August 2, 1990
Iraq invades Kuwait
August 18-30, 1990
A couple of dozen of the unit fly to Camp Shelby, Mississippi to support Exercise Vulcan Knight. We fly to Gulfport, then bus to Camp Shelby. My first thought upon seeing the place is that it's Beetle Bailey's Camp Swampy, incarnate. The concrete block billets are not air conditioned. It pushes 100 during the day but is actually easier to take than the evenings.
When it cools off, the moisture in the air stays the same and the humidity goes to near 100 per cent.
I man a cell with CPT Gary Bomske and 1LT Lori Fisher, and learn to love Gatorade. About halfway through, the exercise begins to sputter as logistics units are called up to support Desert Shield, the military response to the invasion of Kuwait.
On the 27th, a few of us snag a chopper ride with some visiting German officers. We fly over the Mississippi and land on a sandbar. I think it's fun but the Germans are absolutely awe-struck - to them the Mississippi is the heart of the American myth. We take off and the pilot buzzes down a back bayou; clouds of pelicans and egrets spill out of the trees. We buzz over Natchez and view some of the old mansions and a riverboat. It's actually chilly at 3000 feet on the way home, but after a week of sweltering, I refuse to complain.
1LT Bob Trich has rented a car from Rent-A-Wreck, and with the exercise now officially dead, we have a couple of days of slack time. We go to New Orleans and out to Venice at the end of the delta. At the French Quarter, we run into some more of our German officers.
The night before we go home, we go out to eat at a fish place near Hattiesburg (ironically, I interviewed for a job at the University of Southern Mississippi here in 1979.) One of my tablemates is a MAJ Guderian who admits to being related to the famous WWII general. He clearly doesn't want to talk, so I don't push. A shame, since I have never heard anything about Guderian except that he was a fine officer.
Sat 1 Dec 90
Only a MUTA-1 drill, because of Christmas. Maj. Bob Dickson briefed the unit on contingency plans for mobilization. He said that the Army was not following normal capstone alignments but was selecting units based on readiness ratings. Ours was high. At that moment I knew beyond a doubt that we were going. Six of our junior enlisted, all but one female, were cross-leveled to a unit in Wausau. It looks like they deliberately selected women. Some of them had only an hour's notice. Our losses to the Wausau unit: PFC's Michelle Hoeffs, Lisa Vanenlangenberg, Jaye Buelow, Chutima Schultz and Andy Delleman.
Mon 3 Dec
I told Bob Wenger that we should plan seriously for my being called up, and drafted letters to various departments in the University just in case.
Tue 11 Dec
18 unit members were mobilized. One of them was 1Lt Brack Gillespie, a science major. I was in the department office when he informed Bob Wenger.
Fri 14 Dec
Our 18 mobilized members depart for Fort Bragg.
Tue 18 Dec
I got a call informing me that the unit was on alert, to report on December 26 and leave for Fort McCoy on the 29th. At least we will be home for Christmas, something that had not been at all certain.
Wed 19 Dec
Administrative drill. Latest word from our advanced party was that they had been bused to Dover AFB, Delaware, and were now in transit at Rhein-Main AFB, Germany. Three of them, CPT John Bestul, SSG Mike Van Rens, and SFC Mark Kazik, were sent home because they were on medical profile. Members of the advance party were: LTC Ken Bukowski, MAJ Carl Fisher, CPT Kevin Agen, CPT Len Beekman, CPT Wayne Huempfner, CPT Mike Wojta, CPT Wayne Scholze, LT Greg Freeman, 2LT Brack Gillespie, LT Jeff Ponkratz, LT Dave Gomoll, LT Bob Trich, SSG Bob Anderson, SSG Bob Haglund, and SGT Dan Aprill.
Fri 21 Dec
It's official. We mobilize. I had the secretary run off my letters. I signed them and turned them in and cleaned out my office. Mobilization vastly simplifies paperwork; anything I would not need in six months got thrown away. Late in the afternoon another call informed me that we mobilize on January 3, and report to Fort McCoy on the 6th.
Sat 22 Dec
Bob Dickson called me and told me to report on December 26, along with 25 others. Shawn was not happy!
Wed 26 Dec
We reported at 0730, to be informed that we report to Fort Bragg instead of Fort McCoy, because Civil Affairs is part of Special Operations. General dismay; Bragg is warmer than McCoy, but a lot farther from home. We spent the day finishing up our personal records, inventorying gear, and spray-painting our duffel bags. Shawn and the boys got dependent ID cards. Channel 11 did a brief spot with me, Don Larmouth and Niel Hensrud on how mobilization would affect UWGB. Cpt John Elliott, SSG Wally Coyle and I get a mission to acquire maps of Kuwait and Iraq, which was always referred to as "a country west of Kuwait".
Thu 27 Dec
From now on we have PT every morning at the YMCA at 0700. The we had a briefing, a very poor one, from a local Marine who had been briefly in Saudi Arabia but who actually knew very little. Then our team went off to UWGB to check the map library, where we found a complete collection of 1:250,000 maps of the region we needed. We spent much of the day Xeroxing maps and collecting references. We were careful to put the maps away and carry off all waste copies to maintain security, though it would not be hard to figure out our mission. The maps showed southern Iraq to be topographically featureless and uninhabited. I wondered what kind of Civil Affairs mission we could have there.
I had ordered some tapes on the space program from the Jet Propulsion Lab before this all began, and they finally came today. It will be some time before I can properly enjoy them.
The town of Little Chute is locally famous for the elaborate Christmas displays some homes have. Shawn and I went down with the boys to see them. It was worth the trip.
Fri 28 Dec
PT at 0700, then spent the morning copying 400 pages of an Arabic book and gazeteer of Iraq. In the afternoon, went to UWGB to get more materials, and also got a Fort Bragg haircut.
Sat 29 Dec
PT at 0700, then spent the day working on a language training outline. I had been working on this the previous spring. The game plan was to develop a master vocabulary list for polishing my Italian, then start on Greek for this January's student trip. However, the January trip fell through, so I let the project languish. Now I revived it, only to learn Arabic instead of Italian and Greek.
Sun 30 Dec
No PT today. Spent the day developing the language outline.
Mon 31 Dec
PT at 0700. Finished the language outline. Our orders came, so I took them to UWGB to make copies, and began preparing to pack. By the end of the day I had finished memorizing the Arabic alphabet.
Tue 1 Jan 91
New Years Day was a day off. The family went to Sue Rylander's in Appleton for lunch. Her sister Barb is a medic with the unit in Menasha. We've probably met before when I took my physical or when they came up to review our records. In the evening we went to services at Christ Church and an ice cream social.
Wed 2 Jan
PT at 0700, then went to UWGB to finish copying maps and clear up a few loose ends with Personnel. We had been in contact with an Intel unit in Detroit that had the Arabic Headstart program. They sent it to us, and it arrived today. I spent most of the afternoon Xeroxing it, and began copying the tapes.
Thu 3 Jan
Today was M-day, the day the whole unit mobilized. No PT today. A TV crew filmed in the morning. We spent most of the day sorting and boxing supplies. Wally brought in the best Arabic reference yet, but unfortunately, he didn't bring it along when we departed, and there was no time to copy it entirely. In my spare time, such as it was, I continued copying Headstart tapes. That evening we had a scheduling conflict, so I went to Chris's high school orientation while Shawn went to the first dependents' briefing at the Reserve Center.
Fri 4 Jan
The car stalled in the cold, so I never made it to PT. It was a chaotic day. I helped in-process about 40 people who came in from Chicago (308th CA Group) and Kalamazoo (415th CA Company). The 308th people arrived in the morning. We briefed them and then put them in the day room to sort and pack their gear. We took them around to get new issue and spray-paint their bags, a task complicated by having a 53-foot semi parked in the drill area. Later on the 415th people arrived. Late in the afternoon we began packing the semi, and to my amazement the job was done by 1830. I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some last-minute items, and then soaked in the tub. It was an exhausting day.
I did some mental calculating and estimated my cut in salary amounted roughly to my buying a trip to Saudi Arabia. Actually, thanks to a tax exemption in the combat zone plus interest reductions on my mortgage mandated by the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act, I nearly broke even.
Backfills (replacements for vacancies) from the 308th Civil Affairs Group: COL Arthur Truss, LTC David Ohmart, CPT Sylvester Jones, CPT Tim Yancy, CPT Alvin Howard, CPT Cove Green SFC Maurice Lyke, SFC William Taylor, SFC Charles Wren, SFC Dennis Kieltyka, SFC Calvin Lewis, SFC Al Mitchell, SFC Curtis Jackson, SSG Keith Chamble, SSG Charles Betts, SGT Don McGovern, SGT Rich James, SGT Olivia Davis, SGT Fern Davis, SPC Nicole Stampley, SPC June Williams, SPC Anaya. SPC Kevin Sanford, SPC William Magby, PFC Franklin Towner.
Backfills from the 415th Civil Affairs Company, and individuals from other units: LTC Curcio (chaplain, but did not deploy for health reasons), CPT Greg Judd, CPT Mark Haney, CPT Dave Pressner, CPT Gerald Watson, LT Rich Hegemann, SGT John Momich, SGT Al Meccia, SP4 Mark Kuyper, PFC Dave Mabin.
Sat 5 Jan
PT at 0700, then finish up at the center. The semi left about 1000 for Fort Bragg. We had briefings until lunch, then the final formation. The mayor addressed us, then LTC Christopherson. He started to choke up while addressing us. Col Biese, the former commander, and SFC Gene Gibbons, a former member of the unit, were also there. We were out by 1300, but I was not off. I packed, changed the spark plugs in Shawn's car, and unclogged the basement drain. Jim and Stacey Adams came over for a farewell about 7 in the evening.
Sun 6 Jan
Up at 0500 to catch a flight at 0700. The unit left in four groups, some from Green Bay and some bused to Milwaukee. My flight left at 0700 amid many tears and news people. After stops in Chicago and Charlotte, we arrived in Fayetteville about 1500. It was beautiful, sunny and about 60 degrees, but we would see very little weather that nice the rest of the time at Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg is down to about 5 per cent of its normal strength.
In the hope of finding a quiet spot, Wally Coyle and I share a 2-man cubicle on the second floor at the far end, with SSG Jeff Poh in the opposite cubicle. Most of the rest of the group took bunks on the first floor. When the rest of the flights came in and set up housekeeping, the second floor was nicknamed "the geriatric ward". In anticipation of the desert, I had brought along a pair of sunglasses I'd used in the Antarctic. I took them out to show Wally and a lens fell out and shattered on the floor. I just felt sick about it.
I called Shawn at 1830, then we had a meeting at 1930. It was just breaking up at 2100, when our trucks arrived; they had been driven down on commercial carriers. 1SG Gerlach called for 10 drivers, so I changed back into BDU's, only to be told that only four drivers were needed. However, it was expected that more drivers might be needed later on that night, so I slept in uniform. The last flight came in about midnight, but the drivers were never needed.
Our billets are in the 18th Airborne Corps NCO Academy, with bunks and nice wall lockers. Some units have been here since before Christmas with 80-100 in a building and no lockers. Our advance people did very well for us.
Mon 7 Jan
PT at 0515, then process through finance and get ID cards. The expiration date of 2 July on the cards is an optimistic note, a reminder that this will eventually be over. The company split into three groups; mine, the over-40's, was done in an hour and a half. The rest of the day was spent on Common Task Training. The weather was cloudy and chilly, with rain in the afternoon. We got off at a reasonable hour, so I took advantage of the chance for a full night's sleep.
Tue 8 Jan
Today we had the first PT test. We got up at 0400 and marched to the site, then stood in the rain and freezing wind while 2LT Nellis went to find the evaluators. After half an hour, we started. I passed the push-ups and sit-ups, but was over time on the run, as usual. After breakfast we went to the dental clinic. On the way MAJ Johanson had some choice words about the organization of the PT test! The horror stories we had heard about the dental clinic turned out to be largely untrue, though a few people did have bad wisdom teeth extracted.
Spent the afternoon as a duty driver, then was duty NCO that night with SPC Lahela Corrigan, who is a nice kid but was vaccinated with a phonograph needle. It's a good thing I got sleep last night. Called Shawn about midnight.
Our orderly room is in Building 3544, about half a mile from our billets. We use the upper floor for administration, and the lower floor for supply. Eventually we would share the upper floor with several other companies.
Wed 9 Jan
The weather is still cold and damp. We got off duty at 0700, then went to join the company at the clinic for physicals. The over-40's had to fast since 2200 last night, so I didn't get breakfast. I got two shots: gamma globulin in the rear and flu in the arm. Spent the afternoon mostly at the PX and running errands. I tried to call Shawn but she had gone to church by the time I got to a phone. The lines for phones mean waits of anything from 10 to 45 minutes. Our inprocessing is mostly done, so from here on our hours should get a bit more regular. Our tentative load date is 18 Jan, implying arrival in Saudi about 23 Jan.
Thu 10 Jan
Still cold and gray. PT at 0600, then spend morning on supply detail in S-4. I made contact with the language center, which turns out to be only a stone's throw from our orderly room. We spent the afternoon on NBC training, with briefings in the evening. I called Shawn at suppertime, but had to cut it short because of 1800 formation. When I tried again later, nobody was home.
Fri 11 Jan
The weather is still cold and damp. We had the second PT test at 0600. I did 46 push-ups and sit-ups, and 18:30 in the run. That's passing, but I need 18:06 to make the 70 points for Special Operations validation. I am sure now I can push a bit harder and get it.
The rest of the day was spent on Common Task Training, training in the morning and testing in the afternoon. I taught and tested Claymore mines. I gave each group a terrorist scenario, then put a pillowcase on my head and sneaked out to turn one of the mines around. Most people got a kick out of it, but I got one group.
It rained heavily all afternoon. We were going to test outdoors, but CPT Mark Haney persuaded the evaluators to move the testing indoors - by standing out in the rain and discussing the matter with the major in charge! Smart!
We had a weird incident at 1800 formation. There had been a sexual assault in the area on the 9th. Two CID agents came over and ordered "all white males" into the officer billets. They lined us up and walked down the line looking us in the eye to see who flinched. After this we finished Common Task Testing and loaded up our rucksacks for tomorrow's 10-kilometer march. The standard is 55 pounds or 1/3 of our body weight, whichever is less. To get the 55 pounds, most people had to resort to sandbags and rocks.
I was in bed about 2200 when CPT John Elliott came in with some stuff that had just arrived from Saudi: maps and some cultural notes. I looked at one sheet that was purportedly Arabic, but even at my rudimentary stage I could tell it was gibberish. Then I realized it was a joke; a list of polite things to say when being taken hostage! I got just plain hysterical. It was a good end to a pretty good day.
Sat 12 Jan
Form up at 0730 for rucksack march. We got dummy M-16's (made of rubber!) and weighed in, only to be told we had to go back and get our gas masks as well. MAJ Johanson had specifically asked and been told we didn't need them. Everyone was highly irritated. We had two hours to make 10 kilometers with 55 pounds, and all our marchers made it. We had a little sun at dawn, mostly cloudy during the march with some rain (which felt good), and a little sun later on. In the afternoon we prepared for the MOS test until about 1400, then had off. I had taken a nap right after coming in from the march, and got up for lunch with piercing pains in my shoulders. I took another nap before supper, and awoke to find I hurt very little.
Today Congress voted to allow the use of force against Iraq. In the evening we went to the JFK Center for a good rah-rah film on Desert Shield and some generally uninformative briefings. The useful stuff was all classified; the stuff we heard we could have gotten out of the newspapers. We did get these tidbits:
THE 5 STAGES OF MOBILIZATION
Nonchalance - Curiosity - Concern - Fear - Panic
THE 7 KEY CONCEPTS OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS
Move - Shoot - Communicate
Lie - Cheat - Steal
Don't get caught
Sun 13 Jan
No PT today. People who needed to validate on the firing range, mostly new people who drew a new weapon from us, got up at 0515, the rest of us half an hour later. After formation at 0715, we spent the morning on minor chores. I went to the warehouse, formerly the old PX, to get references out of storage, and took the opportunity to get my State Department Arabic book. After lunch, the Common Task testers tokk their tests, then we took the MOS tests, which were simple. Church call after supper. It was a slow day. Dawn was clear for the first time in a week. It clouded over later, then cleared by sunset. It is impossible to describe how good it was to have sun and no rain after a solid week of yuck. Our departure date has slipped and is now scheduled for somewhere between the 19th and 22nd.
Mon 14 Jan
The first really sunny day since we arrived. We had PT at 0515; it was clear and cold, with heavy frost, but warmed up nicely later on. Some of us donated blood in the morning. I still had a Claymore mine trainer left from Common Task testing, so the running gag at the blood donor center was "be nice to the guy with the Claymore". As luck would have it, the girl who was drawing blood from me fumbled the tube when drawing samples after I donated, and made quite a mess (spilled maybe two tablespoons of blood). She was terribly embarrassed, but after 50 donations I am not too affected by the sight of blood. I spent the rest of the morning on minor errands at Admin. In the afternoon we masked our last three trucks for painting and drove them over to the paint booth where civilian contracters would paint them. Driving a truck whose windows are masked with paper is scary; the only visibility was a slit cut in the windshield. After supper, we went to team orientation class, where the different functional teams gave briefings on their functions. It was inane because many teams had been unable to locate any good guidance on what they were supposed to do. Then we went to Supply to get additional clothes. We would get so many clothes that most of us eventually had to send excess home.
