Long Day's Journey Back to War

Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.

March 7, 2006
1230 hours

My bet on takeoff time was 2230 hours, and I was a day off. We took off from Atlanta at about 1930 hours, and landed back in Atlanta at 2130 hours. The pilot had to dump 20,000 gallons of fuel and turn back. I don’t know the exact problem with the aircraft, only that there was no way we could have made it to the halfway point in Ireland.

After landing we deplaned and waited to hear whether we would take off that night. Half past midnight the call came in that we would spend the night in a hotel.

Half the 300 soldiers on the plane were taken to a Holiday Inn while the other half, including me, crashed at the Royal Plaza. The airline covered us for the rooms and breakfast.

One thing about being a soldier is our ability to relate to any other soldier. Meet another soldier at a bar, restaurant or coffee shop, and you have at least two hours of conversation. “Where are you from? What unit are you with? Do you know so-and-so?”

I used up most of this conversation in the 12 hours we spent at the airport yesterday. Now, most of the soldiers flying back with me are much quieter as we wait for our flight to take off, hopefully on time today.

March 8, 2006
0500 hours
Hahn, Germany

Our flight finally took off last night at 1900 hours. The plane that was forced to turn around was deemed unsafe for flight, so we were put on a plane with another group of soldiers. The flight was completely full, not one empty seat. The airline was OMNI Airlines, which I am convinced is only one step above ACME Airlines.

Normally flights flying to and from Kuwait stop somewhere in Europe to refuel and change crews. Our plane stopped in Germany. It was only a two-hour stop, but enough time to get off the plane and stretch out for a bit.

March 9, 2006
0100 hours
Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait

Our flight to Kuwait arrived at 2200 hours. All told, it was about 16 hours of travel to Kuwait including the two-hour layover in Germany. We hopped on buses to Ali Al Salem Air Base where we got our body armor and helmets back. After a shower and shave, I am now waiting in a tent to find out when my flight to Baghdad will be.

Just waiting around I have had some time to think about the whole leave experience. Getting 15 days off really makes a difference. Some rest and getting to recharge the batteries is something every soldier on a year deployment should take advantage of, and I believe most do. Talking to other soldiers on the plane, I only heard them wish that leave was longer.

My parents asked me what I miss most when I'm in Iraq. My answer to that is being able to go to a bar and chat it up with a pretty woman.

With the exception of soldiers married to other soldiers who are both in Iraq, all soldiers are either married with spouses back home or single. I am in the latter category. Soldiers in Iraq fall under General Order No. 1, which forbids relationships of an intimate nature while on deployment status. Essentially, for an entire year, we live the life of monks.

E-mail Dan at soldiersdiary@gmail.com. Click here to read his bio.