Soldier's Diary: Home From Iraq At Last

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

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28 September

Home at last.

I am typing out this entry from the comforts of my house in lovely Clarksville, Tenn. It goes over the last couple of hours in Kuwait, the flight home and our reception at Fort Campbell, Ky. It's a nice feeling, to say the least. So far, I have walked around the house barefoot, used my own toilet (one that flushes), stood in my yard with some rain falling down, and enjoyed a nice cold beverage sitting on my couch doing nothing. Life just doesn't get any better.

0230 25 September, Kuwait International Airport

Our flight departed at 0230 in the morning following nearly 24 hours of preparation and inspections. Our day started at 0700 as we lined up outside our tents and prepared our 'A bags' for inspection by customs agents. This included all bags that were to be in the belly of the aircraft. Everything would be dumped out of the bags and everything searched — from the pockets of our uniforms to the contents of our hygiene kits. We had over 300 soldiers on our plane, so inspections lasted nearly four hours. Most of the morning was spent waiting outside the tent for our turn to be inspected. The actual inspection of the bags lasted about 15 minutes.

0817 25 September Leipzig, Germany

Looking outside of the window as we take off on the last leg of our journey, the most noticeable aspect of the terrain below is the color green. Trees, windmills, and farm fields seem to go on forever on the countryside below.

Last night, we took buses from Camp Virginia to Ali Al Salem Airbase in order to go through our customs inspections. Over 300 soldiers going through and having everything short of body cavities searched made for a long, arduous process, but when the end result is clearance to get home, you don't tend to complain very much. Every bag was searched, and every soldier wanded with a metal detector as we passed through. We accounted for all of our weapons as we boarded the aircraft, while simultaneously tossing into the trash any toothpaste.

I understand the security requirements that the airline must go through, but I will always find ironic the 300-plus soldiers boarding a plane in full combat gear with weapons are not allowed to possess some simple personal hygiene items. I guess that is the paradigm we live in.

We took off from Kuwait International in a charter aircraft from World Airlines in the dark hours of the morning. It was a five-hour flight to Leipzig, most of which was a blur, since I slept with the assistance of the wonder pill, Ambien. We deplaned for approximately two hours as the plane was refueled and restocked, then off for the nine-hour leg to Fort Campbell.

1030 Fort Campbell Airfield

We arrived at approximately 1030. We deplaned with a large crowd gathered to greet us. The crowd was composed of wives, girlfriends, fiances, husbands, and parents of soldiers on the flight. It gave the atmosphere of a high school or college pep rally with the cheering and sighs for the soldiers onboard, only with a lot more emotion involved.

Having not conducted any personal hygiene over the last 20 hours, our appearance may not have been the best, and the spouses kissing their soldier for the first time in months may have been a little shocked, but it really did not matter. Soldiers were home.

We deplaned and were marched into the aircraft hanger, where everyone had 20 minutes to spend with the family that came for the ceremony. Following the ceremony, all soldiers boarded buses for a ride to the unit HQ in order to turn in weapons. Three hours later, after all weapons were accounted for and turned in, soldiers were released with a hit time of 0730 to be into work the next day for reintegration.

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