So far I think I have traveled 10,000 miles, and have yet to leave the land of the man dress.
Yesterday, 2 January, I left Afghanistan. I flew on the 1st to my brigade FOB by helicopter, then spent the night there. I flew from there to Bagram the next morning, stored my weapon and body armor, then flew on a C-17 to Quatar... You fly out from either there, Manas, Kyrgystan, or Kuwait.
Side note: if I ever have to deploy again, I want to go to Quatar. I have been to army bases stateside that have fewer amenities. For serious, the duty uniform seems to be PTs, they are allowed three beers a day, they have a PX with a food court, which includes a Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Arby's.
So in Quatar, I was fed, and told to put on civilian clothes. Since I didn't know I'd need the civvies I wore coming to Afghanistan, I was given the option of picking clothes from what they had--dickies in 40 waist, 30 length, and wifebeater t-shirts. Or I could go to the PX and buy clothes that a) fit and b) didn't make me look like I belong on an episode of "Cops."
So $80 later--new jeans, a collared shirt, and knock-off crocs (what the hell, they were $8) and I was ready to fly.
But then they got me on a military charter leaving Quatar 12 hours earlier, which would get me stateside almost a whole day earlier. Back in uniform, $80 lighter. The USAF manifests 3 hours before the flight time, and in it's entire history, they've never had a plane land and prepare to take off early. So my midnight-manifested 0300 flight departed about 0600. No worries, I'll still get in to Baltimore about 7PM.
The 97 guys on the plane had been on and off that airplane since 31 January. They've been bouncing between Kuwait and Quatar, getting grounded, turned around, waived off, and denied overflight, trying to get back to the US. Today was no different. Denied overflight of Iraq (yay, US foreign policy!) we landed in Kuwait. Three more hours dicking around on the ground, at Kuwait international airport, then a short hour bus ride to Ali alSalem airbase, and I had to cancel my earlier itinerary. But I was on the USAF side of the base. I needed to go to the Army side of the base. Nobody seemed to understand that I wasn't tied to the chartered flight, that I could travel commercial, that I was on emergency leave. Had I been a young soldier, I'd have stayed put and gone where I was told. After nineteen years, however, I've learned there's always another (and often faster) way.
That's when the run around started. "You have to see the Army liaison. You have to see the air force desk. You have to see SATO travel. Nope, we need this from from the guy who sent you over to us." Lather, rinse, repeat, ad nauseam.
I didn't want to do it. I know better. But when trying to reschedule my flight, and figure out how to get out of this place, I heard "they" were the problem. As in "they said you have to" (add your own stupid policy.) I had to put polite and kind Major Ziegenfuss away and let "Angry Chuck" out of his cage.
"Who the f@&$k is "they"? Let me talk to your boss... No, your bosses boss. Whoever in the hell wears my rank or higher." I flipped my shit.
There's a tactical advantage to this. Polite Chuck generally gets things done with a smile and joke here and there. Angry Chuck is so much of a pain in the ass that people will bend over backwards... Or forwards, I suppose, now that we allow that in the Army... To get Angry Chuck to go away.
Angry Chuck was booked on a civilian carrier, changed into his civilian clothes, had all his papers stamped and signed and blessed and chicken blood smeared, pushed through customs, and will fly from Kuwait to Amsterdam to Detroit to San Antonio over the next 20 hours. It's ugly, and never the first option, but Angry Chuck gets shit done. Maybe it's the yelling and cussing, regardless of who is in earshot. Maybe it's the implied threat of physical violence. Maybe it's the not so implied threat of physical violence. Maybe it's the crazy behind the eyes. Whatever, it works.