Three quick knocks on the outer door snapped me back to the here and now and my day’s mission came back to me. Andrea, our fixer, had made contact with a unit attached to the 3rd Army in Kuwait that had found some staff to allot to our goal of capturing images on Camp Buering. At 0900, SSG Richardson and company would be snatching us from the PX on Ali to spend the day documenting photos. As this was our first physical encounter with the military since our arrival, I was a bit apprehensive as to what would be in store for us.
Coffee being my first thought, well at least in the top two, cigarettes being the other, I dressed, cleaned up (that is a relative term used loosely in the desert) and out the door I was. Heading over to the PX, we arrived at our predetermined rally point and I went in search of God’s elixir. Minutes later, the tallest coffee I could muster firmly in my grasp, we awaited our escort outside while local nationals peddled their wares to the deployed nouveau riche.
Andrea’s cell phone chirped and the word was they would arrive within minutes. Again, the anxious feeling as I awaited the NCOs who would escort us through Ali Al Salem and beyond, still breaking in my brand new role as media personnel. The heat of the day, mere moments from enveloping every facet of our bodies, SSG Richardson turns the corner of the T-wall and thrusts her hand forward with a pleasant hello.
Heading through the desert on our way to Camp Buering, we exchange locations and schools and I truly begin to understand what a very small world I live in. My eyes wander to the outside world as we tear across the desert, the horizon but a blur in the distance. No trees, no bushes, no life that I can see. Just miles and miles of desert, not dunes but flat light tan dirt as far as you can see with a sliver of asphalt snaking through it all. We arrive at Camp Buering and go through the exhaustive security checks, though frustrating, a necessity for those whose lives depend on it.
The heat of the day is melting our insides as we snap photo after photo of the T-walls covering the base. Andrea and I take it in shifts as there are hundreds and hundreds of some of the finest examples I have seen yet. After taking over 400 shots, the sun forces us indoors for a much needed lunch break. The heat curbs your appetite until you cool off then it rushes back with a vengeance. I had no idea how hungry I was until we came inside. The growl of my stomach seemed to reverberate inside the tin walls of the Dining Facility. Thank God for Army chow.
We ate and exchanged funny stories of past deployments and shared our locations and units like fraternity friends, each unique but all share that similar core. I reflected at where we were and the years that have gone by since the last time I was in a chow hall like this. It all seemed familiar and very much the same, the only difference was me and how much I had changed.
Watching SSG Richardson and SFC Coffe head out towards the gate, I kept thinking about the odds of meeting the National Guard unit from my current home state some 7,000 miles away and somehow we found them, of all the units here, somehow we found them. The sun is low in the sky and the horizon is an orange glow, the heat finally subsiding, sleep is near. Andrea and I head our separate ways to our tents, the transient life for us.
Jaeson "Doc" Parsons