I slept like a rock until 6, then dressed and finished packing. I could smell breakfast cooking as I made my way to the kitchen. A big old mug of the hot marine coffee finished off breakfast.
I was sending the first group to go meet the plane with the truck, both Suburbans, both limos and everything we were taking back; the people coming from the plane were bringing the truck back to stay.
Andy, his three leaders, Linda, Ellen and Alice and myself were last to go to the plane. Andy and his leaders would stay to get the new people on board and the girls to train the new people on how to use the communications equipment.
I needed to stay to meet with Ambassador Bernardi; we had a lot of things to talk about.
I was called when the plane was 45 minutes out. Andy sent the cars and trucks to the airport.
They were back in a little less than 90 minutes. Bernardi and I spent the hour behind closed doors.
“How did the surgery go? Was it a success story?” I asked with a little smile.
“You can drop that story. I know why you were sent here. I should say ‘volunteered’ to come here; Victor finally filled me in with bits and pieces as best he could two days ago.”
“I was horrified that the intent was to take us as hostages and then kill all of us anyhow. I still don’t know how you found out about the pending attack. Victor said that your people found out about it and alerted the department. Victor said it was top secret and guess I never will know.
“The job has risks and one has to accept that when they take the oath. But what happened here really hit home. I was not sure I wanted to come back; it took some convincing.”
“One night Victor took me and the wife to the Island Seafood Inn; we stopped by your main office on the way to pick up a couple friends of his and his daughters. Vicky gave us the grand tour. What a hidden operation you have going on there. After supper he carried us to the airport – that’s another operation in itself.”
“Anyhow, I need to thank you for all my people who were here with me. We would have all been a foot note in the history book without the things you did.”
“On top of that you made the Kampala embassy look good with the humanitarian effort; I have a lot to live up to on that one. Now I am hearing my wife and I need to take dancing lessons. You impressed a lot of people around here.” Then he added, “For an amateur, you did a damn good job.”
“Thank you, I always try to do my very best,” I replied.
We first walked through the embassy to show Ambassador Bernardi all the changes we had made to his space to accommodate all the extra personnel now assigned here. I also showed him the improved armory we were leaving behind. The serial numbers had been recorded and the paperwork signed by Casey and Caleb, who were taking responsibility for the weapons.
Outside we looked at the flag wall and I explained what its actual purpose was, the chopper landing pad (AKA the tennis court) and the beach volley ball court.
We looked at the repaired east wall and the newly enhanced west wall. Then we looked at the skid steer; it still had the pallet fork attachment on. I told him that I was leaving it to load the truck and trailer to make trips to Nimule and whatever else he could use it for.
Andy and his leaders finished bringing the new arrivals up to speed. Alice, Linda, and Ellen said that they thought they had the girls operating the communications and security room up to speed.
“Well let’s go find out,” I replied.
In the communications room, “Ladies, connect me with Ambassador Furnell at the Khartoum Embassy.” Ambassador Bernardi and I watched as they made all the connections and in a few moments Ambassador Furnell was on screen with us.
“Good morning Ambassador, I wanted to let you know I am leaving Kampala in a few minutes. Kampala is now back in the hands of Ambassador Bernardi. It has been a pleasure to have our frequent chats. I hope to make a visit to see you soon.”
I turned and shook the hand of Ambassador Bernardi, “Welcome back; I officially turn the embassy over to you. Thanks for allowing me to sit behind your desk for a while,” I said.
A check of the rooms to make sure I had left nothing and the two Suburbans carried the rest of us to Entebbe International Airport.
Fourteen hours later we were in the landing pattern at Morton Field. It was 6 PM Saturday evening. I was looking forward to quiet time in the hot tub with my mates.
The 787 was turned and pulled to a stop in front of the terminal building. We had to wait for the portable stairs to disembark the aircraft. While we were waiting I made an announcement, “You have two weeks off with pay. There are cars and motel rooms available if you need one. Then back here to be trainers. Be careful and please do not answer any media questions.”
I waited as my men and ladies went first. I shook each hand and thanked them. Then I grabbed my portable office and my one carry on bag and descended the stairs into a media and family frenzy.
The State Department – in its afternoon briefing – had made a statement that Ambassador Bernardi returned to his post and I was returning home today. The spokesperson gave the estimated time as an answer to a news person’s question.
At the bottom of the steps I was mobbed by my mates and family. Our hugs, kisses and tears were broadcast on TV; they were not just pecks on the cheeks from my mates but full on-mouth full of passion, toe curling and girl you are in for it later.
Jenny gathered the boys from the Mom-Moms and handed both of them to me at the same time. I backed and sat on the stairs so I could hug and kiss both of them; I had tears running down my face. They had grown so much in just six weeks. It was good to be home.
It was time to face the music. I gave the babies back to Jenny and went to face the cameras.
“It’s great to be home. I am going to miss all the new friends I made in Kampala. I was sent there to learn. I learned far more than I ever could have imagined.”
“I have been told that my visits to Nimule Refugee Camp have been widely broadcast in the local media. JBG will continue to support The Doctors With out Borders Group. In that effort JBG will place a collection box for clothing, shoes and canned foods. In addition to the box, there will be a cash collection container. JBG will match all cash donations.”
“I know you have questions but I will only take a few; between the 7 hour time zone change and the 14 hours on the plane, I am ready for some down time.
Hanna stepped up first, “BJ, the Senate and House are investigating the attack – are you going to testify now that you are back?”
“I have been subpoenaed to testify for four days before the Senate and House committees starting on Monday.”
“BJ, your six weeks as Ambassador is up; was the cross-training a success?”
“There has been a change, I shall officially remain an Ambassador until the investigation is officially closed and sealed. Yes, the cross-training was a success in my book,” I replied.
I could tell the girls did not like that response but it is what it is.
The ZNN reporter tried to ask questions about the attack.
“I cannot answer any questions about the attack due to the Hill investigation,” I replied.
“I have been told that only two of my men who were injured are still in the hospital and they are expected to be released in the next two or three days. I am sad that they were hurt under my watch and I intend to meet with them and their families as soon as tomorrow.”
All of our bags had been unloaded; the guys and gals were in line for the customs officials to take a look at everything. The crates with the drones and all the computers and controllers went out the freight doors on other side of the plane and into our hanger by forklift. There were too many eyes for them to be run through customs.
I went back into the plane to make sure no one left anything in the overhead storage. I gave the pilot permission to leave Morton; he had a short flight to Andrews Air Force base. Big Bertha pulled the 787 away from the terminal and to the runway. A few minutes later the engines went full throttle, lifting the huge jet into the night sky.
There were still several media people walking around, talking with my team. My men and ladies were only answering general questions. I heard more than one tell the ZNN reporter that they had signed confidentiality statements when they were hired and that any questions they had should be directed to our public relations department.
While we waited I played catch up with my family. I was glad I could touch and talk and soon hold them; it was truly good to be home.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.