Welcome to Camp Manas near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan!
Thousands of troops pass through here each month. We arrived a little before dawn. After a short briefing, we settled into our bunks. Since I had only the clothes I was wearing, there wasn’t much unpacking to do.
Thank goodness my toothbrush, passport, American flags and cell phone were in my backpack. I figured I could simply borrow Jim Shockey’s hairdryer and Bill Miller’s lip-gloss.
Soon we were issued protective gear. The vest had thick bulletproof plates surrounding our vitals and felt as if they weighed a ton. No kidding. The vest alone was like wearing two concrete blocks over my shoulders (and I am a very strong woman). I can’t imagine how some of the small-frame girls handle this piece of gear all day in the triple-digit heat. My helmet is certainly off to them.
That evening we had a formal meet and greet with the troops at Pete’s Place, the main gathering point at camp. We met servicemen from everywhere, but a group of former Florida cowboys from the Red Horse Unit and some guys from Guam hung with us till quitting time. I met a couple of young female enlistees from the St. Louis area who wanted to get into turkey hunting.
The common thread we shared was a love of country and hunting.