One thing I did after giving blood was make contact with the language center and set up an Arabic Headstart program for Tuesday and Thursday (since we were still expecting to leave in a week). Then I found out Thursday was planned for a company farewell dinner, and Tuesday was Commander's Time (free time), so the training fell through.
On Friday I had gotten a strange message: "Call George French in Green Bay about Toby Roth's Committee on Space and Space Technology." The CO let me use his phone today, and I billed the call to my home phone. It turned out Congressman Roth was getting up a committee to advise him on the recent Augustine Report on NASA priorities. I said I was willing to help, though hardly in a position to do much at the moment! French wanted to send me a copy of the report at Fort Bragg, but I told him we barely had room for the stuff we had now, and suggested he wait about 3 weeks until we got to Saudi. In fact, I would not see anything until March in Kuwait.
Wisecrack of the day: Chief Witbro threatened to cut off our left hands if we messed with his neat piles of clothing in supply. Someone asked if he meant right hand instead, Saudi-style. He replied: "No, I want you to be able to write. I might need you in supply".
Some interesting personal anecdotes:
SGT Don Langel brought along some needlework projects to pass the time.
SSG John Holmes, a 308th addition, collapsed during the first PT test. We feared a heart attack, but it turned out to be only a muscle spasm. Later he completed the rucksack march in 1:35; 10 minutes faster than me.
SPC Nicholson was not feeling well on the rucksack march. He was really wobbly, but finished. Next day he shot 40/40 on the rifle range.
Tue 15 Jan
Dawn was clear and cold. Blood donors did not have PT, but it was still frosty at 0800. We spent the morning in NBC class, including an hour in mask and helmet. I called the Language Center about our schedule conflict; as I feared, the class fell through. The afternoon was free. I boxed some excess gear and sent it home, then went to the PX. Later I called home. Today was the deadline for Iraq to leave Kuwait, but it passed uneventfully.
Wed 16 Jan
PT at 0545. It rained all night and the ground was very wet. I spent the morning on Arabic study. We had a thunderstorm followed by a beautiful rainbow about 1100. The afternoon cleared to a gorgeous sunny day. After lunch, we started packing, then I went to church call for a short prayer service. Later we had a briefing on the medical threat in Southwest Asia. This brief was a good example of what turned out to be a common problem: people with limited firsthand knowledge overdramatizing threats. By the time this medic was done he had most of the unit too terrified to eat, drink, or touch anything in the Middle East.
We had been scheduled to leave at 0100 on the 19th, but at 1800 we heard our departure date was pushed back to an unknown date. I was waiting to call Shawn at 1830 when someone yelled that the war was on and Desert Shield was now Desert Storm. I got through to Shawn, who had already head the news from my sister Louise in California! She also heard from Chris Haglund in the support group that LTC Ken Bukowski had gotten orders extending him for a year. We also heard from the CO that four Iraqi hit squads were reportedly in the US, one in North Carolina. The base is now at Threatcon Bravo: closed except for one entrance, and barracks guards must be posted at night. The general feeling is disbelief coupled with relief that the war has started before we got over there.
Thu 17 Jan
No PT due to threat condition. We formed up on the parade field to hear a short address by BG Hurteau. I spent the rest of the morning working on Arabic and gave a class at 1130. After lunch we had briefings on handling displaced civilians (DC's) and dealing with culture shock, then I gave a second class at 1600. The weather today was beautiful and sunny. At 1800 we met to go to the company party at the NCO club. The food was mediocre and insufficient in quantity. Many of us spent the evening watching war news, featuring the first Scud attacks on Saudi and Israel.
Fri 18 Jan
When I got home from the party at midnight I locked my keys in my locker, so I had to wait for SSG Mitchell to bring the bolt cutters and missed PT (I'm on profile: I can't go out to PT in my underwear!). I got out in time to complete the run. It was frosty at dawn, but developed into a nice, sunny day. We went to supply for still more clothes, then I spent the rest of the morning on Arabic and personal business. In the afternoon I taught a class on counting in Arabic, then I was followed by briefings on history by Wally Coyle, and training on the functional CA teams. We heard that our load date has been pushed back to 3 Feb, and the next PT test, scheduled for tomorrow, is cancelled. At evening mail call I got a box of cookies from Louise. I wrote 3 letters, but couldn't make a phone call because the lines were too long.
Sat 19 Jan
Dawn was beautiful but the rest of the day was cold and gray with some rain. We had PT at 0550, then spent the morning on motor training, which was held outdoors in the cold and wind. I did a language class at 1130 and a terrain walk at 1300 (how do you spend an hour telling people the area of operations is utterly flat and uninhabited?) The rest of the afternoon was spent on classes on Arabic culture, by SPC Tom Winchell, and security. Then I called home. Shawn thought we were already on our way and was delighted to hear we were staying until 3 February. In the evening we went to the JFK Center for a class on terrorism. We weren't happy about losing our free evening, and the class was so poor that it made our tempers worse. In two hours we got perhaps 20 minutes of useful material. The sergeant giving the class was trained in counter-terrorism, but from the way he fumbled over the slides it was obvious he was unfamiliar with his materials and not properly prepared. He ran out of time just as he was getting to the potentially useful material on personal countermeasures.
Sun 20 Jan
A free day, cloudy early on, then nice and sunny. I slept in till 0730, went to chow and church, then slept a bit more. Spent the day mostly studying Arabic, doing laundry, and relaxing.
Mon 21 Jan
A clear but chilly day. We had PT at 0550 on the wet ground, then did vehicle maintenance and language training. Big event of the morning was an inventory of essential gear; mine was good to go. After lunch we loaded the trucks for departure. After supper I found an open phone (no waiting!) and called Shawn and my folks.
Tue 22 Jan
Clear but very cold and windy. Sunny all day but no warmth. PT at 0600, then spend much of the morning being briefed by a MAJ Bechtel who spent 4 months in Saudi, with no days off. He was generally very informative.
In retrospect, early-deployed troops had some things better and other things worse than those, like us, who deployed later. By the time we deployed, most of the worst shortages had been cured. We never lacked for batteries or toilet paper. On the other hand, early-deployed troops (poor Major Bechtel was an exception!) often had opportunities to get out into the local economy or meet local nationals that were denied to later arrivals.
MAJ Bechtel told an interesting story about Saudi justice. An Air Force soldier had been having an affair with a Saudi woman. They were found out, the military quickly shipped the soldier out of Saudi Arabia, and she was arrested and publicly beheaded. Later in Saudi, I heard the same story from SSG Bob Haglund, one of our advance party, except this time it was a Marine. My first reaction, like everyone else, was to think how horrible it must be for the soldier to have such a thing on his conscience. Later on, after learning more about Saudi culture, and especially after being there myself, I began to see more and more holes in the story.
It is virtually impossible to meet Saudi women, even with a chaperone, let alone privately.
If a soldier were to meet a Saudi woman, how likely is it that she would be open to an affair?
Single women simply do not exist in Saudi Arabia. By law, every woman must have a guardian, and virtually all young women live with male relatives. How is the couple going to find a place to have any privacy?
Assuming they overcome all these obstacles, are they really going to be stupid enough to carry on their affair in a place where they might get caught?
How did the soldier find out his girl friend was arrested? Did he escape the arrest scene and leave her to her fate? If not, how did he get the news? The police would hardly have sent him a message; if they knew where to find him, they'd have arrested him, too.
Women are not executed by beheading in Saudi Arabia. They are stoned or shot by firing squad.
In short, this story has all the earmarks of an urban legend. Between the medical brief and this story, some of our less experienced troops were positively terrified of going to Saudi Arabia; they were convinced the Saudis would take violent offense at the slightest inadvertent misstep.
After MAJ Bechtel's talk (which was really pretty good, notwithstanding my comments above), I did a short language class. In the afternoon, most of the unit went on the confidence course. Elliott, Coyle and I went to the JFK Center and did other errands. I was very homesick all day, but a call home in the evening helped.
Wed 23 Jan
Dawn was clear, with heavy frost but no wind. BG Hurteau was not happy with some units not showing up for PT, so he ordered all the CA companies to form up on the parade field at 0545. The result was entirely predictable: the mass formations lasted about two days. Hurteau did slip into our morning run formation on a number of occasions and complimented us on our workouts.
At 0800 formation there was a nice moment. LTC Climek, our chief validator, said he had been proud to work with us. Then he presented an amulet to LTC Christopherson. Climek got it for saving a Montagnard's life in Vietnam with instructions to pass it on at the right time to another warrior. The amulet was 200-300 years old and Climek was the 25th person to own it. It had always been owned by a warrior and noone who carried it had ever been harmed in battle. Now LTC Christopherson is the 26th owner. We all felt that this was quite an honor for all of us.
The rest of the morning was spent on motor stables, communications classes, and yes folks, Arabic again. In the afternoon we had a class on NCO development, which ended up being a ***** session, then a class on setting up DC camps by CPT Gerald Watson. He had me busy the past few nights translating signs; not easy without a good dictionary. I had to go through an Arabic military dictionary page-by-page looking for the right words. The miracle is that I found about half the entries he wanted. The 418th CA Company from Missouri sat in on the class. After they left, we tried to simulate screening and inprocessing, but it was near chow time and the exercise degenerated into mass horseplay.
In morning Arabic class, held in the Reserve Center on Fort Bragg, someone found an Arabic dictionary. I left a note in case anyone asked but hoped nobody would claim it. Actually I located the owner on Wednesday, 30 Jan.
Thu 24 Jan
Cold but dry for 0600 PT. Morning was spent on a lecture on NCO responsibilities and cultural training; this time a State Department video. I got some interesting insights from it but it put most of the company to sleep. The tape consisted entirely of a lecture from a woman seated behind a desk; the unit called her "the talking head".
It started to rain hard about 1100. We had our compass navigation course in the afternoon. After a frigid and wet hour of refresher classes, we broke into teams and got our assigned courses, each a mile or so through the woods. A short distance into the woods the rain turned to light snow. I had my PT suit on under my BDU's; I got a bit wet but stayed warm. That night I had duty driver; I used the time to write some Arabic lessons and call home.
The real shocker of the day was that MAJ Gary Bomske was taken to the hospital for abdominal pains. Ultimately he ended up in surgery and did not deploy with us. He was sorely missed.
Fri 25 Jan
During the night I found out I was scheduled for language training today during my off time! I arranged for Wally Coyle and Tom Winchell to cover for me. The unit is basically using me to fill blanks in the training schedule, which I'm willing enough to do, but language should get higher priority.
There was no PT this morning. Lt Nellis had been pushing the idea that hard workouts every day do more harm than good (it also happens to be Army doctrine, though widely ignored), and maybe he finally had some effect. Because of duty last night I was off until 1300. I didn't eat lunch because of the makeup PT test scheduled for 1400. It was a perfect day for it, sunny and cool, but the test was postponed until Monday. We spent the afternoon on a CPX, talking over problems we had all seen before at Civil Affairs School, then played volleyball.
Sat 26 Jan
Clear with heavy frost for PT at 0600. The morning was spent on a short class on promotion procedures, followed by team training. In my case that meant free time, since all my subordinates were on some kind of duty and CPT Haney was off with another unit unsuccessfully trying to locate a training site. The afternoon called for "cleaning clothing and equipment", a way of avoiding saying "free time" on the training schedule. I went to the PX. The PX at Fort Bragg has a food mall; I'm not sure if it makes me feel good to go there or not. It's nice to be in a civilian atmosphere, but it's a sobering reminder of what we'll be missing.
A nice touch in the evening; my sisters Muriel and Louise sent a huge box of cookies for the unit. The postage on it was $37! A nice card inside thanked everyone for their efforts. Everyone was very touched by it. One of the 308th guys also got a care package to share.
Sun 27 Jan
Clear, sunny and cool. I went to church at 0800, then back to the PX for thank-you cards for the care packages. Everyone had to sign in by 1800, so I left the cards at the orderly room for people to sign as well. In the afternoon I joined a group to visit Major Bomske, who was doing well, then went to the post library. Later I called home to thank everyone for the care packages. That evening, everyone watched the Super Bowl, one of the closest and most exciting ever. The halftime show was an all-out patriotic extravaganza.
Mon 28 Jan
Cloudy and warm. No PT at 0600 but had PT test at 0900. There was light drizzle, which was not a problem. I finally validated: 49 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, and 17:56 in the run. That was my best time ever; it felt great. Then in a burst of enthusiasm, I volunteered to walk along with SSG John Holmes on the final leg of his 3-mile walk. He didn't need me at all. I could barely catch up to him, or keep up, he beat his previous time by three minutes, and my legs felt like Jello at the end. The rest of the morning was devoted to map reading, the afternoon to team training. My team went to the JFK library, an unproductive venture, since there was little material pertaining to my team, Public Welfare. I was still tired from the run, so went to bed early.
Tue 29 Jan
I was duty driver all day, and reported at 0700 so did not go to PT. I put on 90 miles by the time I was relieved at 1800, all of it on post. After supper we went to a briefing put on by the 408th, featuring a former Egyptian officer. He clarified some questions about Shiites and Sunnites, and refined my Arabic a bit. It was cloudy all day, with rain at night. I called Shawn late and got to bed at 2230.
Wed 30 Jan
Foggy all day, rain most of the time. Most of us had to get meningitis shots, so there was no PT. CPT Haney and CPT Elliott had a trip to the University of North Carolina planned, so we got in line firts, then changed into civvies. The car was borrowed from another unit, who insisted on the right to send two lieutenants instead of the one they had initially promised. We crammed 3 in the fromt seat and four in back; it was a cozy ride. It was the first time off-post since we got here. UNC is a beautiful and old campus, but there was only a small amount of useful material in the library. However, the bookstore had several good Arabic sources, which I bought.
After we got back I called Shawn, who told me the Journal of Geological Education had sent back a paper for revision. I explained the best I could how to revise it over the phone, but expected it would just have to wait for my return. To my surprise, it was published in the March, 1991 issue.
I also located the owner of the Arabic dictionary. By now I was thoroughly disenchanted with its small type size and poor printing, so I didn't miss it. The owner was instructor of a Headstart class for one of the other units, and he was very happy to get it back.
Our load date is February 5, and looking more and more firm. I felt a sore throat coming on, but fortunately nothing came of it.
Thu 31 Jan
PT at 0610. We took a cattle car to the gym for aerobics. It was exhausting and hurt a lot but it was a good workout. We spent most of the morning being briefed about Iraq, then the CO discussed plans for us in Saudi. We expect to stay near Dammam 4-6 weeks doing planning. (Like most advance plans, this turned out to be nowhere near reality!). Then I got in half an hour of language training. In the afternoon, we had team briefings; excruciatingly dull. There was a beautiful sunset, and mail call brought a nice valentine from Shawn. I also called home, only to find she had a migraine.
Joke of the day: one of our underachievers made the observation that "being startled is good for the heart rate". Todd Inman said "For him, that's profound. That's like E equals MC-squared!"
Fri 1 Feb
Clear and cold for PT at dawn. For a change, our load date is moved up, to Sunday. I spent most of the morning packing and napping. In the afternoon we took our trucks to the scales for preliminary weigh-in, then finished packing.
Sat 2 Feb
No PT this morning. Dawn was clear and cold, then it warmed up to a beautiful, sunny day, the nicest we've had since we got here. We loaded our B (nonessential) bags and rucksacks, then started tying down our loads. In the afternoon we went to CLACC for vehicle inspection, then to the Green Ramp. About 20 of us stayed there until midnight waiting vainly for inspectors to show up. We sent out for a pizza to pass the time. On the counter in the operations building was the sign "We send more people to more places they didn't want to go to than any other airline in the world". Most of us went back to the billets at 0030, 5 people stayed until the inspections were done at 0500.
People are very upset about losing this last weekend.
It's funny the ways nostalgia can strike. I was humming John Denver songs all day.
Sun 3 Feb
Clear and cold at dawn, no PT again. We got up at 0630, turned in linen, then went to briefings on movement procedures. Flights leave about six hours after we arrive at the Green Ramp. Groups depart today for the Green Ramp at 1630, 1830 (mine), 2100 and 2300, and on Monday at 1700 and 1830. We got our team assignments; I'm assigned to 2nd ACR headquarters. No surprise there, since I was capstoned to the ACR since 1985. CPT Wojta, the team chief, is already in country. Our plans to be in Dammam 4-6 weeks are already blown away; we will probably disperse soon after arrival. (These plans, too, changed!)
By noon it's a gorgeous day. At lunch I talked with Lt. Nellis and Lt. Wanta. COL Miller will be staying behind at Fort Bragg as preventive medicine officer. Sue Snethen and Kelly Ferris are not deploying for medical reasons, a real disappointment for both them and us.
Afternoon was mostly free time. The first group left at 1630. My group formed up at 1800. We drew our nerve agent antidote, loaded on a cattle car, then drew our weapon at the orderly room. From there we went to Pope AFB, to a luxurious waiting room with wooden benches. MAJ Dudley, one of the validators, showed up. His last job is to observe our loading and takeoff. He and LTC Climek were OK; they were fair and reasonable, but they upheld the standards, too.
I called Shawn about 2200 as the first flight was taxiing out. About 2300 the word comes that we go to Ramstein, Germany, not via Dover and Spain as originally planned.
