Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life on Base

One of the great joys of Airstreaming is experiencing the world from many perspectives. Tonight is my sixth night living on a base of the United States Air Force. Over the past year I've found myself in all sorts of places. In addition to the list above, this includes: federal land in remote areas, two casino parking lots, and a Wal-mart parking lot. Being on an active military base, especially during a time of war, is a whole new thing.

As referenced below the notion that I was entering a new realm became abundantly clear the moment I arrived. I had to provide proof of registration (for my truck and Airstream) and insurance prior to being admitted. These are basic things. They are also things that nobody else has checked anywhere I've been. This was just the first step.

In order to come on base I had to be vouched for by a full-on member of the tribe. Not only that, the individuals (in my case a married couple) vouching for me, are responsible for my actions. If I break the rules, and there are more rules in here than outside the gates, they are personally accountable. Once inside the bubble, you have less "liberty" than outside, but you're also safer. The people here are people who either directly put their lives on the line carrying out the missions of the U.S. military, or support those who do. Each time I come and go my ID is checked and I must also show my visitor pass. Those documents must be with me at all times I am out and about while inside the base--though there is nothing I can do away from my Airstream, unless I am with my hosts.

It must not be forgotten, and can not be when you are here, that this is a place at war. From Wikipedia: "Davis-Monthan's primary operational mission is to train A-10 pilots to provide close air support and forward air control to ground forces worldwide." The A in A-10 stands for attack. These are attack aircraft used to directly support ground forces in battle. This is serious business that is happening right now. When I enter the gates here, places like Iraq all of the sudden become much closer.

I get to enjoy the luxury of my own home, as I do everywhere I bring my Airstream. The RV park here is very nice, and very affordable--only $20 a night and I have electric, water, and sewer for my traveling home. I also get the company of close friends, who just happen to be living here now.

Big military bases like this one are cities unto themselves. Davis-Monthan has a post office, gas station, movie theater, bowling alley, Burger King, fitness center, a military version of Walmart (called the BX--Base Exchange), department of motor vehicles, and on and on. Those who live here do not have to leave for much of anything.

The impression I get is that our military folks are well cared for. They don't have to pay sales tax, they get nice housing as part of their pay package, health care, good retirement, etc. They also give a lot. They have to move frequently. Many put their lives on the line for us, and some of the jobs are especially hazardous--an understatement if there ever was one.