- Prelude: A Dream Up North
- Photo Essay: H-Hour 0630
With H-Hour at 0630 and the order to reach the Assembly Area at H-2, the plan was to stay at the Concentration Area from midnight until H-2. Terminal 2 was chosen as the Concentration Area because hot rations were available at a discounted price. Starbucks had a 1-for-1 latte promotion for Citibank card members. We almost didn't get to drink our rations at the discounted price because a coupon was required to qualify. Luckily Starbucks empowers their managers on the ground to make decisions and the lady manager gave us the discount just this time. Good O Starbucks!
Concentration Area was largely deserted but there was life at Starbucks which is open 24 hours in T2. At wee hours, most customers were students studying or doing project work. We spotted friendly patrol - in group of three - doing their rounds in T2. Déjà vu. Once I was like them, holding my toy gun proudly. Mine was the first to do that, immediately after 9-11.
An underground facility lies beneath the ECP, connecting T2 and T3, and with track access to the city. There is no train service during wee hours but the connector remains open. We stumbled upon the connector while trying to find our way to T1. We never got to T1.
The MT Line in T2 is accessible from the basement. Not surprisingly it was deserted except for the few troopers waiting to be ferried to the Assembly Area. Different mission but same order - reach the Assembly Area at H-2. The ferry service is available every half-hour from 0200 to 0500.
When we reached the Assembly Area at H-2, there was already a small crowd with troopers assigned to different missions. Insertion for missions is invariably by air and the airborne troopers have to register their names against a nominal roll for a ticket to enter the Forming Up Point (FUP). It is a egalitarian army with many females in the airborne formations.
The FUP where troopers form up before going to the respective gates for their planes. The Assembly Area and the FUP are in one spartan building which the authorities christen "Budget Terminal". There are internet facilities, TV Lounge, boutique shops and cafes in the FUP. This is the last chance to relax and enjoy before boarding the plane. The Air Service has strict code governing the usage of their planes - no rations to be brought on board, including water.
A variety of magazines are available at the bookstore in the FUP. They have been approved for local sales by the authorities. In the same bookstore, I saw Enid Blyton books. I remember her "Famous Five" and "Secret Seven" series.
Our plane, codenamed "Tiger" with call sign "TR102", taxied across the runway and crossed the Start Line punctually. H-Hour was met. Inside the plane, troopers were packed like cattle. Most were asleep or trying to sleep for the few hours to the objective. On the contrary, I did my Stand-To at first light dutifully. It was unrequired unless I'm aircrew, but old habits die hard and this particular habit follows me from land to sky.
The scenery was beautiful and I couldn't resist being trigger happy. That was my first time in a dawn insertion mission. With the sun fully up, I went into Stand-Down position. ETA was approaching and I needed some rest before reaching the objective. The mission - Dawn Attack@Suvarnabhumi. =)
(For an explanation of the military terms, check out Battle Procedure.)