I left Baghdad for a short trip to Al Asad, which appears to be only a short distance North-West as the crow flies. As the military flies, I had to travel all the way down to Kuwait and then back up again, which I was not too excited about. The good news is that I was in a C-17, which I find to be way more comfortable than a C-130 (no leaning back on someone else's back!).
The first leg of the trip was packed, and the entire cargo plane was filled with seats, which I had never seen before. I was relatively close to the front, and this was the view from my seat. Notice the little bubble shaped window up near the flight deck.
After we landed in Kuwait, they announced that anyone traveling to Al Asad should stay on the plane, and of all 1 million passengers, I was the only one. This worked out in my favor because as I waited, one of the crew members asked if I wanted to sit up with them in the flight deck. Of course I said yes, and they were great. I acted all shy and excited, and they asked if I wanted pictures of myself in the Captain's chair. They were really getting into it and took about 10 pics. Here's me and my mustachioed co-pilot.
I got to sit there for take-off and pretty much the entire flight. I wore headphones and could communicate with the crew. They let me wear night vision goggles and the amount of stars I saw was incredible!
They had to do a 'combat landing,' so they asked me to go sit in their little rest area right behind the cockpit. I sheepishly glanced through the porthole at the silly passengers that hide to ride in the cabin. Suckers! For those who don't know, a 'combat landing' is when the plane comes in quite high and then dives suddenly and quickly down to the runway. It's supposed to minimize the amount of time the plane is a target, so to speak. I've been through a couple that have felt dead up like that plane was crashing, but this one was quite mild in comparison.
Plus, while we were taxiing, one of the guys put some cookies in the oven, and as I was getting off the plane, he offered me a warm chocolate chip cookie. Seriously. Life's too good sometimes!