Friday was another busy day of travel. I had a 7 a.m. flight out of Berlin to Paris to start my journey to Gabon, where 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division is participating in exercise Central Accord. This year’s U.S. Army Africa-led exercise will be the largest and most complex to date for U.S. Army Africa.
The more-than-six-hour flight from Paris to Gabon was thankfully uneventful. I was able to watch three movies (“Argo,” “The Queen” and “Good Will Hunting” for those interested), and several snacks and meals were served onboard that helped break up the monotony.
As we started to land and I saw the coast of Gabon and then the capital city of Libreville, it started to hit me how far away I was from coastal Georgia and how far covering the military has taken me. The Army’s mission sends soldiers to locations far from their home in order to accomplish training objectives and certain elements of U.S. foreign policy, and having journalists covering them at these locations is important to informing the American public — especially their families — on what they are doing.
In Poland, where I covered Anakonda 16, the weather was cold and rainy. The humidity of Gabon when I got off the plane felt like I was returning to Hinesville.
After I went through immigration and grabbed my bags, I was greeted by 2IBCT public affairs officers, who showed me where to exchange my euros for Central African francs, and then took me to an area by the airfield that will be my home for the next week.
I was given a cot with a mosquito tent that pops up out of the box.
The large sleeping tent houses men and women from several countries and has air conditioning, which is a blessing in this humidity.
Sleeping there, though, will some take getting used to because of the generator cranking away through the night and the activity on the airfield nearby. But everyone is courteous and welcoming, showing me where I can charge my phone and where the showers are.
Many of the soldiers meet after work in the dining facility to relax and talk over the two alcoholic drinks per night that they are able to have. U.S. Army Africa Command’s general order No. 1 allows military personnel to have two drinks per night while on the continent, according to one of the public affairs officers here.
My Saturday morning started at 6 a.m., and I was able to see the sun rise for the first time on the equator. Breakfast was very good, with small pancakes, an assortment of breads, sausages, hardboiled eggs, fruit, coffee and orange juice.
The weather is overcast and in the high 70s with a nice breeze, which helps because the power went out for a few hours here while I worked in the media center.
The week ahead will be busy as Central Accord participants move from academic training to field training, which will include live-fire and airborne jump exercises.