Mon 4 Feb
Liftoff about 0030, sitting in web seats alongside our strapped-in vehicles. We have to carry web gear, mask, and weapon since we have know way of knowing what conditions will be like when we land. Once airborne, people got up and found places to sleep. I laid down on the web seats, but awoke a couple of hours later very cold and aching. I looked out the window and, to my surprise, saw distant city lights; our flight path probably takes us up the east coast. I guessed the lights might be Halifax or St. John's, judging by the time. Then I laid down on the hood of a truck and slept until 0630 (Bragg time). The plane, a C141, is cold in most places but nice and warm near the heat vents. Later on I found the best spot of all: on top of a pile of duffle bags next to a porthole.
We landed in Ramstein about 1530 local time, and were bused to the mess hall. Ramstein is an attractive base in the hill country near Kaiserslautern. It was nice to eat like civilized people again. I saw my first normal-sized spoon in a month; the spoons at Bragg are all large soup spoons. We waited around the terminal several hours, and finally departed about 2100. Once in the air again, I sacked out in my favorite spot atop the duffle bags. Tue 5 Feb
En route I saw ships' lights in the Mediterranean, and gas flares from oil wells, probably in Egypt. It was still dark when we were ordered to strap ourselves in for landing, but to my surprise, it was daylight when we landed at Dhahran about 0630. the temperature was 60 degrees, a nice change from the 32 degrees in Germany. The scale of the military operations is huge; there were vast lots full of supplies and fighters taking off every minute or so.
First impressions are indelible. I was struck by the warm tropical feel of the air. On one side was a long covered shed with pallets filling some stalls and a fighter plane another. Vast stacks of pallets everywhere. A pair of fighters roared off the runway in tandem. We were met by a couple of friendly officers who welcomed us, pointed to a stack of fruit boxes and fruit juice, and told us to help ourselves.
We took a bus to Khobar Village, where we billeted. [This is the same Khobar that was struck by a terrorist attack in 1996. The terrorist truck bomb parked by the former main gate, near where we parked our vehicles.] The buildings, originally built in a largely futile effort to settle the Bedouins, are seven-story apartment blocks. There are four suites on each floor, each suite with a common room and balcony, kitchen, two bathrooms, and five bedrooms. We had 3-4 people per room. The floors are marble. On the down-side, the elevators are small, slow, and easily-broken, and the sewer pipes are such small diameter that we cannot flush toilet paper. The uniform is full gear, mask, and weapon; even though we're 200 miles from Iraq, post perimeter guards, and have about 10,000 troops in the area.
It's a gorgeous day, warm but with afresh breeze, and reminded me of Hawaii. About 1700 I called Shawn, who was surprised and delighted, and checked out the PX, which was crowded but pretty well-stocked. We met most of our advance group today, though a few are still in the field. I have guard duty tonight, so I went to bed about 1900.
Wed 6 Feb
I pulled building guard from 1100 to 0300. The morning was mostly free, so I caught up on lost sleep. The last increments arrived between 0400 and 0600. SSG Connie McNamara brought late mail from Fort Bragg. I got an Arabic dictionary that Shawn had ordered for me plus two huge boxes of goodies from my sisters to share with the troops; candy, nuts, etc. In the afternoon, we unloaded our trucks, a job that got bigger and bigger until we finally got done at 1900. The weather was nice, with enough thin high cloud to moderate the sun. After supper we packed our tents into a couple of trucks, then I went to bed. My roommates are SSG Bob Anderson, one of the advance party, and SSG Keith Chamble, a black NCO from the 308th.
Tue 7 Feb
I think this is the anniversary of the day I called Shawn from Antarctica, which I duly commemorated in a letter home. We got up at 0630, then after 0800 formation, the 2nd ACR team met for a briefing. The mission of VII Corps is to find and DESTROY the Republican Guard; not neutralize, but destroy. [I feel sorry for the hapless conscripts we pounded during the air war but nothing but loathing for the Republican Guard. They are among the best-educated citizens of Iraq. They get the best training, equipment and treatment, in return for which they remain loyal to Saddam Hussein. These are the people who could and should be bringing Hussein down, but they sold out. There is no delicate way to phrase it: they are whores.] The 2nd ACR will be in the front but we should be somewhat to the rear ourselves. The mood is somber and apprehensive. I still wonder what kind of a mission there can be for us, since the 2nd ACR area is all but uninhabited. Most of the day is spent in organizing personal gear and team supplies. We are supposed to move out Friday (tomorrow), later changed to Saturday.
Fri 8 Feb
I slept poorly, and was not helped by our first Scud alert about 0200. The loudspeakers repeated "Scud ..... launch ...." slowly but it took a while to understand what they were saying. (After a few more, we began parodying the warning, for example, any time someone drove a volleyball out of bounds.) We masked briefly, then got the all clear. I spent all morning tracking down tents; we had been told we had 5 GP Small tents, but we only could locate two. After lunch we pulled out and checked all the tents, a backbreaking job that took a crew of about 15 to do. We found one more tent, but are still missing two. Then we went to NBC class and did maintenance on our mask and weapon.
At 1300 formation we got the word to stand fast; we are not moving out as planned and may get a change of mission. That's a relief since we were not at all ready to move out, missing tents as we were. It's a nice day, but very windy late in the afternoon, and lots of dust.
Well guess what? The mission changed. The 354th Civil Affairs Brigade took over the VII corps Civil Affairs mission. They needed to chop (release) a company to the Kuwait Task Force, and since we are not normally aligned with them, we were picked. I think we got a good deal. We get to stay as a unit, our team doesn't go with the 2nd ACR, and the mission sounds more interesting. I for one am relieved, but we put a lot of work into preparations that didn't pan out (not for the last time, either!). Something had felt out of place ever since we got the 2nd ACR mission -- this "feels right".
In retrospect, I think we did in fact get a good break, but it was a very controversial change among the unit at the time. Some people speculated that the commander maneuvered to get us the mission change for a variety of reasons like keeping his personal command intact or trying to get a more high-profile mission. Some troops attached to field units were angry at being brought back in to a garrison situation and being deprived of a chance to participate in the ground campaign.
Sat 9 Feb
We pulled motor stables and returned tents to the supply point in the morning, then I helped conduct NBC training 1000-1200. It helps to have a science background; nobody in the unit had bothered to read the labels on the NBC decontamination kits, for example. One ingredient is sodium hydroxide - lye - an irritant but hardly enough to eat skin away as some people had rumored would happen. I know - I had my hands in a sink full of lye the night before M-day (see 5 Jan). Another ingredient is zinc oxide, obviously for relieving skin irritation, and doubtless what leaves a white film after use (that's why we don't use it on mask lenses)
In the afternoon we returned the rest of our team gear, then had PT. I played volleyball, then did a lap around the compound, about 1.7 miles. It actually felt good to run, believe it or not. Then I walked around and shot a few pictures. Our briefings and handouts made it sound like you take pictures in Saudi Arabia at the risk of your life. In fact, I took pictures of mosques and people and never had the slightest problem.
At 1930 I went to church, the first time in Arabia. 30 people have been pulled for compound guard durty, but the last name pulled was SSG Wally Coyle, just before me. I'm up for the next duty, though.
Sun 10 Feb
With 30 people out on guard duty, things are pretty quiet. Morning is spent on church call or cleanup of rooms, masks, and weapons. I have building guard 1100-1500. It's dull but not bad, and beats a lot of other things I could be doing. In the afternoon we have briefings on Kuwait and Marine Corps operations, since we may end up supporting them. Our probable packing date is Tuesday, moving out on Wednesday.
At 1630 some of us went over to the Dhahran PX, which was about like ours; most of the necessities but nothing more. For example, no PX anywhere ever carried slide film. Then we went to the Pentagon chow hall, which was pretty good (but had lousy pizza). Our own mess halls are located in the underground garages at Khobar. We eat on picnic tables. They are run by an outfit called Tamimi Global catering, and have cold, greasy food, poor variety, and poor service. I once came in late from detail and got to the mess hall 5 minutes after closing time; I was lucky to get a slice of bread; everything else was packed away.
SSG Jeff Poh, who builds log cabins in civilian life, has been building things here. He turned the kitchen of the headquarters suite into a workshop, and is the happiest man in Saudi Arabia, though he says he wishes he had logs instead of 2x4's to work with. He put a sign on his workshop: "Home of Jackpine, the Combat Carpenter".
Mon 11 Feb
We moved office gear and supplies until 1430, and loaded trucks in preparation for moving out. The rest of the afternoon I spent reading Arabic, as well as taking a short nap. We had a Scud launch alert at 2000, followed by the all-clear at 2017. A second alert came at 2200.
The poor guys on guard duty are on 4 hours and off 4, but with the time it takes to get to and from their posts it works out to 5-3 or worse. They got stuck with a second day because the compound housing directorate heard we're moving and want to get their share of work out of us. Some of them are exhausted.
Not so the advance party, who went to Bahrain today for a little R and R. Fair enough; they were stuck here for Christmas.
Tue 12 Feb
I went up to Jubail with the advance party. On the way we passed camels and a sabkha (that means something to a geologist, since Persian Gulf sabkhas, or salt flats, are thought to be present-day analogues of the environments many ancient rocks formed in. One of the Arabic briefers at Fort Bragg was astonished that I knew what a sabkha was!) The desert looks like some of the worst-trashed parts of the Mojave Desert; eco-activism has not caught on here.
We got to Jubail at 1200, waited an hour and a half to draw buildings, then cleaned buildings and unloaded trucks until 1800. We found the fuel point a few miles away, fueled up, and returned to Khobar about 2030.
Wed 13 Feb
I was up at 0600, and starting to pack when MAJ Bob Dickson came by and asked me to help draw strip maps of the route. I tossed my stuff into the bags and went with him. We reconned the first tricky few miles out of Khobar, then went to Dhahran AFB to run off copies and eat breakfast at the mess hall (real bacon!).
We loaded up by 0900, packing 40 of us, our LBE, weapons, mask, chemical garment, and some personal stuff in the bus, and our rucksacks on the roof. Cozy. Then a complication arose. The driver spoke no English. Since I knew at least six words of Arabic, I was "interpreter".
The strip map for the exit at Jubail, which we got from another unit, was confusing. There were two possible exits that fit the description of the turnoff, and we got off on the wrong one. Thank God I had travelled the route yesterday and knew how to get to the camp.
After we arrived about noon, it was unload, and sometimes re-load, trucks until 1700. Space is limited, so some stuff we had taken off trucks yesterday, like camouflage nets, had to go back on today for storage.
People seem to like the place. It is less crowded, the grounds are more open, the facilities are nice, and the mess hall incomparably better than Khobar's. On the down side, the rooms are a lot smaller. I room with SSG Max (Mad Max) Mitchell, PFC Wilbur Leslie, and SGT John Momich, a good group of roommates. The buildings are prefab aluminum dorms for foreign oil workers, and the place looks a lot like a Sun Belt trailer park. It's also an R and R spot for troops from the 3rd ACR. I can imagine what things in forward areas must be like if they come here for R and R!
Thu 14 Feb
Valentine's Day. Spen morning on light truck duty and weapons cleaning (mostly sit, talk, and clean very slowly). In the afternoon there were a variety of tasks. I got to spend two solid hours on Arabic. Then at 1600 I went for a 2-mile run since my brain was overloaded. After the run I got in some volleyball, then more Arabic after supper.
A lot of people have mentioned that we are lucky to have this camp; all the facilities are convenient.
In one of their goodie boxes, my Mom sent me a dinosaur puzzle. Today was the first chance I had to work on it; got it in about 5-10 minutes.
Fri 15 Feb
The 352nd CA Command, our higher headquarters, moved in last night. We spent the morning dismantling beds and helping them clear their headquarters building. I worked a bit on Arabic over lunch. People are getting paranoid; several people saw my Arabic notes and asked (say it isn't so!) if we were having language class!
After lunch we had classes on switchboard procedures for CQ, Scud and NBC procedures, and rules of engagement. At 1500 we had a meeting of the DC planning cell. Besides me, 432nd people included MAJ Carl Fisher, CPT Sylvester Jones, 1LT Mike Wanta and SPC Tom Winchell. Participants from the 352nd, 431st CA co and 96th CA Batallion included MAJ Pruett, MAJ Brophy, CPT Zoeller, MAJ Ulmer, LTC Heimson and the chair, LTC Naugher. The first meeting was to lay out issues for planning. As it turned out, it was the only meeting, at least for me. The situation was so fluid that no plan lasted very long. A German strategist once said "No plan survives first contact with the enemy". In this theater, the saying needed to be changed to "No plan survives UNTIL first contact with the enemy". After the meeting broke up at 1630 I played volleyball and walked a lap around the compound.
After supper I talked to the 431st First Sergeant about Arabic resources. He suggested I talk to several people. I made contact with CPT Jim Pitts, who was very helpful. He gave me some good references and, as it turns out, has an interest in geology. We became pretty good friends eventually. I love it when a plan comes together!
We are at 27 degrees north, far enough south to see Canopus. I saw it first when returning the aother night with the advance party, and again tonight. It clears the horizon by about 5-10 degrees, but can only be seen if the sky is quite clear. I haven't seen it since my Antarctica trip in 1975.
Sat 16 Feb
Yesterday we were told a Scud attack on Jubail was unlikely. We got one this morning at 0200, followed by a loud bang a few minutes later. Some masked, some didn't. The all-clear came a few minutes later. We got conflicting reports all day; the bang was the Patriot launch, or the Patriot missed and the Scud hit the Gulf. Later on we heard that there was no Patriot launch; the Scud broke up on re-entry and the boom was the sonic boom from the re-entering warhead. The launch sequence of Patriots is amazingly complex. The Scud launch is detected by a satellite, the message relayed to a station in Australia, which in turn relays the data to Saudi Arabia! Another interesting tidbit: a Patriot breaks the sound barrier before it leaves the launcher. (On second thought, so does an M16 bullet.)
During the morning, we got briefed on the Kuwait mission; very sensitive stuff about where we were to deploy and who would cover what phase of the attack. I was scheduled for language training, but the briefing extended over my time slot. The plan for the rest of the day was to have officers versus NCO's in a race to put up GP medium tents. It turned out the NCO tent had shrunk and no longer fit the ridge pole, so we all put up the other tent to see how it was done, then spent most of the afternoon checking out the other tents to make sure there were no more unpleasant surprises.
At 1530 we broke for PT. I did two laps of the compound (2.2 miles), then tried to call Shawn, only to find she was at church (it was 8 A.M. in Green Bay). I tried again an hour and a half later, but she was still out.
Sun 17 Feb
I got through to Shawn about 0630 (2130 her time). Everything is fine at home. At 0930 we got anthrax shots. These caused a lot of controversy in the unit because of rumors that the shots were still experimental and would not be noted in our shot records. LTC Ohmart finally got across that the shots themselves were well-established, but full immunization required a series of shots, and the effects of a single shot were not fully certain. Since pulmonary anthrax, the likely effect of using anthrax in biological warfare, is about 95% fatal, most people decided a single shot was a lot better than nothing, and the shots were in fact entered in our shot records. The shots were extremely painful for a few minutes, but massaging the shot area fixed the problem surprisingly well.
After shots, We had a Kuwait briefing by the 404th CA Co., then I went to Mass at 1130. After lunch, the 404th held a language class. Their trainer is a SGT Delfanian, a native of Iran who speaks Arabic, Turkish, and Farsi. He was quite pleased that I was trying to learn Arabic (and knew some Turkish) and was very helpful on several occasions. Then we reconvened for some role-playing, in which we pretended to be negotiating for facilities, while Delfanian role-played an Arab and made life as difficult as possible. Afterward I got in some volleyball, then after supper drew my weapon and ammo for perimeter guard in the morning.
Mon 18 Feb
An exquisitely boring day on guard duty. We reported at 0600, and split into two shifts. I was Sergeant of the guard for the second shift. We were on from 1100-1500 and 1900-2300. In between we were off, and spent most of the time sleeping in the back of the laundry building, which was set up as guard shack. My job was to appoint people to their posts, make commo checks, answer phones, and walk the perimeter to check the guard positions.
Tue 19 Feb
I pulled my last guard shift from 0300 to 0700. Shift change was late because our replacements didn't show on time. I turned in my weapon and ammo, ate breakfast, then went to bed until noon. Some units put their guards on for three days at a time; they can't be worth much as guards by the end of that time!
After lunch I tried to do laundry during the slack hours, only to find all the water in the compound was off. Seems we have the same problem as Khobar: the Saudis don't believe in large drain pipes! Also they don't bury them deeply, and backing vehicles up to buidings is likely to break them. Even though I was technically off, I went to a class on setting up camouflage nets, ran two laps, then played volleyball. I finally got my laundry done after supper.
The big surprise of the day was a chance to visit Doug Mclaughlin (he's married to my wife's cousin, and is an SFC in the 403rd CA Co. of Syracuse, NY). MAJ Dickson met him on Sunday, and tried to tell me, but I was on guard duty. So at 1900 we went over to the Marine Expeditionary Force, then to his billets at Camp 5. The Marines, incidentally, have very thorough security. They learned the hard way in Beirut. It was nearly 2000 when we got together, and we chatted for about an hour. The Marine rumor net puts the ground attack on 23 Feb, only a day early, as it turned out.
