Reflections on serving in Qatar

1LT Mark D. Dellinger
United States Air Force
Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar

24 April 2003

Being stationed at Charleston Air Force Base and living in the Charleston area, it's easy to take for granted what it means to be a member of the Long Gray Line. Living there, not a day goes by that I don't see at least a dozen cars with a "Citadel Alumni" sticker on the rear window, and often when standing in line at the checkout counter of any given store, I notice the ring on the gentleman or lady in front of me.

So now I'm here, at Al Udeid Air Base near Doha, Qatar. It's a very different world and not a bit like Charleston. Here I'm surrounded by folks who went to Texas Tech, University of Arizona, Cal State or, heaven forbid, the Air Force Academy! So imagine my surprise when, in my very first week back in January, I ran into a 2001 Grad who was on Regimental Staff with me my Senior year and a 1998 Grad from my home company.

(From left) 1Lt Mark Dellinger '99, Capt Sean Lowe '97, Col. Keith Coln '74, SRA Michael Adams '96, Maj Lou Foley '89, MSgt Ray Mixon '69, Capt Thomas Cantrell '93, DOD Civ (Maj USAF Ret.) Lonnie Adkins '78, Lt Col Henry Reed '85, Maj Greg Walters '87, 2Lt Chandler Atwood '01, Lt Col Mark Stevens '80 (absent)

During the buildup of February and March, right before the war, I saw the population of this base increase dramatically. Among those many new faces were even more gentlemen who wear the ring. And there's no mistaking it for any other ring. There's not a chance you'll ask "is that a Citadel ring?" and be embarrassed when they say "no, it's Texas A&M".

On two occasions here I approached someone to take a closer look at their ring and sure enough they wore the Band of Gold. At that point, it was as if I had known them my whole life. We shared stories and, of course, talked about whose system was harder.

Last week, the war was nearly over and many of the Citadel Grads here are heading home. The 11 of us got together for a photograph to remember our place in history during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and to share some more stories.

I won't head home to Charleston until July, but when I get back, I'll be sure to not take for granted what it means to be a member of the Long Gray Line.