Entering the AOR

I’m flying over Baghdad, Iraq and just skirting Iranian airspace enroute to Qatar in order to begin the in-processing required before heading to Joint Base Balad. To be on this side of the world for the first time in my adult life is absolutely incredible. I have a really odd, indescribable feeling as I sit here in the coach seats of a crusty DC-10. Perhaps it’s a sense of wonderment, homesickness (already!) and just sheer amazement that I’m actually here. Call it surreal. Certainly adding to that feeling is that we’re flying in at 4am. There are no lights outside as we descend out of 31,000′, just a moving map on the bulkhead in front of me showing the aircraft’s current position. Am I really here or is this only the most vivid dream I’ve ever had? Perhaps all travelers experience this feeling early on. Did Columbus or Magellan feel this as they arrived at their destinations for the first time?

As we start the descent into Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar the ride gets a little bumpy… hopefully not indicative of the deployment to come. Luckily I’m not at all superstitious.