I returned sometime shortly after sunrise from what was supposed to be a 24-hour trip to another base, and turned into a 48-hour trip once all the various flight delays got factored in. Ugh. If a commercial airline treated me this way, I'd sue for my money back.
If you've spent any considerable time looking at a map of Iraq, you'll have seen three large inland lakes. The middle one of these three is Lake Habbaniyah, and nestled up against that lake is the base of Al Taqqadum. I'd say it was one of the smaller bases, and if you consider that population-wise, it's probably true. But the fact is, most base dimensions are determined by the length of a runway, and TQ (the local abbreviation for the base) is no different. It's just a lot more sparse in between little pockets of population, like the housing area dubbed "Hotel California."
Appropriate for a lakeside base, the sand was a different consistency than the "moon dust" talcum powder consistency here at Al Asad. It seemed much more like beach sand... actually absorbed the water when it rained.
I actually did fly "first class" on the trip down there. I was booked on a C-130, and they asked for volunteers to sit up front in the cockpit. Nobody else raised their hand so I jumped at the opportunity. It was nice to sit facing forward and actually see things, as well as listen in to the air crew banter on the intercom. A very professional operation. The only downside to the trip down there was that initially my flight was scheduled early enough in the morning that they wanted me at the passenger terminal at 5am... and I found this out at 10pm the previous night! Yikes! Turns out the flight ended up delayed/postponed and I didn't fly out until about noon... could have slept in!
The flight problems going down were nowhere near those coming back. I was pleased to find a nice evening 9pm helicopter flight back. Shortly after checking in I was told I was bumped to a later flight... and shortly after that an earlier flight opened up for "Space available" seats. Because of the (in my opinion silly) way they track passengers, since I was a scheduled passenger they would NOT let me fly space A on the earlier flight, which left with empty seats. And by the time my newly scheduled flight was supposed to go, a storm blew through, and it didn't actually fly until sometime in the middle of the night! I didn't get back to my room to sleep until about 9am. I'm off to bed now to try to catch up on the very limited amount of sleep I got in a morning nap (slept through lunch, too).