Wed 20 Feb
We form up at 0700 in the rain. It would rain the day we have outdoor training scheduled. It rained heavily from 0630 to 0830, then slacked off. We spent the morning on MOUT training (urban warfare). It was a good class, and sobering, although a lot of us got "killed" by previously-killed controllers who kept coming back to life.
In the afternoon we had a class on ordnance disposal, which boiled down to "don't touch anything, just report it". Then weapons cleaning and PT (the usual, run and volleyball). We got some sun at noon, but it was cloudy, cool and very windy later. Also very humid.
Thu 21 Feb
We spent the morning on DC briefings. We started with an excellent briefing by a Mr. Cooney from the State Department, whom we would see again in Kuwait and yet again in Kurdistan.[Note: Cooney disappeared in Chechnya in 1995 and was probably killed. Not everyone who dies for their country dies in uniform.] He likened the damage during war to that of a severe earthquake, and noted the survival problems are the same: good chances of rescue from collapsed buildings in the first day or two, virtually no survivors after five days. He also noted that human rights problems are likely to be most acute ten days or so after liberation; after the immediate trauma has passed but while animosities are still strong, order is not yet restored, and weapons are widely available. He then reviewed the different legal categories of displaced persons, and the MP's demonstrated how to do personal searches. The afternoon consisted of long, boring classes on commo, designed mostly to fill blanks on the training schedule.
One of our junior enlisted was called on the carpet for telling too much about our mission in letters home, so I decided to call Shawn and tell her not to discuss my letters with anyone. In the actual event, I didn't need to worry; we were long in Kuwait before any of my letters from Jubail reached her! I was waiting for the phone when a Scud alert sounded. I ducked into the mess hall and waited. Long after the Scud should have been intercepted or the all-clear sounded, I decided to go out and make my call. That's one way to get a phone! I was on the phone when the all-clear siren sounded. Shawn heard it and asked what it was, and I said "nothing", which was the truth, more or less. She had gotten one of my letters from Khobar and had sent me some. She had also gotten orders extending me to a year, but Aggie Christopherson, the commander's wife, expressed the opinion that we would be home by summer (I hoped fervently!) Between the phone call and the Scud, I didn't get any PT in today. It was cloudy, windy, cool and humid all day.
Fri 22 Feb
A sonic boom about 0515 shook the building. Some suspected a Scud but I listened for, and heard, a jet engine sound immediately afterward. This was another day where an hour of training stretched out all day. In the morning LTC Ohmart briefed us on the medical situation, then we broke into platoons for common task training. CPT Haney taught the first platoon (my platoon) techniques of mine and booby trap detection, mostly the method of using a hanging string to detect tripwires. In the afternoon a class on convoy procedures. After class, we played volleyball against the 403rd CA Co. (Doug's unit), winning two out of three. These were some of the best games I've ever played in, with long, well-fought volleys. I did catch a volleyball on the bridge of my nose and got a nasty cut from my glasses. Then I ran 2-1/3 laps (about 2.5 miles).
The weather all day was downright weird. It was very chilly, and although the sun was bright it gave little warmth. The sky overall was dark gray, as if a thunderstorm were coming.
In the evening, I went to the rec hall for a video: Robo-Cop. I was curious to see how much had been cut for TV; it turned out, not much. (My kids have no difficulty reconstructing the original language!)
Sat 23 Feb
Uncle Saddam sent us a wakeup at 0515, a Scud Launch. We got the all clear a few minutes later. The weather is the same weird sky as yesterday, and there is some speculation it may be due to smoke from burning oil wells in Kuwait (In fact, this is the case. We later see satellite photos taken during this time showing thick smoke plumes extending down the coast from Kuwait) It's quite chilly, about 50 degrees at 0930, and we can faintly see our own breath, a dramatic illustration of the "nuclear winter" effect. The sky is slightly blue overhead but dark gray toward the horizon. It's sunny, but the sun is dim.
In the morning we heard a briefing by Red Cross worker Sandra Williams. She was an employee of Kuwait Airlines when Iraq invaded, and finally left a month later. This was one of the few briefings we have had that anyone considered worthwhile. We were impressed with her courage in turning herself in to the Iraquis rather than continue to endanger her hosts, and for returning as a Red Cross volunteer. Besides, she was quite attractive, and there's nothing like a cute stewardess to get the troops fired up! Afterward we split up for team meetings, mostly dedicated to griping about the lack of intel, without which planning was futile.
In the afternoon we had a class by the Marines on mines, again a useful and interesting class. Afterward I gote in some volleyball for PT, then reported for staff duty NCO at 1700. CPT Gerald Watson is duty officer.
Sun 24 Feb
I slept from 0000-0300, then gave Watson a turn. About 0700 we got the news that the ground war was on. After we were relieved, Watson and I helped the 352d decipher the dashboard of their new German Army truck. I got a couple of hours sleep, then went to Mass at 1130.
It rained a bit overnight. The sky is cloudy but not dark as it was the previous two days. It rained sporadically throughout the day.
In the afternoon, MAJ Bob Johanson gave us an update briefing on Kuwait, then I took a nap to finish catching up on my missing sleep. The video tonight is "Running Man", some good, mindless escapism.
Mon 25 Feb
Another slack day. In the morning we had a class on conduct of defensive operations; how to prepare foxholes and guard perimeters. In the afternoon we had a dry run to see how well the vehicles could carry their assigned personnel and gear, and began packing to move up to Kuwait. For PT, Wally Coyle, Jim Koehler and I played soccer against Dave Torbenson, Dale Raby and Lahela Corrigan. We got clobbered 9-1. I heard 1SG Gerlach looking for volunteers to go to King Khalid Military City (KKMC) to pick up some more vehicles, so I volunteered. It will be a good chance to get out of the compound and see a little of Saudi Arabia. I went to bed at 1930 since we have an 0400 wakeup.
Today I answered 3 "any soldier" letters, one from a school in DePere, one from a woman in Castro Valley, California (ten miles from my parents' home!) and one from New Hampshire.
Tue 26 Feb
Up at 0430, loaded by 0500. No breakfast, because of our early departure time. Then we waited for an hour for the 431st and 352nd, who are late; they did have breakfast.
It took until 1430 to get to KKMC. We had MRE's for breakfast and lunch on the bus. The other bus got a broken fan belt, so we had to stop to fix it. We stopped just outside a town called Al-Qaysumah that seemed to subsist entirely on auto salvage. Since the route we took was the infamous Tapline Road, they had lots of business. There was an overturned bulldozer, evidently fallen off an equipment transporter, on the edge of town. The buses had scarcely stopped when a tow truck came by to see if he could drum up a little more business. While we were waiting, I was looking off at the town when CPT Haney remarked that it looked almost Biblical. I replied that I didn't recall any mention of auto junkyards in the Bible!
We arrived at KKMC and waited until 1700 in a driving rain with wind gusts of 40 MPH that shook the bus. The radio was giving bulletins about the rapid ground advance into Kuwait. We grumbled that we were going to spend the liberation of Kuwait in a parking lot at KKMC. Actually, the snafu at KKMC wasn't really anyone's fault; the sergeant we were supposed to see about the paperwork had been sent off on an errand by his CO, and the vehicles at KKMC were in such bad shape that it would have been asking for real trouble to try to return that day. There really was no choice but to spend the night. We went to chow and slept in a dorm building. We had thunderstorms that evening.
Wed 27 Feb
Up at 0600, without shave or shower since none of us had really expected to stay the night and had brought no equipment. Then we ate in the mess hall, which was beautiful. KKMC is nicknamed the Emerald City for its green-roofed mosque in the headquarters area. We got a glimpse of it on the way out; it's beautiful. One of Jack Anderson's columns referred to the Emerald City as top secret; even the name and location are classified. That was a real laugh, since everyone in Saudi knew where the place was and a large fraction had been there. We went back to the motor pool by 0800, spent until 1100 milling around and checking out vehicles, then left for the trip back.
Between KKMC and Hafr-al-Batin, about 50 kilometers, I saw three recently-wrecked fuel tankers. At Hafr-al-Batin we picked up Tapline Road and headed southeast. For the next 2-3 hours, the landscape is the flattest and most barren imaginable; there is absolutely nothing to the horizon taller than stubby grass, which was surprisingly green because it had been an unusually rainy winter. This is the only landscape I have ever seen without the slightest trace of water erosion; whatever water erodes during storms is erased or filled in by the wind during dry times. You could not drive more than a mile or so cross-country in any desert in North America without running into a gully, and the bushes would make cross-country driving a chore. Here you could drive for miles in any direction. I had heard of Kuwaiti refugees striking off cross-country in their cars; now I know how they could do it.
The overturned bulldozer at Al-Qaysumah was still there. There are innumerable wrecks along Tapline Road, many mangled beyond recognition. The most interesting part of convoying was meeting oncoming convoys of HET's (heavy equipment transporters) with Abrams tanks. They take up the entire opposite lane right to the center line, and roll along at 60 MPH. They are definitely the top of the food chain on Tapline Road!
CPT Haney and CPT Pitts have distinctly different ideas on how to run a convoy, and it wasn't very long before we caught up with Pitts' serial, even though he had half an hour's head start. Fortunately, they soon turned off to pick up more vehicles at one of the other logistics bases and we passed them. We did up to 75 on the open road, less in congested areas. At one point, two vehicles weaved in and out of our convoy and passed us; a few miles farther on we caught up with them. The lead vehicle had rear-ended a slower truck, and the second one rear-ended the first. Fortunately, the damage was minor and nobody was hurt. About halfway between KKMC and Jubail the landscape is one of buttes and mesas, and I caught a rock in my windshield there. My truck had no lights, so as it was getting dark, approaching Jubail, I resorted to using my hazard flashers so the Saudi drivers would see me. We finally got in about 1830. We had heavy rain and thunderstorms all night.
Thu 28 Feb
I wrote up my Tapline Road adventure last night, and also narrated a tape and sent it home. Good thing, too. At 0430 Top came around and woke us up. We move out to Kuwait today. We spent the morning packing and loading, and were ready to go by 1300. In addition to my duties as driver, I also met with our Kuwaiti interpreters, who only arrived from the States in the wee hours of the morning. At 1300 we formed up and the convoy officer told us to move out. Assuming we were going to form up on the road outside the compound, I followed the vehicle ahead, only to see it disappear into the traffic. 1LT Rich Kuhr, my co-driver, and I conferred briefly and decided the safest thing to do was return to the compound and find out where we were supposed to go. Eventually most of the other vehicles did the same thing. At 1400 we finally moved out to the marshalling area, in a proper convoy, and with all the drivers knowing where they were supposed to go. The marshalling point, it turned out, was the fuel point. The 431st and 352d came over to the marshalling yard and then spent over an hour fueling up. We finally left at 1600.
The order of march had the 352nd, the 431st, and us in a convoy of 109 vehicles. We headed west out of Jubail, took the first exit north, went about 5 miles into the hills, and stopped. Seems the convoy commander took a wrong turn and took us down a dead-end road. It took half an hour to turn the convoy around and get back on the road.
While all this was going on, SPC Kuyper and SPC Mike Rabideau took off on an adventure of their own. They discovered a radiator leak in their vehicle (one of innumerable mechanical problems to crop up in the vehicles we drew from KKMC), and after it was determined that the leak was unrepairable, went back to camp to draw a new vehicle. They went to the fuel point to fill up and then tried to catch up with the convoy. No problem, since there was only one main route to Kuwait -- unless the convoy is off somewhere up a dead-end road. While the convoy was turning around, they passed us. After a couple of hours, they decided they had somehow missed the convoy so they did the only thing they could do: went on to Kuwait alone. They happened by chance to spot a vehicle with a USACAPOC bumper marking, flagged it down, and ended up getting to the Kuwait encampment six hours before the main body!
Meanwhile the 352nd was setting a slow rate of march, 35 to 40 MPH. Every vehicle problem, and there were many, required a halt, and it took 15 minutes to get the convoy rolling again, since the convoy stretched 3 miles. The vehicles from KKMC had been turned in for new Humvees, and had been very poorly maintained, and there was no time to give them thorough maintenance before we left. My vehicle had a functioning electrical system at 1600. As it got dark, I discovered that I had no lights or wipers. I hoped it wouldn't rain, but it did. We rolled into Khafji. I recognized the arch over the road from new stories of the battle here in January. Shortly thereafter, the truck died entirely, its electrical system out.
Lt. Kuhr, two interpreters who had been riding with us, and I found spots on other vehicles, and the motor section took my truck in tow. By this time I was exhausted from driving four or five hours in the dark with no lights, the last hour trying to peer through a rain-spattered windshield.
Fri 1 Mar
We crossed the Kuwait border about midnight. The ride was very bumpy and rough because of mine clearing and debris. It was hard to see much from the back of the truck, but one driver said over the radio that he saw a body, and there was a lot of radio chatter about war damage. Civilian trucks came by trailing Kuwait flags in the wind. Near Kuwait City we began to see burning oil wells. The sky was lit up with an orange glow, silhouetting the power transmission towers.
We pulled into our compound about 0330. I rolled my sleeping bag out on the ground and went to sleep. I woke up at 0745 with the sun shining in my face; it brought back pleasant memories of field trips out West. We were allowed to wake up on our own; between dozing in the truck and the sleep I got on the ground I felt pretty good. It was a beautiful sunny day. We spent the morning working with maps and getting oriented, then got our vehicles ready to go out with our teams. We had no idea what to expect, and discussions included arranging for MP escorts, finding alternate routes in case our primary route was impassible, and carrying food and sleeping gear in case we could not get back to base. In fact, none of that proved necessary.
Our base is in the industrial suburb of Subhan, in a warehouse compound once owned by the Kuwait Ministry of Education, then later used as a base by the Iraqis. The Iraqis left bunkers, ammunition, and grenades all over. From the south wall of the compound we can see dozens of oil well fires.
The afternoon was exhilarating and personally rewarding, but unproductive from a work standpoint. The sector teams went out to Bayan, supposedly to make contact with people who were to lead us to the food distribution centers. We waited two hours, but our contacts were no-shows. Everyone is flying Kuwait flags, honking and waving to every Allied vehicle they see. While we were waiting, people came out to greet us. One lady had a flag and a picture of the Emir. She grabbed a soldier and had her picture taken with him. A car with two teenage girls in back came by; one of the girls leaned out and hugged one of our women soldiers. After we were done for the day, one of our interpreters said of his conversations with the locals: "If it was a horror movie, I wouldn't believe it".
When we finally decided that the contacts were not going to show up, my team (me, CPT Yancy, 1LT Kuhr, and SPC Demerath, plus our interpreter, Salem) drove down to Fintas on our own to check out the food site there. Our responsibility was called Sector E, the coast about 10 miles south of Kuwait. To our north was sector C, and to the south sector G, both covered by other 432d teams. For the first few days, like most of the unit, we were apprehensive about entering uncleared buildings. Technically, it was EOD's job to clear buildings, but it would take forever to clear everything in Kuwait, and it soon became clear that there were few booby traps.
That night, I went to the south wall of the camp to photograph the oil fires. I counted 45 burning oil wells.
Sat 2 Mar
I got my first mail from Shawn today. She had delayed writing because of conflicting word about our address. We spent most of the morning waiting for team assignments, then went out to Sabahiya to check the food co-op out. Most places bearing the name Sabah, the royal family name, were renamed during the occupation. Just like yesterday, everyone was delighted to see us. One Kuwaiti said, after looking at the damage done by the Iraqis: "Thieves? Thieves are nothing - savages - worse than savages. God bless you guys". Our belief that we were the first U.S. forces to get here was demolished when we came out of one building to meet another one of our teams, plus some Special Forces troops.
The Special Forces people were interesting. The NCO I talked to had been involved in training Kuwaiti soldiers; the Kuwait volunteers got three weeks' basic training. He remarked that he had seen nothing of the elaborate defenses the Iraqis were rumored to have. All the positions were hasty constructions, even near the border.
We were about to leave when our companion truck broke down. Help didn't arrive until 1500, then we went back to Fintas, which we visited yesterday, to get facts and figures. I was radio man today, so I stayed with the vehicle.
Omar, ou interpreter for today, saw some of the war damage and said "Look how they destroyed my country". Actually, the damage south of Kuwait City is fairly light, mostly a lot of litter and junked vehicles. The Special Forces said damage in Kuwait City was heavy, but I think Kuwait will recover quickly. (Physically, that was probably true, but the principal problem would be the Kuwaitis themselves, who were often unwilling or unable to do the manual work necessary for recovery.)
On the way back we came in from the south and got a panorama of the burning oil wells from Seventh Ring Road. We can't see all the wells from our camp. 1LT Kuhr said he counted over 80 fires. It is an indescribable sight because nobody has ever seen anything like this before, literally. There has never been a time when this many oil wells were on fire at once; the previous record, I read later, was three. The image that kept coming to my mind was of an open plain dotted with trees, except the trees were on fire.
Sun 3 Mar
We went back to Fintas to discuss relief efforts over a lengthy tea in the co-op director's office. Two Kuwaitis told of being held by the Iraqis. One was just taken off the street for no known reason and thrown in a cell with 10-12 others. They were told they would be shot the next day but the Iraqis ran away and they escaped.
