Passport? Check. Stamp in Passport? Shit......

Trip Start Oct 30, 2006
Trip End Aug 21, 2008

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Flag of Qatar  ,
Friday, March 30, 2007

Passport Fiasco!
I'm sure not many people in the history of traveling have ever had this problem.  Just from my experience, I don't see how anyone could get into or out of a country without getting their passport stamped.  It can't be easy.  Unless you're me of course...

About 10 days after I arrived back in Kandahar, I was cleaning out my desk and came across my passport.  Immediate worry washed over me as I realized that I had checked into the country at Doha International, but never checked out at the base.  You see, this is how the process goes for me to get 'downrange':  First, I have to get to Doha or Bishkek, both of which are pretty much the only ports of entry besides Kuwait for anyone wishing to get to Iraq or Afghanistan while working with the military.  Going through Bishkek is a lot more of a pain than Doha, so the choice is obvious.  After taking a 30-40 minute cab ride from the airport to the front gate at Al Udeid Air Base, I then have to call Vehicle Dispatch to catch a ride to the Passenger (PAX) terminal on base.  Once there, I check for flights to Kandahar, sign up for said flights, and grab a bunk for the next day or two (it's not an easy task to find a flight!).  So that's how it usually goes...but I don't do things the usual way. :)  Some of us here met some Marine pilots that fly a six-seater plane in and out of Al Udeid for important people that need to travel around.  These pilots turned out to be super nice and offered to give us contractors rides if we needed it.  So, upon my arrival at the PAX terminal, I gave them a call and found out they had a flight leaving the next morning (at this point it was around midnight).  Score!  Instead of taking the shuttle to the transient tents to get a couple of hours of shut eye, I decided to just stay around the terminal and wait for them to pick me up in the morning.  Now, if I would have signed up for a military flight, I would have been put on a manifest and gotten herded through the immigrations line with everyone else on the flight right before we boarded the plane.  Since I didn't do it this way, the whole passport thing kind of slipped my mind.  As soon as the pilots pulled up, I jumped in the truck, drove out to the plane with them and we took off.  B-a-d mistake! 

Apparently you can be arrested, deported, and fined for not getting your passport stamped when you leave Qatar.  It's not just a threat, it's actually happened.  I know a guy who knows a guy who's friend it happened to.  I got lucky.  I got a flight back up to 'the Deid' the day after I remembered about my passport, was able to get the stamp no problem (they probably didn't even know that I had left), and only had to stay 1 night.  The best thing about all of this is that I got to drink a couple beers!  At Al Udeid, US personnel are allowed THREE drinks per night!  I made sure I picked up my ration card and headed straight to the "bar".  I even ran into some guys that worked for my company (didn't know them until that point), so I had some people to hang out with for a little while.  On the way back up to Kandahar, we stopped in Bahrain for about an hour.  The water there is so beautiful, it reminded me a lot of Abu Dhabi (UAE).  I'm hoping to make it back there and actually get to spend some time in the city.  I got some pretty good pictures...

The whole thing could have turned out a lot worse than it did, but I'm happy with the outcome.  I'm even considering "forgetting" to get my passport stamped next time I return here from vacation, just so I can hop back up there for a couple beers!  Gotta love the Stella!
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