so it was nice to have someone to do it with.
The flight was uneventful, which is how I like my flights. I looked out of the window near the end and thought we were flying over the moon. Solitary mountains, rocky turf, no signs of life.
We land in Bagram. We stand for an indescribably long time on the flight line, the wind blasting our faces and whipping through our clothes. They put us on buses and we move through jam packed traffic at the airbase. We get to the terminal, where the in-process us. Welcome to Afghanistan.
By this time most of the contract force in the plane have met their Points of Contact and are filtering away from the terminal… off to save the world via their piece of contract. Al finds his guy and takes off. I don’t. I’m waiting and waiting and there’s no one. My orders have POCs, but they’re all stateside numbers. I ask the lady behind the counter if I could check the global address list for the one name I was given in hopes that it will have a number listed with it. But the people at the terminal don’t have access to the global address list.
Not a big deal, least not a show stopper. I can just find billeting, get some temporary lodging, and just hit home station up with my dilemma. I ask where billeting was and they weren’t quite sure. Luckily, A random dude was picking up his ticket to fly out next week from the same terminal I’m waiting at. They ask him if he can give me a ride. The dude, named Jim, was a nice guy and agreed. He took me from one end of base to the other (and this is a big base) to find a spot for me, as the primary billeting had no rooms available. I ended up in a 150 man tent, a sea of bunk beds populated by contractors of all creeds and nationalities. It felt like a refugee camp.
Hell of an extreme to go to in one day. I could almost feel the Al Bustan Rotana’s king sized sheets and bedspread swallowing me up.
At any rate, I eventually made contact with my guys. But not before they came to this tent while I was foraging for food and left their contact number, which was the wrong number. I called it and got the Bagram people who are running the same contract I used to work back when I was in Iraq.
It’s a small world, this government contracting.