The other was a black chemist for one of the refineries. He and his family were held in their living room while the house was searched. An Iraqi on the roof discharged his weapon and shot himself in the foot, but the Iraqis accused the Kuwaiti of having collaborators who were sniping at their soldiers. They took him to the police station and put a gun to his head. Finally one of the Iraqi soldiers managed to explain that the shooting had been accidental.
The black chemist was a devout Moslem. He told the Iraqis, when they threatened to kill him: "Let me pray first". He told us of Iraqis attempting to get Kuwaitis to renounce Allah, and of raiding mosques during Friday prayers to round up prisoners.
Then we went to Ar-Riqqa to check the market, which was in good shape, but empty, as were all the food stores in Kuwait. The clinic was in good condition, but short on supplies, and the Iraqis had stolen the ambulance. The school, which was used as a barracks and headquarters, was trashed and filthy, as were most of the schools in Kuwait. We ran into more Special Forces people, who were curious about why we were there.
There was a rough scene at the police station. A large patch of blood and a lump of tissue were on the ground outside the front door. Some of the 432nd people who went in said they heard sounds of fighting and cries inside (they reported the incident when we returned to camp). Iraqi prisoners are being held here and the Kuwaitis are probably being pretty rough on them. There are lots of Iraqis still around in civvies. Most of them are trying to hide or escape, but one of them killed two Kuwaiti soldiers the other day. One report claimed that over 1500 had been caught so far.
We had a little free time so we went into Kuwait city. It's an attractive city and not as badly damaged as I feared, though one royal palace had been demolished and quite a few buildings burned. Gulf Road was all but impassable because of a non-stop victory parade up and down the street. People in the mood to celebrate just came out to Gulf Road and paraded up and down. It was exciting. While there, we monitored the radio chatter. CPT Bill Bartleme's team was pinned down by gunfire as local security people chased down an Iraqi. It sounded like a major firefight on the air, but though bullets were flying in the area, they themselves were not targets.
I was both driver and radio man today, since we had a pickup truck. We didn't have an interpreter, but our contacts all spoke English, some perfectly.
Mon 4 Mar
T-rations for breakfast, our first hot meal since leaving Jubail (11 consecutive MRE's, and 13 out of the last 15 for me). It was a busy and somewhat productive day. We led a convoy of trucks from the fairgrounds to Ash-Shuwaikh with MP escorts. We had been frustrated for days over the inaction of the food relief efforts. The holdup was a debate over who would hand out the food, where, and how. The government wanted the food presented as a gift from the Emir, and was reluctant at first even to use the local food co-ops. The Kuwaiti Resistance already had their own plans for relief, but the government was reluctant to let them assume too large a role. Meanwhile, food trucks sat in our compound. Once we were rolling, we saw two Kuwaitis investigating a body by the roadside. After dropping the convoy off, we went back to lead a second convoy. The convoy was held up when a shot rang out and the MP's sent someone off to investigate; they found nothing. Stray shots were common in Kuwait, mostly what we came to call "happy fire": celebration.
Driving in the Arab world follows the "rule of eye contact". If you make eye contact with another driver, he assumes you see him and are prepared to react to his moves. In Kuwait many intersections were blocked by a median down the more important street. To make a left turn, a driver drove to the middle of the block and made a U-turn through a gap in the median, then drove back to complete his turn. It was less dangerous than allowing left turns across traffic.
After leading the second convoy to Ash-Shuwaikh, we went off to CPT Bartleme's area, leading a maintenance truck. I nicknamed him Bad Luck Bartleme today; yesterday he got shot at, today a truck trailer tipped. When we got there, the trailer was tilted about 30 degrees. One of the front jack pads had simply punched through the pavement, leaving a neat hole, and sunk two feet into the sand. I wouldn't have believed it was physically possible if I hadn't seen it.
From there we went to Sabahiya to allow Salem, our interpreter, to visit his family. While the rest of us were waiting, the family across the street invited us in for tea. It was very dark outside because of the smoke, and the house was dimly lit by kerosene lamp. The woman's brother was a high-ranking officer in the Kuwait Army. He had been taken off to Iraq, and she had no idea where he was. She began to cry as she told us.
Tue 5 Mar
We went off with the G sector team to check out fire stations in Manqaf and Fahaheel. Then we checked out schools in Sabahiya. For the most part, I manned the radio today. Salem, our interpreter, visited his family and they had us in for a traditional Arab meal of rice, lamb, and warm pita bread. We came to nickname these meals "goat grabs". We all sat on the floor. They provided us with bowls and spoons, but they ate traditional style, by hand. It was delicious, and a very moving gesture from people who have been under great hardship for the past seven months. Many Kuwaitis had managed to hoard enough food for some time yet, but for others the food situation was getting serious.
A southeast wind blew smoke over the camp. When we came back at 1730 it was bright and sunny a few miles away but literally night at the camp. It had rained off and on all day, sometimes heavily. The runoff from the roof is jet black. The roof of our billet leaks through a shrapnel hole (I later found the piece that made the hole) and someone set out a bucket to catch the drips. The water is literally black as ink.
The shower point is now up in the compound. I had my first shower in a week. The shower tent is so foggy you can't see across it. Our billet is a warehouse formerly owned by the Kuwait Ministry of Education. The place is full of steel storage cages measuring about 6 feet on a side, stacked two high. They are normally used for storing books, but people have turned the empty ones into individual living spaces. We use boxes of books to build walls, stairs, and so on.
The camp is called Camp Freedom. The required uniform in camp is helmet, mask, weapon, and web gear. For a while we even had to take our mask and helmet to the shower, although ARCENT rescinded that rule. Combat units camped nearby wear only BDU's and soft cap in their compounds. A full colonel, whom we nicknamed COL Chinstrap, goes around reprimanding people who did not have the chinstraps fastened on their helmets.
Wed 6 Mar
We got up at 0600 to leave at 0700 to call home. We were looking for a prominent radio tower, but it was so smoky and hazy it took us an hour and a half to find it. The telecommunications center in Mishref was crowded with people trying to call. A trailer with about 20 phones for Allied and U.S. forces was crowded but the line (mob) moved quickly. I woke Shawn at about 0300 her time; she was thrilled. The Kuwaitis often wait six hours to make a call. We got back to camp by 1030, by which time the wind had shifted and cleared the smoke away.
Despite the thickness of the smoke from burning oil wells, the smoke pall was not very dramatic when seen from outside. It was usually dull gray and looked like thick haze. Often, on hazy days, it could not be seen at all.
In the afternoon, some of us went out on a truck loading detail, but stopped first along the beach to see Iraqi positions. While checking out an abandoned tank, I spotted a red cloth on the ground and picked it up, thinking it was a Kuwaiti flag. It wasn't - it was Iraqi! SSG Bob Anderson had just stepped over it; he was furious! To the end of deployment, he kept referring to it as "his" flag. The actual detail turned out to be minor. Later that evening we unloaded two truckloads of medical supplies just as it began to rain.
My war souvenir brings up the issue of souvenir hunting. Initially we were told that the slightest souvenir collecting was good for a term in Leavenworth. The actual regulations turned out to be quite reasonable, and just what any soldier could have figured out from common sense: no weapons, explosives, or looted private property. However, as the word came down the chain of command, each level of command embellished the story a little for effect.
Thu 7 Mar
The slight damage in Kuwait has left many teams with little in the way of a mission. CPT Wayne Huempfner went out and found one. The handicapped hospital in Sulaibikhat is low on the priority list of places to repair, so he got permission to seek volunteers to help out. Since my team had a light day, I volunteered to go out. The job mostly entailed mopping floors in some vacant rooms plus four wards of severely retarded children. The place is grubby from lack of maintenance but otherwise not in too bad shape.
At supper, Wally Coyle, Bill Seija and I had a German rap session. There was no mail for me today after three consecutive days of letters. Can't win them all. The weather today was sunny and quite nice.
Fri 8 Mar
I went to the hospital again, and spent most of the morning guarding vehicles. In the afternoon I helped mop up and unloaded a flatbed full of relief supplies. The stockroom manager had absolutely no concept of how to stack things, and ended up with teetering piles stacked nearly to the ceiling. I only hoped we would get out before a pile fell on someone. I was scheduled to get on a chopper flight today, but it was cancelled.
Sat 9 Mar
The wind shifted overnight to the south, and blew smoke over the camp. At 0830 it was still night. Later the Sun became dimly visible as a red ball. Our team signed up for a visit to the "choke point" today. We were supposed to leave at 0900 but there was some concern the tour would not go at all because of the poor visibility. However, we left on schedule. A few miles west of camp it was bright and sunny, and we went from night to day in about a mile. Some of the smaller fires are dying out; one well had only a small flame and oil was flowing on the ground.
The choke point is a few miles west of Al Jahra, west of Kuwait City. There the main road (the only road) to Iraq runs up through a line of bluffs, which are about the only significant relief in Kuwait. The bluffs are not very rugged, and only a couple of hundred feet high, but it is just rugged enough at the top of the bluffs to block wheeled vehicle traffic. On the north side of the road the bluffs come right to the road; on the south side a pipeline trench channelized movement. Tanks would probably have no problem, but wheeled vehicles couldn't make it. Our tanks and planes caught the retreating Iraqis here and smashed them. Once the road was blocked at the top, there was no place to go. We found a miles-long wilderness of burned and abandoned vehicles.
Against regulations, and on a strict promise of secrecy, the driver stopped the bus for 15 minutes. Stopping was discouraged because of plentiful unexploded ordnance. I found an old-style pineapple grenade and a Russian version of the LAW with Cyrillic characters on it. More sobering was a spot about 50 yards of the road where a shell had killed 5 or 6 Iraqis, who were still there. The shell crater was about 10 feet across by 2 deep.
That afternoon our team went to Sabahiya. Food is getting through, and they had rice, powdered milk for infants, oil and bottled water. They had jury-rigged a generator to power the store and police station.
The wind shifted to the west and cleared the smoke away from us for much of the afternoon. In the evening I cleared out some boxes and pallets to make a nicer living area. I was out with my team the first day and did not get a cubicle, so I used boxes to build a wall for a little privacy.
Sun 10 Mar
A busy day. First we went to Sabah-al-Salem. They are getting food, but not enough for everyone, and they cannot easily transport it from the "central" depot at Ash-Shuwaikh, which is actually on the west side of Kuwait and well removed from most of the places that get food. This would be a recurring complaint all day.
Then we visited Egeila. Despite a large U.S. supply unit in town, the Kuwaiti captain told us the town was still not entirely secure. There are a lot of vacant blocks, where Iraqis may still be hiding. In a trash heap nearby were the remains of a still-unburied Iraqi, badly decomposed. A piece of his skull was lying nearby. We went with the captain to check out several Iraqi headquarters buildings; I bet we helped clear them for him. Then we visited an antiaircraft battery on the edge of town. There was a lot of ammo lying about, plus, at one bunker, a large pile of women's clothing. I had seen this before and we would see it again repeatedly; strong evidence for rape.
From an Iraqi headquarters we got a situation board to be translated, but it turned out to contain nothing significant. Egeila was not a nice place, while checking buildings I chambered a round for the first time. Yet the houses are some of the most attractive I've seen.
From Egeila we went on to Fintas. The food situation there was the same as at Sabah as Salem: not enough for everyone and insufficient transport.
Then we went south to Abu Hulaifa. The first odd thing we noticed was the most intricate barricade system we'd yet seen, plus a long line of vehicles waiting to be searched, plus a soldier in a foxhole on guard. From the high-rises I surmised (correctly, it turned out) that this was a Palestinian area. Kuwaitis don't like high-rises; they prefer their own homes of one or two stories. The high-rises are occupied mostly by foreigners. We went down the coast road looking for a housing area that turned out to be nonexistent, or at least misplotted on our map. The tanker terminal here had been fiercely ablaze when we came through on March 5, but the fire was dying out. Evidently the oil in the pipeline had largely burned off.
At another barricade, a Special Forces Humvee stopped us. The 352d was supposed to have warned us to stay out of this area, since Palestinians have been sniping at Americans. Okay, we're out of here. They said somebody had been promising the Palestinians relief supplies. If so, that was big-time stupid, since the US has no control over relief supplies and the Kuwait government line is relief supplies for Kuwaitis only. The SF said they were told the promises were made by someone with a USACAPOC patch. I doubt anyone in USACAPOC would be that rash. There are several unit patches that could be confused with ours, or possibly someone interpreted a statement as a promise when it wasn't meant that way.
We dropped Salem off at his home in Sabahiya, then returned to Camp Freedom.
A lot of Arabs seem genuinely surprised by black Americans. Several have asked CPT Yancy if he's Arab!
Mon 11 Mar
A good day. We started off with a gag. Because of the smoke, plus LTC Christopherson's laryngitis, everyone lined up for 0800 formation wearing blue surgical masks. When MAJ Bob Dickson came up to speak, he said "Good morning, Smurfs". That was too good a straight line to pass up. We all replied "Good morning, Papa Smurf".
We spent the morning checking out Kuwaiti defense installations. One vehicle maintenance complex was hit by two bombs. One had hit the side of the office, blew a large hole in the wall, and took down every ceiling tile in the place. The other hit a maintenance bay and exploded when it hit a roof girder. Shrapnel riddled the heavy, double-walled sliding doors. You could go to any shrapnel hole, look through the mating hole on the inside, and look straight back to the point of burst.
A nearby brigade headquarters had several bomb craters 20 feet across and 6 feet deep, each with a waist-high rim. Another bomb had brought down a radio tower. A Marine detachment was billeted on the base. Their captain told us the Iraqis had a food warehouse here, piled roof-high. By the time we got there, the Kuwaitis had stripped it clean and were sweeping grain off the floor, all in less than a day.
In the afternoon, I finally got my helicopter ride. Our route took us northeast to the coast, around the shore to the Choke Point, then back south through the burning Maqwa oil field. A spectacular trip.
The PX van opened here today. Life is getting a tad more normal. I hand-washed some laundry. The bag I turned in for Quartermaster laundry on Friday only went in this morning. I got a shower in the evening after a half-hour wait.
Tue 12 Mar
One of the darkest days yet, like deep twilight at 1100, and chilly, too. We went to Ash-Shuwaikh and waited around for trucks to escort. When that mission fell through, we went back to Camp Freedom and got electricians to check out the generators at Fintas. We escorted them there and waited from 1230 to 1700. While we were there a truckload of frozen chicken came in, but the freezers aren't running! The Kuwaitis plan to hand it out immediately before it spoils. This was about the most unproductive day yet.
Just south of the co-op at Fintas is a big open area, where the Iraqis dug about the most useless defense position I've seen yet. It's a massive crescent-shaped trench about waist deep, and the sand here is partially cemented so it's not easy digging. Yet the position is too far from the beach to provide cover for the beach, and it faces a street instead of the beach anyway. But the street is 50 meters away and there are trees between the position and the street! I can't figure out what it's supposed to protect or what it's supposed to defend against. Busy work for the troops, maybe. SPC Dale Raby later told me of an even better position he once saw; for sandbags the Iraqis used bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer! Very considerate of them; a self-destructing fighting position!
Wed 13 Mar
Very dark today, but not as dark as yesterday. It was clear along the coast where we worked. Despite the smoke, it was fairly warm. The winds are changeable enough that it is rarely cold even under thick smoke.
First we checked out the food distribution point at Dhaher. Like all sites, it's functioning but short critical items. From the garbage piles, it looks like everyone in Kuwait got frozen chicken yesterday!
We went to the director's house for tea and war stories. He told of one friend who was arrested by the Iraqis. After several days, the family was notified that he would be released. They all turned out to greet him. When he was ten feet from them, the Iraqis killed him. I had heard the same story before, sometimes involving children in their early teens, but never from somebody with such direct knowledge.
He also told of one woman collaborator who sold booze smuggled in from Iraq with the pitch "20 dinars for me and the bottle". His comment: "She's a *****". For somebody with limited English, he had a surprisingly functional vocabulary of swear words.
Half a mile west of Dhaher is a burning oil well, the closest we can get to one in the open (we pass closer to several on Seventh Ring Road, but never stop). It gives off a steady roar, punctuated by great whooshes and hissing sounds.
In the afternoon we check out the food sites at Hadiya, Riqqa, Sabahiya and Fahaheel. The last evolved into Dodge City, Fort Apache, and the Shootout at the OK Souk. We had accompanied CPT Pressner's team there and were waiting in the parking lot when a burst of automatic weapon fire was shot off. We locked and loaded and sought cover. After a minute or so, I realized that people were not screaming and running for cover, and that whatever it was had not been serious. Later, when visiting the police station, we heard that a guard fired "to calm the crowd". It sure calmed me; a flat EKG is about as calm as you can get!
At the police station we sat around in the troop billet and had yet more tea and an almond sweet that I likened to nut-flavored Spackle. All that tea is hard on the bladder!
Thu 14 Mar
A nice warm sunny day. I got a lot of personal business done, despite a general lack of work for the team. Last night I got the first package from George French with a copy of the NASA Augustine Report and some other things. I read it in the morning, then after we got back in the afternoon I dictated a taped reply and sent it off (it finally got to them six weeks later, after the rest of the Committee had finished its report). That I could get all this done gives some idea of how little work there was to do today!
