Without going into the details (and there are some details), we finally took off from McGuire this morning at 0040. An hour and 40 minutes into the flight, those of us who had fallen asleep for the 8 hour flight to Germany were rudely awakened by the plane landing in Charleston, SC. Our tour of the eastern seaboard, alas, was to continue.
The AF had their act together this time, though, and swapped all of our equipment to another aircraft with fantastic efficiency; we were airborne about 4 hours later. So to our old aircraft, the albatross around our necks, C-17 tail # 60001: F--- you and good riddence.
We are now in Germany and on track to lift in about three hours. The Marines are a little frazzled but in good spirits. An interesting difference in perspective between us and the Air Force became apparent these last few days. They would always be very apologetic about the delay and the accomodations, all of which were valid, but not our biggest concern. We told them sleeping on the terminal floor was not a big deal to us, but that the flight being delayed was, that we WANTED to go because our brother Marines in Iraq were expecting us and need us there ASAP, it really caught them of guard. They thought our concern was our- the 42 Marines on the flight - individual circumstances at McGuire. It wasn't. It was - and is - getting to our appointed places of duty, NOW. Marines in harm's way really are counting on us.
Before I forget, while the institution of the Air Force let us down, the airmen and civilans at McGuire really bent over backwards to help us out. By the time we left, the entire base knew that 42 Marines had been shipwrecked at the AMC terminal like a bad reality show. The refueling squadron came into our terminal yesterday morning and asked if we could come to their CP for a barbeque. They paid for it all, did the cooking, had the entire thing set up, and didn't need or ask for a single dime or a single Marine to help. They were fantastic. The USO, also. Donate some $$$ to the USO. Beside coffee and cookies, they were cooking us hot dogs and even delivered free pizza to us last night at our billeting. They really hooked us up, and in fact, I am typing this from another USO here in Germany. Give 'em a few bucks.
LtCol Garay says he has nothing to add but that he slept really well on the hood of one of the HUMMVs on the aircraft while crossing. A C-17 was not built with troop comfort in mind, believe me.
More to follow.
P.S. One-liners from the past few days:
LtCol Garay asking the Command Duty Officer at Scott AFB, IL if Air Force officers had an aversion to talking to Marine officers since he'd only spoken or seen two in the previous three days. "Sure, you can give my name to anyone who asks,...I spell phonetically, GOLF ALPHA ROMEO ALPHA YANKEE." Hilarious.
MGySgt Traylor having to - with all due respect - pull the troop handling duties back from the CO and I.
The AF tech sergeant on duty night before last announcing at 0100 that we needed to tag and check all of our weapons, knives, etc. as per FAA rules. "It shouldn't take more the 15 minues," said the Sgt while presents me with a box the size of a shoe box. I told him that every Marine in there had about 5 knives on him, and pointing at Sgt Dunlap from our sister team, told him that I KNEW he had 10 knives on him right now. "You better get a bigger box if you're serious." I nearly lost my bearing, so much so that I actually asked the said named sergeant if he was going to address me as "sir" at least once during our stay. I then told him that believe it or not, I was the "good cop"; if the the CO got involved, he would be the "bad cop". That was about 30 minutes before the aircraft broke again, and the CO was on the line to Scott AFB (see above).