The French Marines we were stationed with were a good group – friendly and anxious for us to start flying so they could work with us. Inflation went well and a French camera crew was there to record the process. Never got to see any of the footage, but it was a beautiful afternoon so I’m sure they got some great stuff. As evening fell, there was a noticeable addition to the COP’s skyline.
Our COP was small and reminded me of the TV series M*A*S*H*- we stayed in tents and ate in a larger tent that was our DFAC (cafeteria). It was about a 500 foot walk to use the restroom, so you had to plan your trips – couldn’t wait until the last-minute or there could be trouble. Showers were interesting – never showered in a bag before, especially one that was open to the elements. It had what could best be described as a garden hose with a small nozzle for a shower head (upper right of picture).
Every meal included bread and cheese, breakfast consisted of cereal with hot or cold milk and coffee or tea. Lunch and dinner were hot meals with entrée selections that differed from what we were used to on U.S. bases. Meat selections included duck, goat, scrawny chicken, beef, kangaroo (we think), and prawns. My pallet was open to the new choices, but some of my comrades were not as accommodating and chose MREs (French ones) instead. I guess I was more open to the whole experience and went with the flow better than others.
Our living areas were tight. We shared an eight man tent and my space was a twin bed with enough space to get out on one side. Luckily I’m not claustrophobic. Or a neat freak. Hung towels at the end of the bed for some privacy and to allow them to air dry.
For such a small base, nothing was right where you were. When you showered, the chance of getting dirty coming back from the shower was about 25%. One day, I was walking back from the DFAC with a covered plate (thank god) when I was caught in a dust devil – basically a mini tornado of dirt that reaches up a couple of hundred feet. They form out of nowhere and disappear in about a minute. It was like standing under a moving propeller and lasted a couple of seconds but it was pretty cool once I realized what happened. Maybe I should become a tornado hunter now that I’ve been inside one.
Now that we were up and flying, we were able to set into a routine. A routine that required some distractions to maintain a small amount of sanity to allow you to make it all the way through your deployment.