About 1000 we left with CPT Pressner's team and some mechanics to Fahaheel, to check out their generator, and hung around until 1230. One funny incident took place while we were there. Salem told some of the locals I had been studying Arabic, so they quizzed me. I felt a bit like a three-year old kid, unsure whether to feel embarrassed or complimented. I wondered whether they were going to ask me to sit up and beg, or roll over.
After this we went to Mishref to call home. I talked to Shawn and Brendan for 10 minutes. Thanks to a ten-minute limit and an organized rotation, the line moved quickly.
In the evening I went up on the water tower to photograph the oil well fires, and counted 91. Then I got in two games of cribbage. Emery Maloney and I skunked Todd Frisque and Todd Inman twice. I got a 12-peg, only the second one I've ever seen in my life (the first was over 10 years ago). We had a huge mail call. I got two cards and a letter.
Fri 15 Mar
Another sunny day. We spent the morning taking LTC Ken Bukowski and others to the food sites in Sabah as Salem, Dhaher, Fintas and Riqqa. In the afternoon I mailed assorted things home and studied Arabic for a while. About 1700 we got a vist from Congressman Les Aspin, who is from Wisconsin and also chair of the House Armed Services Committee.
We had a mild thunderstorm in the evening. Today was a major mail day; I got five pieces. Late in the evening it rained heavily.
Sat 16 Mar
Another clear day thanks to the rain last night and stiff northerly winds. We visited the food sites in Dhaher, Fintas, Hadiya and Sabahiya with some officers of the Kuwait Task Force. A plan to distribute radios at the food coops was instigated by Psychological Operations to disseminate news. The idea was to hand out radios to people who didn't have any. The plan fell through because the Kuwaitis won't distribute things unless there's enough for everyone. It goes against their cultural concepts of cooperation, and puts the distributors in an uncomfortable position. The same issue complicated food distribution in the early days; the directors at the food sites could not grasp the idea of handing out whatever was on hand and distributing more as it came in. It would take a week or more before we could finally convince Psychological Operations that the distribution scheme would not work.
In the afternoon we visited a private museum. The family that owns it is quite wealthy. They run the English language elementary school in Kuwait, which was thoroughly trashed by the Iraqis. In the basement they have a private museum of Islamic culture and folk art, which they hid from the Iraqis with a false wall. The Iraqis finally got in on February 20 and searched it for weapons. Undoubtedly, if the ground war had not begun a few days later, they would have come back and looted it. Our motor section set up a generator and finally got the lights on in the basement. A few of our people helped remove yet another false wall that concealed the gold collection, which was impressive. One of the most amusing incidents of the occupation was that the woman who owned the house had forgotten to hide the most valuable gold object in the collection. It was right out in plain sight when the Iraqis came through, but they ignored it when she told them it was brass.
Late in the day 17 senators visited the compound, but none were from Wisconsin. In the evening we had a party in the Administration building, with soda, music, and snacks.
Sun 17 Mar
Another nice day. In the morning we checked out a Kuwaiti defense installation. I found some interesting things, including insignia, a Kuwaiti flag, and an Algerian flag. One of the most interesting sights was a maintenance supply building, once filled from one end to the other with high metal storage shelves. When a bomb hit one end, all the shelves went over like dominoes. It must have been quite a sight.
I hear over the radio that another team found barrels with Russian lettering. I offered to translate but EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) took care of it themselves. The barrels turned out to have rather mundane smoke-generating materials in them.
I only remembered church call late, so caught just the last few minutes of Mass. Later on I boxed up more surplus stuff and sent it home. Most people were off today. It was a nice, relaxing day.
Ramadan began today. During Ramadan, Moslems are forbidden to eat or drink during daylight hours, though they can eat as much as they like after sunset. For many Moslems, day and night are reversed during Ramadan. They stay awake all night and sleep during the day. Thus little work gets done in the Moslem world during Ramadan. Coming just a couple of weeks after liberation, it slowed down recovery efforts in Kuwait. We were not supposed to eat or drink in public.
Mon 18 Mar
At 0800 formation we were told the Army plans to pull 240,000 troops out of the Gulf by 5 June and close the outprocessing center at Fort Bragg by 6 July. The smoke was heavy all day. The Environmental Protection Agency has air monitors out.
The team went out to distribute radios again. The radios filled the back of the vehicle, leaving room for only four people, so I stayed behind and spent the morning working on Arabic.
This is an appropriate point to summarize what I learned about Arabic. It is not as hard a language as many people make it. I rate it comparable to Russian. The writing and some of the sounds are a bit tricky, but a little bit of grammar takes you a lot farther in Arabic than in German.
The first problem is deciding on what approach to adopt. Do you select one dialect and teach that? I had Saudi and Egyptian Arabic books. Unfortunately, where they differed, it wasn't clear whether it was a dialect difference or just an alternative usage that was acceptable anywhere. It is also possible to follow the classical Arabic of the Koran, or a compromise that is close to classical but intelligible to modern Arabic speakers.
One of the biggest problems is that Westerners who know Arabic are terribly impressed that they know Arabic and want you to be just as impressed as they are. I found a reference grammar in the Fort Bragg library that made the dullest treatment of Latin look like easy reading. Fortunately, some writers know how to simplify effectively. Surprisingly, Arab writers were the most likely to insist that Arabic need not be difficult.
Too many books try to teach Arabic without teaching the alphabet, which is ridiculous. The letters vary a bit in shape depending on their position in the word, because Arabic is still basically a handwritten language and the letters are mostly joined. Most of the variations are the logical ones needed to connect the letters, the way a cursive English R looks different in "ore" and "are". There is one quite good book that teaches the Arabic alphabet, but even it does not explain all the diacritical marks in Arabic. I can decipher standard Arabic printing, but not the complex calligraphy that Arabs love so much.
Dictionaries in Arabic are a total mess. English-Arabic dictionaries are fairly straightforward, though all too often they are aimed at explaining English to an Arab rather than giving the best Arabic translation of an English word. Arabic-English dictionaries are very complex. Because of the way Arabic forms derivative words, Arabic dictionaries are not alphabetical. Instead, they are arranged in order of Arabic roots. To look up a word, you must first identify the root, look it up, then find the word under a list of derivatives. I succeeded about half the time. If there's a purely alphabetical Arabic-English dictionary, I haven't seen it, still less an effective pocket dictionary of the sort available in almost every European language.
As if that's not bad enough, the printing in these dictionaries is microscopic. To be really legible, Arabic printing needs to be larger than Roman printing because the critical features of the letters are smaller in relation to tails and flourishes. It's as if the only clue to whether a letter was b, d, p, q, h, k, or l was a tiny bump at one end of a vertical line. Finally, Arabic has a lot of ligatures, or two-letter combinations in a single sign. Any good Arabic dictionary should have a really comprehensive table of these, but they should never, ever, be used in the dictionary itself (guess what the standard practice is?)
After working on Arabic, I finished Carl Sagan's "Contact" in the afternoon. Several unit members had lunch with Wisconsin Congressman Obey, who was visiting with another group of congressmen here today. After the highbrow discussion of Arabic above, it's a distinct anti-climax to relate that I watched Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles on video in the evening. Actually it was a nice touch of home, since it brought back memories of taking the kids to see it.
Tues 19 Mar
Lots of smoke in the morning, clearing later. Our team was on standby. We escorted trucks to Ash-Shuwaikh in the morning, then nothing for the rest of the day. I wrote letters and studied Arabic. The PX lines are impossible. They just got restocked and people are going nuts. One guy ran up a $122 bill. The boredom is getting serious. We came back from Ash-Shuwaikh to find people sweeping the street.
Wed 20 Mar
Sunny and nice. We were supposed to check out schools, but got reassigned to visiting food points to get the same data we got a dozen times before. We visited Sabah-as-Salem, Dhaher, Fahaheel and Sabahiya. We came back in, gave our report, then drove Salem home. The PX line was finally short enough that I could get in.
Thur 21 Mar
A virtual repeat of yesterday except we did not visit Fahaheel. I played volleyball in the afternoon. It was the first really clear night in ages. I could spot Canopus through the glow of the oil fires. The fires lit up the cirrus clouds overhead.
Fri 22 Mar
It dawned clear but got very dark by 0900. Some of us got to the firing range to fire captured weapons. I fired 120 rounds with an AK, 100 rounds with a Soviet machine gun. I also got to fire the European FAL rifle and the Soviet SVD sniper rifle. In the afternoon we met briefly about EER's, then I played volleyball and went for a 2-mile run for PT.
The women have a (strictly unauthorized) pup they inherited from the Brits, a little black terrier type they call Lucy. Cute.
Only a week after nailing Todd Inman in cribbage with a 12-peg, I did it again tonight! Hoo-hah! How sweet it is!
Sat 23 Mar
We had sprinkles and light rain all day, and a heavy thunderstorm in the evening. We spent the morning checking Sabah-as-Salem, Dhaher, and Sabahiya food centers. The last few days I have been getting counts of the food, as exactly as can be done with piles of sacks. I can see the movie now -- Combat Stockboy, with Stallone and Schwarzenegger fighting over who gets to play me. In the afternoon I got in two laps (2 miles). Mail brought a nice letter from Shawn and more stuff from Roth's space committee. After supper I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Sun 24 Mar
Palm Sunday morning brought thick smoke and low clouds. When it's like this, it stays night until 0800 or so. If the smoke is low and thin, a bright patch appears above 45 degrees elevation. The horizon sky is very dark but enough light comes through from overhead to see. When the Sun gets 30-45 degrees high it becomes visible, often dimly.
Other times the smoke layer overhead may be opaque but the sky near the horizon will be bright. I have so far not seen true night conditions with horizon-to-horizon opaque smoke, though it does get dark as late twilight.
I wrote those lines in my diary about 0900. They lasted all of two hours. I got a box ready to ship home, went out at 1115 and found literal night. Only a faint band of light showed on the western horizon. It was literally impossible to tell if it was 11 AM or PM. The darkness lasted about half an hour. About 1430 it got almost as dark.
There was a huge naked eye sunspot group visible on the Sun today. I borrowed a rifle scope from Kuyper and saw a huge main spot with a trail of smaller spots. The Sun was so dim it was perfectly safe to look at it.
In the afternoon some of us went to the Media Center to view videotapes on Iraqi atrocities and see art works dealing with the occupation. Art critics would call much of the art naive but it was graphic and powerful nevertheless. I spent the rest of the afternoon working on Arabic. In the evening a group of us went to Mass at the cathedral in town. The priest told us the church had not been disturbed much during the occupation, unlike the Catholic church in Al-Ahmadi which was vandalized, and that some Iraqi Christian soldiers came there at times. The services are in English and Konkani, a language I didn't recognize. It turns out to be a south Indian language. There have been Christians in south India since the second century, and a lot of Indians worked in Kuwait. Even though Mass was only at 1700, the smoke made it very dark, and the church was lit by only a few candles.
Mon 25 Mar
We went to Iraq today. We left about 0930 on a nice sunny day. The road leads through the choke point, then turns north. Along the way we passed more burning oil wells in the Rawdatain Field. At least 50 fires were visible, with another 20 or so in the distance to the east. The bus took us to Safwan, the first town in Iraq. Safwan is very poor and run-down, and not from the war. Many of the buildings are mud-brick, with wooden roof poles sticking out. It looks like an Indian pueblo or a town in Latin America. The contrast between what Kuwait did with its oil wealth, and what Iraq did with its is starkly evident here.
Relations between the locals and the occupying troops seem remarkably amiable. The kids mobbed the bus for candy. Male dominance starts early here; even small boys push the girls aside. There's lots of unexploded ordnance around. EOD blew ammo about 15 times in the two hours we were there, and cleared our street three times to blow ordnance in a building across the street.
We got back about 1530. I got a beautiful letter and picture from Shawn in the evening mail.
Tues 26 Mar
We spent the day checking schools in Farwaniyah. This is a heavily Palestinian area, so the Iraqis were on their good behavior here. Only one school was slightly trashed. We took Salem down to his home in Sabahiya, then got back to camp about 1500. I got in four games of volleyball for PT. Supper tonight was steak and lots of fresh fruit - very good. Mail brought two more items from Roth's Space Committee.
Wed 27 Mar
We spent the day posting warning notices along the beach SE of the Kuwait Towers. Our contact was an amiable Hispanic SF captain who went with us because he said he needed something to do. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but a bit hot: at least 80. We got back about 1430. I did a 2-mile run and some volleyball for PT.
Thur 28 Mar
Holy Thursday. We posted warning notices on the beach from Ras Al-'Ardh south to 6th Ring Road. SPC Demerath and I posted one stretch that was loaded with mines and unexploded grenade rounds. At one point we met three Kuwaiti teenagers. I showed them a picture of a mine and pointed to a pile of the real thing on the beach, while repeating "Khatar" (Danger). They asked for my hat, and seemed annoyed when I refused to give it to them. As we left I turned back and saw them throwing rocks at the pile of mines! We stepped out at a brisk pace, all the while expecting to hear a very loud noise behind us, but it never happened.
It was quite hot today, at least 85 degrees. I didn't get a sunburn because I used sunscreen; the stuff really works! We got back about 1500, and I went to practice for the Good Friday service. Wally Coyle arranged with the bishop for some of us to sing at the cathedral on Good Friday and Easter. One of the Good Friday hymns was - I should have guessed - O Sacred Head Surrounded, my nominee for the Worst Hymn of All Time. Gag!
After "choir practice" I went outside the compound to photograph captured Iraqi weapons. One was a small winged missile that everyone assumed was a Chinese Silkworm, but it had Russian writing on it. I later found out it was a Russian cruise missile called a Styx. While photographing the weapons I met some interesting people.
I met an American woman and her Kuwaiti husband. He has ties to the royal family, she was one of a handful (I heard two dozen) Americans to stay in Kuwait throughout the occupation. They spent the entire time in hiding, using false documents, and had to move six times. To top it off, she had twins the day of the invasion! The Kuwaitis told her the twins would bring good luck, and evidently they did.
Another man came up to me and asked if the pilots got back OK. He had been in the Resistance, was caught and kept in the same prison as our POW's, and had only gotten back the day before. All but one of his family were arrested, and his brother was executed. The Iraqis told him accurately what he'd done in the Resistance, but he didn't know how they found out. He said the pilots were beaten, and he himself was beaten and electrically shocked. The Iraqis would tell him "We're going to kill you, but first we'll have some fun". Then they'd get drunk and beat and shock him. He had a broken rib from it. They also cut his back and rubbed salt in. He said he gave himself "about a ,5 per cent chance of getting out alive".
Fri 29 Mar
Good Friday. We were off in the morning. After lunch I went with Scholze and Haglund out to Doha to check out a school and the beach area. I brought back a lot of junk, not so much for myself but for other souvenir hunters. Other people picked up about half of it, the remainder was picked up by an NCO from a Military History unit who was collecting exhibit material. We got back too late to make the church service, so I missed hearing O Sacred Head Surrounded. Weep, Sob!
Sat 30 Mar
Our departure date from Kuwait is 7 April. There are rumors that we will be re-deployed to Iraq to run refugee operations but so far there is no truth to the rumors (and it never happened, though the 431st sent teams on a rotating basis). The 431st leaves today for Khobar. We spent the morning on a drive-through of Sabah-as-Salem, Dhaher, and Sabahiya. The economy may be reviving elsewhere in Kuwait, but there is little evidence of it here.
After the first few days, we have been getting the impression that something is wrong here. Just after liberation, it was not surprising to find people disoriented, dazed, or simply busy celebrating. But the damage in Kuwait, apart from the burning oil wells, is minor. All the roads are intact, the power lines are mostly up, and power is being restored. Within a few days of a major disaster in the US, people would be recovering. The boss would be out with the janitor, if necessary, to get his business back in operation. The Kuwaitis are so dependent on foreign labor they have no idea how to get going, and the Arab concept of personal pride will not allow many of them to do manual or menial work. The police told some of our people who had been helping to get their cars going: "When you go, who will change the oil for us?" At the handicapped hospital in Sulaibikhat, there were attendants who took care of the patients throughout the occupation, but the idea of cleaning never occurred to them, even when we were there helping.
The Palestinians present a particular problem. They did much of the labor in Kuwait, and in addition, Kuwait pumped millions into Palestinian organizations. Yet, when Kuwait was invaded, a lot of Palestinians collaborated openly with the Iraqis. These people have a positive genius for fouling their nest everywhere they go. That distorted Middle Eastern concept of pride causes them to reason that if they can't have their way, they will help anyone who wants to destroy whatever is around them. The persistent rumor is that Kuwait will try to deport them all.
Before doing our drive-through, we went to Mishref to use the phones. 1LT Kuhr and SPC Demerath were in line when the phones were shut down and the free connections were cut off! Later on I called Shawn collect from the airport. In the afternoon I read and dictated a second tape to the Roth Space Group (as it turned out, the first tape took six weeks to arrive, and didn't even get to the group until after they had drafted their report). After that I played volleyball. The whole week has been nice and sunny. It was 90 today, but it cools off nicely once the Sun goes down.
CPT Pressner had a T-shirt he got from the Chicago Police: "HOMICIDE - Our day begins when your day ends!"
Shawn sent me a Desert Fax and a letter the same day. I got the letter two days ago. The Fax came today - 16 days after being sent. I love high-tech instant communication!
