Halfway through the deployment and halfway to loosing my mind, a moment arrived where I could leave Balad and head to a green pasture or perhaps better placed a browner dirt hole. Ali AB also known as Camp Adder formerly known as Tallil AB. Home to the 82nd Airborne Division, and home to the coalition forces of Australia and Romania. This is also is the home of the ancient city of Ur.
Long story short, we went there to lend a hand to our fellow weather forecasters there in Ali, to check over their work area and living conditions.
To further asses the status of their equipment and morale. At least that is the official explanation for our trip there. From the moment we landed there early in the morning we were confronted with an abundance of silence, unlike the busy and chocked Balad AB. Minimal traffic made this place seem like heaven, far from the reaches of the self-centered and self-absorbed population that inhabits the main location of my deployment.
Smoking pit Near the Tent
I was mildly impressed at the small piece of heaven the church managed to maintain, and the main focus of attention to the new arrivals, green well tended grass. It's been nearly 4 months since I've seen some sort of green shrubbery covering the mass abundance of land. Not saying that Las Vegas lacks green grass, it's just not very common there.
Our living tent was mildly familiar as I have stayed in similar conveyances before, a long time ago in Al Udeid AB, Qatar. However, this was vastly improved in size and comfort, for a tent.
Green Grass in Iraq
After some quick retaliatory sleep, I decided to wander the area and see the localized stops from the tent, bathrooms, smoking pit, basketball court, and the Shoppett/BX. Nothing to terribly impressive, most of the place seemed vacant and mildly ghostly. The occasional passerby, had their head in their own personal world, but still manages to acknowledge the existence of other people. Not so like that in Balad, you could walk 3 miles in Balad, and be completely ignored by the majority of the people.
The entrainment was a surplus there, a rather larger tent for entertainment (poker, bingo, and some pool).
A smoking deck that made any other place look like a rotted conundrum of comfort, seating for both smokers and non smoker, where you can meet for a chat and discuss your obscenely complicated life. There is an area called the Hotspot, meet up for some popcorn and a pop as you watch some of your not so favorite movies played on large projection TVs. Or perhaps grab a candy bar and a soda and plop down to check your email and play a computer game across the local network. In any case a well secluded area to sit back and relax. People there seem to be less stressed and more laid back than Balad.
Empty BX shelfs
Of to the distance you can see the Ziggurat of Uhr, the major prolific structure sticking out like a sore thumb, besides that miles and miles of nothing reminiscent of northern Texas (along I40 in the panhandle of Texas). If you ever been to Northern Texas you know what I mean, miles and miles and miles of nothing, and your eye can see the miles of flat unfaltering lack of excitement, the kind of place you would make sure to nail the gas down and see that you pass quickly. A small place as Ali is bound to have some sort of negative draw back. I might have found a few, but they are far and few. The place is adorned with fresh Italian food; get your cappuccino fix there. A splendid Dinning facility, with fresh breads flavoring Italian spices and another one of well, pointless mix of spices..... (BTW the Italian bread is awesome). This small piece of heaven food definitely rated high in my book, a definite change in pace over the repetitive menu of Balad.
The slightly empty shelves of the BX, did seem a tad disturbing, but certainly was rescinded as inconsequential to the more elaborate Italian restaurant that was co-located with a Hookah bar. And what is a Hookah...a local traditional pipe. My honest opinion it's more like a bong where tobacco was slapped in opposed to an ounce of grass. Not that it makes a difference, but the relaxing evening spent smoking a Hookah with some Italian dinner and great conversation goes miles in ones book.
Sadly our trip lasted a few days (5 day); had to slap another day in for the lack of reliability in local aircraft heading in the direction of the home station. A sour trip ending in a rather long flight stopping off at Ali Al Salem Kuwait and heading somewhere far north of Iraq to a station called Q-west (Key West not the flavorful and colorful island at the end of the Floridian Archipelago). Finally 5 hours later ending our trip back in Balad, seeing the depressed and slightly stressed out possibly stretched thin people of Balad, my mind wanders back to Ali to the secretly stowed away heaven in small far away place. But if people would only look up once in a while and see that Balad can be a fun and better place, you might be able to streak by faster on a more resounded mood.