Sun 31 Mar
Easter Sunday, still sunny and warm. The unit had off today. I spent most of the day reading or writing letters. At 1700 we went to Easter Mass at the cathedral. What a difference from a week ago. By now the lights are on in parts of the city, and it's sunny instead of pitch black. About 10 of us sang in the choir. We got to meet the bishop, who's from Malta. Kuwait is a diocese of its own; the rest of the Arabian Peninsula is the diocese of Abu Dhabi, the largest diocese in the world. Most of it is Saudi Arabia, with four priests, all very low profile, and no churches. The nuns gave each of us an Easter egg dyed with natural dyes. They pressed leaves against an egg, wrapped it in an onion skin, and dipped it in boiling water. The end result was a light brown egg with a green leaf print. I saved mine (it lasted until we tore our billets apart, then it rolled off a box onto the floor and broke. What a shame).
At 2000, some of us went to the Media center for the Gergian festival. Gergian is the midpoint of Ramadan, the Moslem holy month. It is a bit like Halloween in that the kids dress up and go from house to house begging treats, but there are no spooky overtones. Because of the curfews and general shortages, a Gergian festival was held at the Media Center instead. The kids were dressed in miniature versions of traditional costumes and were absolutely adorable. A lot of the little girls were wearing dresses with Kuwait flag designs. They put on a few skits and traditional songs, then the Crown Prince visited, and pandemonium ensued. I was surprised to find that the Arab version of a cheer is a lot like an Indian war whoop. Despite the jubilation, the security was astonishingly loose. In fact, some of our MP and civilian police people, notably CPT Wayne Scholze and SSG Bob Haglund, were there keeping an eye on things and pointed out some weak spots. For example, the festival was held in an open courtyard surrounded by covered walkways, and the guards on the roof had been looking in instead of out.
Afterward, some of us handed out candy in the auditorium. There was a kitchen with a small window, which was mobbed. To give some of the other kids a chance, I took a bag of candy and went out. Wrong idea. It was a feeding frenzy. That should be good for at least a bronze star.
SGT Don Langel, who brought along some needlepoint projects he was doing for his children, finished his first one today.
Mon 1 Apr
It was dark and smoky in the morning, clearing later on. Most of us were idle in the morning. I spent the time reading. In the afternoon Wally Coyle and I went into town to check out the damage to the museum, mostly to escape. The museum was closed, the outside vandalized, and it was hard to find because there were no signs. Then we checked out the beach area west from the Kuwait Towers. At the harbor the Iraqis had burned all the wooden fishing boats to the waterline; like most things they did, this had no military value whatever.
After supper we watched a Kuwaiti actor who put on a mime presentation about the occupation. I appreciate the effort and feeling that went into it, but I also think mime is a pretty dumb and incomprehensible art form, and this was no exception.
Tue 2 Apr
We went out to Sabah as-Salem, Dhaher, and Sabahiya to sample water trucks for contamination. There have been reports that some water trucks, which were originally gasoline tankers, had not been sufficiently cleaned and were giving out contaminated water. We also visited the water treatment plant in Dhaher. As usual, the buildings were trashed and the lab was a disaster.
At 2000 we held a steak dinner for our interpreters.
Wed 3 Apr
We spent the morning setting up for a ceremony at 1100 where the Minister of Education passed out certificates of appreciation for those involved in the clearing of schools. In the afternoon we went to Shuwaiba Port to check on a report CPT Yancy had heard of some refrigerator trucks. He planned to get them sent to Dhaher to replace their unserviceable freezer. Then we visited the 301st Area Support Group, where Yancy checked on getting the trucks sent to Dhaher and the rest of us checked out their scanty PX. Yancy heard from CPT Pressner that some shops were open on 5th Ring Road, so we checked up. We went all the way out to Doha without finding anything.
Just as we got in, Wally Coyle and several others were leaving to see the Sand Table House, a former Iraqi headquarters with a huge model of Kuwait. Wally and I got separated from the rest of the group, so we went to the Media Center. They had only a vague idea of what we were looking for, but suggested it might be in Yarmouk. After asking around a bit, we finally located it. The "house" turned out to be a small palace belonging to a member of the royal family. The sand table map was impressive, but the light was too poor for photography, so we'll come back later.
At 0800 formation this morning, we got convoy information for our departure. For the first time, I finally believe we're going home.
At 2100 we went to the co-op at Sabah-as-Salem for a farewell dinner. The food was a variety of rice and chicken dishes, all very good. Arab custom has the meal at the end of a social gathering, so dinner was not served until 2300. Our hosts stood by while we ate; this is also part of the custom, though it makes Americans a bit uncomfortable. We left at 0030 (half past midnight) with me driving. Between the late hour and the big meal, my reflexes were slow. There was a car in our lane, but I didn't realize it was stopped until we were almost on it. I braked too hard and went into a bad skid. Nobody was hurt and we didn't hit anything, but it was still plenty embarrassing, especially with LTC Christopherson in the front seat with me.
Thu 4 Apr
We had no mission in the morning, so I caught up on lost sleep. In the afternoon Wally Coyle, Bill Seija, LT Tim Martinez and I visited the Sand Table house. The sand table is in the basement, in a luxurious sitting room with sunken picture windows, and is about 20 feet square. After 5 weeks in Kuwait, we can now pick out most of the features on the map, which are modeled with things like Lego blocks.
On the third floor is a room allegedly used for torture. The room boasted a weird assortment of furnishings. It seems to have been originally a laundry, and a large dryer seems to have been there originally. There was also an electrical device of unknown purpose; it looked like some sort of medical instrument and did not appear to have any obvious hookups for electrical torture. The oddest item was a box spring frame with various hand tools lying on it; a saw, plane, and other things. We had seen videotapes of this bed at the Media Center; victims were supposedly strapped to the frame and then tortured. What looked like dried blood on the videotape seemed more like rust in actual life. I don't doubt for a moment the Iraqis tortured people, and they may well have done it here, but Amnesty International would want more evidence than we saw here.
What is not in doubt was the way the Iraqis trashed every building they occupied. They did not totally loot this place, maybe because it was a main headquarters, but many of the rooms were filthy. A spectacular atrium contained a chandelier of green glass three stories tall, and the walls were lined with mirrors. To my amazement, the Iraqis left it intact.
Afterward, we went over to the shore near Rumathiya. The Iraqis had burned out the Show Biz Pizza place (with signs reading "Show Biz Pizza" in Arabic) and derailed a kiddie train nearby. Some crack Iraqi unit single-handedly took out 100% of Kuwait's rail capacity. Oil was washing ashore in small blobs, a taste of the much larger spills elsewhere.
I had duty NCO all night with CPT Pressner. I cleared up one mystery; there are several small walls on First Ring Road with wooden gates in them, all in small parks as if they are monuments of some kind. A guide to Kuwait I found said they were the old city gates, preserved when the mud brick walls were demolished in the 50's. Pressner relieved me from 2300-0300, but the headquarters area was perpetually lit and noisy, so it was hard to sleep.
Fri 5 Apr
I got to bed at 0700, only to be awakened at 0900 as people came in and started tearing down their living quarters. Why they chose today is a mystery, because we are not leaving until Sunday and it only takes, at most, two hours to get everything ready to go. Some people were even so anxious to leave they wanted to tear everything down and pack yesterday. By the time the dust settled, I wasn't sleepy any more, but now we were stuck with almost two days of absolutely nothing to do. I read and played volleyball.
One humorous item: In commemoration of our wrong turn coming up here, somebody drafted a route map back for the Commander of the 352nd. It is endowed with labels like "This is water. Do not drive here sir" and "This is south, sir. This is the way you want to go, sir." Most of us autographed it.
Sat 6 Apr
Our last full day in Kuwait. We spent the morning packing, then from 1100-1400 I went with SSG Jeff Poh, 1LT Jim O'Neill, 1LT Jeff Ponkratz, 1LT Mike Diamond and CPT Len Beekman on a farewell tour. O'Neill had a camcorder he'd borrowed from a Kuwaiti. We visited the burning oil wells, the choke point, and Iraqi positions on Doha Point. Then we visited the burned-out Sheraton Hotel.
We had to get back by 1430, because BG Mooney made a farewell speech to the unit. The rest of the day was spent waiting. At 2100 our interpreters laid on a farewell dinner for us. The food was good, the gesture was noble, the hour was lousy, considering we were getting up early for a convoy in the morning. The food showed up at 2230. Many of our people decked themselves out in local costumes, especially Jeff Poh and SGT Julie Lambrecht. Julie was very cute in a Kuwaiti outfit. I ate quickly and got to bed about 2300.
Sun 7 Apr
I was in the first serial, led by CPT Mark Haney. We got up at 0500 and left at 0630, amazingly enough, punctually. Haney's concept of a convoy rate of march, as revealed on our Tapline Road trip, is "keep up". The second serial was led by CPT Jones, and was due to leave an hour and a half after us, and they kept up a good rate of march. We occasionally picked up their radio chatter on the way down.
We crossed the Saudi border about 0730. The Kuwaiti border station is fairly simple, but the Saudi complex looks like a bureaucratic Disneyland. Fortunately, we cruised on through. The trip was uneventful until we made a fuel stop about an hour north of Khobar, when we had a snafu over where to form up. Also, the march proved too fast for some of the heavier-loaded trucks, who stopped because of overheating. Nevertheless, we pulled into Khobar at 1345, and the second serial got in at 1530. We're in the same building we had when we first got here, except we're on the 6th and 7th floors. SSG Gene Jakubenas and I have a large room all to ourselves.
Mon 8 Apr
Our advance party arranged a wash point for our vehicles. It's a private outfit in Dammam with four bays and pneumatic lifts. Third Country nationals work the day shift, but we work at night. I had the 0400-0700 shift. It's not a bad job but the vehicles are so dirty it takes forever to wash them down. The oil spots on the outside have to be scrubbed off with gasoline. I got back at 0825, helped Max carry a generator, and got to the mess hall a few minutes after it shut down. I was lucky to find anything; they had the food put away. Not that it matters much, since the food is as bad as when we were here before.
I spent the morning on a very leisurely weapon cleaning and hand laundry. At 1300 we had a formation, then started the paperwork for our physicals. I called Shawn, picked up some souvenirs, and visited the PX. Khobar has 40,000 people, and there are new areas open that weren't open in February. There are lines for everything, but they move fast enough. Shawn sent me a nice tape today, as did Christopher. I dictated a reply tape in the evening and sent it off. It was a busy day.
Tue 9 Apr
A quiet day. We did more paperwork and some initial physical exams for outprocessing, done by Doc (LTC) Ohmart. Otherwise it was a true nothing day. I visited the PX, rec center, and so on, and dictated another tape in the evening for Shawn
Wed 10 Apr
We formed up at 0630 and convoyed over to Dhahran Air Base for a dental exam. We stood in line for over an hour for a two-minute exam, then went to the PX. The two camps on the air base are called Camp Jack and Camp Jill. The PX at Camp Jack has Arab vendors outside. I picked up some prayer rugs for Christmas presents. After getting back to Khobar, it was more nothing. I visited the Arab Culture tent, which is actually an Islamic evangelism center, and picked up some of their literature. Shawn sent me two letters, and a letter came from Cindy and Bill Locke.
Khobar is a lot more laid back than in February. Nearly anything seems to go for uniform!
We had a sandstorm about 0300, rain showers much of the morning, then it was hot and muggy the rest of the day.
Some local witticisms, from a bulletin board of the 404th:
"That which does not kill you makes you stronger"
"Brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells live forever".
"In times like these it is good to remember that there have always been times like these" -- Paul Harvey.
Also some Desert Storm hit songs, from a blurb posted on the 352d bulletin board in Kuwait:
Here Come the Scuds
Ticket to Riyadh
Wish they all could be Bedouin girls
Heard it through the pipeline
Nerve gas keeps fallin' on my head
I am Iraq (I am a tyrant)
Where have all the Kuwaitis gone?
Thu 11 Apr
The rumor mill was abuzz last night, and it was confirmed at our 0800 formation. We have a warning order to go to Turkey to aid the Kurdish relief efforts. This has been a topic of black humor ever since the Kurdish rebellion started while we were still in Kuwait. In the morning we drew our desert camo (after leaving Kuwait!). I spent an hour in line to draw $200 casual pay; the line stretched around three sides of the building. Then I tried to mail a parcel, but the Post Office was shut down early so they could process the people already inside by closing time. Everything here is long lines.
We start packing. The current plan is to go to Jubail tomorrow, then fly from Jubail to Incirlik in Turkey on Sunday. After that, ---??
Despite major-league grumbling, I think a lot of people are secretly glad to get a real mission. In many ways the Kuwait mission was disappointing. These people do not sound like people who just got their ticket home pulled.
At 1300 formation, it started to rain and thunder. Just as MAJ Dickson got up to speak, it poured. He rushed through his comments and dismissed us. The rain stopped a minute later.
We had several people volunteer to join us from other units for this mission: LT Sean Messick, a Turkish linguist and very capable officer, LT Litzelman, MAJ (Chaplain) Russell Burr, and SGT John Thomas.
Fri 12 Apr
40 people went to Jubail today to load gear. The new plan is to retrieve gear that we stored in Jubail before we left for Kuwait, bring it back to Khobar, and fly out of Dhahran, but we have no departure date yet. For those of us who stayed in Khobar, it was a very dull day. I finally got some excess gear and the presents sent home.
Somebody forgot to tell the postal unit that we weren't going to Jubail after all, so the mail went there. That prompted a round of verbal horseplay along the lines of "What a whale of a tale, the mail's in Jubail".
While thinking about the omelet and ham MRE's and T-rations we ate in Kuwait, and the ones we were going to eat in Kurdistan, I was moved to poetry:
I do not like Green Eggs and Ham
I do not like them Uncle Sam
I would not eat them in a tank
Or on a camel, smelling rank
I would not eat them in a Hummer
That would be a real bummer
I would not eat them in a Bradley
They would make me vomit badly ...
It may only be a coincidence, but Doctor Suess died a few months later. Actually the omelet MRE isn't bad; the secret is not to look at it. The T-ration omelets are fairly good.
Sat 13 Apr
As a reward for a day's work, the Jubail crew got to go to the resort at Half Moon Bay. They got there too late, the day's quota had already been admitted, so they were turned back! Trying to get to Half Moon Bay would turn into a real saga of frustration, since something always seemed to go wrong.
I spent the morning on various errands, like trying to get the chapel garage for a briefing. In the afternoon some of us went with SSG Max Mitchell to pick up heaters and tents. SGT Don Langel, SGT Dan Aprill and I managed to wrestle the heaters off the truck by ourselves; no small feat since we started with a container weighing about a ton, and even after we broke it apart the separate stacks of heaters weighed several hundred pounds.
We went to the air base club for supper, as we would every chance we got. It's a vast improvement over the local mess halls. I went to Mass at 1930, then I relieved SSG Pat Monfort as duty NCO so he could go to clothing issue. In return he would try to get me a hat in a size normally worn by humans. He got back at midnight, but the only hats they had were large sizes.
Our laptop computers have a variety of solitaire games, and they have become a popular way to pass the time in the evening or during slack time, which is much of the time lately.
Sun 14 Apr
I prepared and gave a briefing (poorly attended) on Turkey. A lot of people have an unrealistic idea of conditions there; they expect to work at extreme altitudes in severe cold. In reality, the valley floors are at moderate elevations and the temperatures should be mild. Then a COL Hayuk from the 354th Civil Affairs Group, which would turn out to be our new higher command, gave a good talk on the Kurds and the situation in Iraq and Turkey.
The poor Jubail crew got shut out again! They got to Half Moon Bay only to find out that most of the facilities were shut down for the day. So LTC Ken Bukowski led a somewhat irregular trip to Bahrain for some of them at least. Bahrain has the only legal alcohol in the Gulf and is tightly off-limits without a pass.
I was taking a nap late in the afternoon when SGT Bill Seija and SSG Wally Coyle woke me up to take a walk to town. Despite signs proclaiming the town of Khobar off-limits, visits are at the discretion of the commander, and the MP's don't care about people leaving. The 4-mile hike took about an hour. Khobar looks like Southern California in many ways, and the traffic is lethal - fast and furious.
For the first time I saw Saudi women. Their garb varies from total coverage, to a veil exposing only the eyes, to having the entire face exposed. It was common, and a little surprising, to see women with children, or small groups of women, out unchaperoned. I later learned that Khobar houses a lot of Kuwaiti refugees, as well as a lot of third-country nationals, so it is probably a bit more liberal than the rest of Saudi Arabia. The most comical thing was to see veiled women with glasses; they would have the eyes exposed and glasses perched atop that black veil.
The main mall in Khobar looks like any American mall, with Saudi touches. Many stores have notices about the need to make women follow accepted dress and conduct standards, and the little cafeteria in the center had signs forbidding women to sit there (which military females simply ignored). Some US females were wearing outfits that would get stares in a US mall, so their impact on the Saudis must have been unnerving.
We had dinner in a Thai restaurant, then browsed the mall. The mall is closed 1200-2000, because this is the Eid, the post-Ramadan festival. Eid is the closest thing the Arabs have to Christmas, at least from a secular standpoint. I got two rolls of film, so my film situation is no longer critical, then we got back to camp at 2200.
The rumor mill has the Turkey mission lasting about 30 days (that turned out to be close to the truth), but no firm word yet on departure.
Mon 15 Apr
We spent the morning loading trucks, sorting things to go home from things to take to Turkey. It is sunny and hot every day, in the 90's, and there is often a horizon pall of smoke from Kuwait. In the afternoon we went to the port at Dammam to load our container. The customs inspector was pretty pleased with our preparation and only had us open a few bags.
Tue 16 Apr
I called home this morning. Shawn has really been having a difficult and stressful time with her mother, who is going into a nursing home. I really had no idea that things were so busy for her.
Then I hiked into town with SSG Gene Jakubenas. Today is still Eid (it lasts for three days), so only a few non-Moslem places were open. On the way back several people gave us rides. One man in particular had his son, about two years old, on his lap, dressed in a pure white formal Arab robe. The child had enormous dark eyes and was simply beautiful.
In the afternoon about 40 of us went on another of LTC Bukowski's trips to Bahrain. He was getting us through on his rank rather than a pass. The MP's eventually stopped that, but not before he got most of us there at one time or another. I saw cormorants and flamingos from the causeway. Bahrain itself looks much lika Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. The border crossing, on an artificial island, is one of the most striking sights: each border station is a big round glass building with a tall tower, looking something like a medieval castle.
Most of the group stayed at the Navy club making up for a long dry spell, but CPT Mark Haney and I went into Manama, the capital. We explored the Souk (mostly closed except for the Indian shops) and ate at a Filipino restaurant. Most of the Bahrainis were out promenading in the evening to celebrate Eid. We got back to Khobar about 2330.
Wed 17 Apr
CPT Beekman asked for volunteers to go to the airport and spend a couple of hours tying down cargo nets. 11 hours later we got back. He got heavy ribbing for it! Cargo netting is a surprisingly exacting task, since the bottom corners of the nets must be very tight and it takes a while to develop a feel for which strap to pull.
SSG Max Mitchell was supposed to be by about noon with some wood. We waited, then broke for lunch and came back. Still no Max. So we went to the Camp Jack PX for a while, and came back to give Max one last chance. The wood was there - 10 tons of it! While we were loading it we had some exciting fly-bys by two C-5's and half a dozen F-15's. F-15's are among the most graceful aircraft in the sky. Nobody will ever call a C-5 graceful, but they are immense. The climb so slowly that it seems certain they will fall out of the sky at any moment, but they always make it.
I got back and found a lizard in the kitchen. He was sand-colored and perfectly camouflaged, but not for an apartment. How he got to the 7th floor I do not know. I was showing him around when he snapped off his tail and escaped. He was last seen in SSG Bob Haglund's rucksack. I was sure I was going to hear about that for a long time, but the lizard apparently escaped successfully.
Thu 18 Apr
We spent the morning finishing up the cargo netting and tying down some rolls of rubber matting. The afternoon was mostly free time. We got the vehicles loaded and sent in for weigh-in, along with our duffle bags.
Fri 19 Apr
I have day duty as duty NCO, mostly tending the signout sheet at the door. Since we expect the moveout order on short notice, we have to know where everybody is at all times. I also rotated the vehicle guards at the airport. That took two hours since both the incoming and outgoing shifts wanted to eat lunch at the Pentagon.
I have been battling a bug all day: headache, upset stomach, and muscle aches. I went to bed at 2000 to try to shake it.
Sat 20 Apr
I still have the bug a little. I spent most of the day waiting for Chief Witbro to finish the paperwork on new vehicles. We were supposed to go over and get them at 1000, then 1200, then 1300. A little before 1400 I went to the PX, came back, and found out the detail had left.
I went into town from 1700-2100. I went into town alone but ran into SSG Haglund and others, so we prowled the mall for a while. I got a few more rolls of film. One humorous note: men vastly outnumbered women in the mall, and the plumbing in the men's room was out of order as well, so there was a long line. A woman major came by and said "a line at the men's room! Way to go, guys!"
Going into town was a mistake; the bug came back with a vengeance. I didn't even make it from the main gate to our billet before I had to visit a bathroom, and spent the night tossing and turning.
Sun 21 Apr
I have the bug full force: headache, muscle ache, cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, and sweats. I dropped out of 0800 formation and went to sick call, where I got some Tylenol and Immodium. I came back, packed my last duffle bag, and laid down. I slept until 1500, got up, packed my rucksack and carry-on bag, then went back to bed at 1900. When I'm awake I can hardly go an hour without having to visit the bathroom. I was supposed to be on the first flight but somebody, bless his or her heart, put me on the second flight because of my illness.
Mon 22 Apr
The plan originally had the first two flights leaving at 0730. Then the second flight was pushed back to 1730. Now the firts flight is pushed back to 1600, and the second flight till tomorrow.
I'm still not feeling the best, but pulled vehicle guard from 0600 to 0930. The 7th floor cleared out and moved to the 6th floor, and the first flight people left for the airport about noon. I slept a lot in the afternoon.
Tue 23 Apr
We are due to leave at 2300 now, but the first flight was diverted to Germany because Incirlik is too small to handle all the air traffic it now has. Later the base commander, a colonel, would remark that he had a dozen generals on his post. Does this make April 22 the winners of the out-of-theater pool? We count ourselves lucky since the word is that the group in Germany is stuck on the plane. It turns out that the "poor guys in Germany" were doing just fine, thank you. More on that later.
After sleeping for most of the past two days, the bug seems to be wearing off, though it would be a week before I was fully over it. I tried to call Shawn about 1430 (0630 Green Bay time) but she wasn't home. She had talked about going up to a friend's in Door County about this date, so that's probably where she is.
Now that we're packed, there is absolutely nothing to do here. Life in Saudi Arabia must be bland beyond belief. There was depth and history and variety in Turkey; I don't see anything like that here. Once Islam spread beyond Saudi Arabia, Arabia went back to sleep (possibly they exported all their best people). Saudi Arabia seems superficial to a degree that makes a California shopping mall look like Golden Age Athens. I haven't been as free to see things as I was in Turkey, but nothing I have heard or read from others makes me suspect there's more than what meets the eye.
Wed 24 Apr
I was up at 0030 for vehicle guard. I passed the time star-gazing. It was a little too late to spot Alpha and Beta Centauri, if they were visible at all because of horizon dust and lights. I spotted Scorpius and Libra, and thought with some amusement about the long names of the stars in Libra; then I realized with a start that I knew what the names meant in Arabic! There were also several takeoffs by F-15's. The afterburner flame is a light purple, crossed by a dozen or more light orange bands from shock waves in the exhaust. The whole effect is very beautiful.
The rest of the flight was supposed to get up at 0300 to report for our 0800 flight. I was supposed to be relieved at 0330 but didn't leave until two hours later; fortunately, somebody saw to it that my stuff came with the unit. We all went to the Pentagon for a real breakfast (with bacon!), then returned to the airport to find that our flight was rescheduled for 1615! Rather than return to Khobar (by now most of us regarded that as a fate worse than death) we crashed on benches in a Quonset hut in the departure area. Most of us slept until 0900 or so, when the building began to get hot.
After lunch, again at the Pentagon, our departure is still on. Those of us designated to drive went out and waited by the vehicles. It was sunny, hot (around 100) and extremely dry. CPT Bill Bartleme told me the high temperature on the 22nd (a day I slept most of the time because of the bug) was 112. It doesn't feel quite that hot, but the dryness is beyond belief. I can hardly utter a sentence without needing a sip of water.
We sat by the vehicles until 1500, then, incredibly, moved to the flight line to load up. To say a C-5 is a huge plane is like calling a dinosaur a big lizard; it just doesn't do justice to the subject. The vehicle bay is about 15 feet high and big enough for two vehicles abreast. To me the most impressive indicator of its size is the passenger compartment; it seats 65 people facing aft, and is tucked away behind the wing over the vehicle bay. It's as if they had a little leftover space and decided to build a passenger compartment as large as on some airliners in it. Civilian aviation experts have been trying for decades to have passenger seats facing aft for better crash safety, but without success.
We took off about 1630. It feels incredibly good to be out of Saudi Arabia! Unfortunately, the flight line service area was empty, so we travelled without box lunches or drinks. We landed in Incirlik at 2130, convoyed over to an inprocessing center and cleared customs. We were warned about insulting Ataturk or anything Turkish, for that matter, and were told of two military people who went to jail; one for insulting a flag, the other for throwing Turkish money on the ground and stepping on it.
After clearing customs, some went over to the hamburger bar and got a bite to eat. I just went to bed about 0030.
Thu 25 Apr
Today is sunny, pleasant (in the 60's) and humid. I'm still a bit light-headed from the flu bug. Incirlik is an attractive post. In some directions it looks like Germany; the military architecture and pine trees mostly. In other directions the palm trees look like California. I finally decided it reminded me of northern California. We're billeted in the post grammar school for a day or so. The facilities here are very nice, and we had the morning free to sleep, do laundry, and run errands.
We met the first flight here. It turned out the "poor guys stuck on the plane in Germany" were actually over at an apartment doing some serious catching up on their back beer consumption. They had quite a nice time after all.
In the afternoon we were briefed on the Kurdish situation and got team assignments. Then we went to draw casual pay, and I went to the gym for the nicest shower I've had in quite a while. I went to bed early, but most of the unit partied.
Fri 26 Apr
We got up at 0430 to load our gear. We had 5 buses and two trucks, so each person had a seat for the trip that turned out to be over 12 hours. After some milling about we left at 0730. For a few miles we drove through flat farmland, then got into the mountains, after passing two ruined castles. To me, coming back to Turkey was like a trip to the old neighborhood, though I never visited this area during my previous tour. The mountains were spectacular, then the route crossed a broad green valley. On the other side we drove into hill country with glimpses of snow-capped mountains to the north. We passed Gaziantep; guidebooks say the center of town is interesting but the part along the highway is modern and pretty nondescript. After Gaziantep the country is mostly grassy plateau. We stopped for lunch near Birecik, then crossed the Euphrates. We drove through more plateau country, often past fields littered with lava boulders. I was surprised to see mud-brick villages, but the buildings were well-kept and did not convey an impression of degrading poverty. Also surprising was the road. Our impression from the maps we had in Saudi Arabia was that it would take two days to reach our destination from Incirlik, and it would be a real adventure. In fact the road is a nice two-lane paved road with little traffic, and the bus maintains a speed of 50-60 mph.
After Kiziltepe, we travel along the Syrian border, at times right along the frontier fence. There are two fences a couple of hundred meters apart, with mine warnings hung from the barbed wire. A few miles to the north the country is mostly buttes and mesas. It is easy to imagine being in Montana or Wyoming. This road, being flat, straight, and through easy country, is an exceedingly ancient route from the Mediterranean to the East.
Toward sunset we saw mountains to the north and east and began encountering convoys. We crossed the Tigris River and entered Silopi. Just beyond the town, a small typical Turkish town, the north side of the road adjoins a huge logistics base. Trucks lined the road for a mile or more. A Turkish military post held a refugee tent settlement with at least 5,000 people. I later heard that many of these were selected influential Kurdish refugees with whom the Turkish government was trying to gain favor. Supposedly, in some cases they were called by name out of mountain camps and resettled.
About 1800 we got to the border post east of Silopi and could see a range of hills across the border in Iraq. We waited around for our group to assemble and for MAJ Dickson to come by with a truck to lead us into Zakho. We crossed the border into Iraq (somebody took down the border sign before any of us had a chance to photograph it in daylight) and almost immediately ran into some Dutch commandos who were astonished that we were coming in at night and without escort. After a somewhat surreal drive in the dark through Zakho, which was still without power because of the war, and several stops for directions, we got to our camp about 2200. The people already at work on the camp had set up a dozen small tents. We rolled our sleeping bags out on the ground inside and went to sleep. During the unloading process I lost my watch, so I had no watch until we returned to Incirlik in June. It was somewhat sobering to find Zakho still without power because of the war, and encounter armed patrols. In Saudi Arabia I had begun to think of the war as long over, but it's not entirely over here.
Sat 27 Apr
I woke up at 0630 to see our site for the first time. We are in a beautiful green valley with rugged mountains to the north. Isikveren, a snow-capped ridge in Turkey and site of one of the largest refugee concentrations, is visible to the far north. To the southwest near Zakho are more rugged mountains. A mile or so to our south are rounded green hills that look exactly like the California Coast Ranges. The scenery is remarkably beautiful; I remarked that if I owned real estate that looked like this in the U.S. I could make a fortune and retire.
Most of the day was devoted to setting up camp, pitching tents, and getting oriented. The refugee camp itself consists of hundreds of blue and white tents on a ridge about a quarter of a mile from us. The tents were donated by Sears and came to be called "Smurf tents". Our camp consists so far of 20 or so GP-small tents separated by the main camp by a shallow valley. I still have a touch of the bug and had a desperate trek to the nearest latrine before the Engineers built a latrine in our camp. The area is constantly abuzz with helicopters. The weather is perfect: about 75 during the day, 45 or so at night.
Sun 28 Apr
I got up at 0630 and went to 0730 Mass conducted by a Navy chaplain attached to tne Marines. The Marines sat out the Gulf War on carriers in the Mediterranean and for the most part are delighted to have a real mission. It was a zero day, with very little happening. In the morning we had briefings on camp organization and water supplies.
The Royal Marines have a strange compulsion to build latrines. They built one for us yesterday, then tore it down and rebuilt it today. In the afternoon we got some GP-medium tents and erected one. By the time this was over we would be experts at erecting tents. The mess crew and friends had a noisy party in the evening.
Mon 29 Apr
We had a meeting at 0700, then some of use erected the mess tent. Our vehicles began arriving from Incirlik on flatbed trailers. Later in the morning I helped erect the medical screening tents. While in the inprocessing area I heard one Kurd giving a friend an impromptu English lesson, repeating over and over "Dip-lo-mat-ic Im-mun-i-ty"! In the afternoon I went up to the main camp and helped supervise Kurdish crews who were putting up GP-small tents (no more Smurf tents!) The first refugees arrived about 1700, some by chopper. Over 100 were processed in.
The camp plan is the work of an Engineer NCO and is based on Kurdish cultural preferences about living. Eight GP-small or 12 Smurf tents in a circle make up a zozan (Kurdish for neighborhood). These held an average of 60 people, sometimes close to 100, when the camps finally filled, and were about right for a single extended family group. Four zozans in a square made up a block, bounded by fire lanes. Four blocks make up a Gund, a term that was never used much in practice, and four Gunds made up a subcommunity. The camp was to have five subcommunities surrounding a central administrative and supply area.
8 TENTS = 1 ZOZAN
4 ZOZANS = 1 BLOCK
4 BLOCKS = 1 GUND
4 GUNDS = 1 SUBCOMMUNITY
Tue 30 Apr
Today was spent supervising the Kurds in tent erection. (Every Army tent has a panel saying to do something or other before erection. I keep thinking that only the Army would think people need instructions to have an erection!) I spend the morning getting a mis-laid section corrected. The area allotted to each zozan is about 25 meters square. It is possible to get a circle of 8 tents in that tight a space, but only with very careful supervision. In the afternoon my crew got some new zozans erected. The Kurds quit about 1530, so I ran errands and escorted incoming refugees until 1730, then did laundry and got a cold shower. It was a tiring day. Several hundred more Kurds arrived, bringing us up to over 1000 by the end of the day.
Wed 1 May
We began erecting tents but rain cut the work short after my crew got one up. It rained from 1000 to 1300. In the afternoon the Dutch Marines took over (they were fascinated by my name!). I went down to inprocessing and helped escort new arrivals. One group drove a scoop loader, which towed a tractor, which in turn towed a car! I was surprised by the number of tractors I've seen, but after reflection, it made sense. To these farmers, their tractor is their great piece of capital equipment. They are not about to leave it behind for the Iraqis, and besides, tractors can go places a car can't.
It was very windy in the evening, but despite the rain, my laundry dried. There were high winds and heavy rains all night, with a thunderstorm toward morning.
Thu 2 May
Low clouds at dawn broke about 0800 to a nice sunny day. The fog on the hills to our south looks so much like California I can hardly believe it. The soil here becomes thick pasty goo that sticks fiercely to boots when it gets wet. The Dutch Marines cope by waxing the soles of their boots. A mouse invaded our tent this morning. He also invaded the women's tent next door, with fatal results. Later on, someone posted a small cross behind their tent reading "RIP Fred Field Mouse -- Died on a pleasure quest!
The rest of the day was gorgeous: sunny, breezy, with spectacular clouds over the mountains. I spent the morning fixing tents that blew down in the night. Just about every tent had one or more poles out, though only a few were entirely down. In the afternoon we hauled tents out to new work areas. We moved about 40, weighing 200 pounds apiece.
Fri 3 May
Another beautiful day. CPT Beekman told our team to work in different parts of the camp and get familiar with operations so we'd be prepared to start Camp 2. I spent the day working in the food distribution center, a fatal mistake, since I would be doing this for the next two exhausting weeks. I spent the morning supervising the erection of a GP Large supply tent, then the afternoon loading pallets and guiding fork lifts. It was an exhausting day. The 431st CA Company and some of our trail party from Saudi arrived today.
Sat 4 May
Gorgeous weather again. I spent the morning supervising truck unloading, then LT Glowacki asked me to draw up ration charts showing how much groups of people would get for various numbers of days. This turned out to be one of the most useful tools we had. Over the next few days they evolved into tables showing how much bulk food to give the zozans for a week. Most of the afternoon was spent helping to regulate food distribution. It was a lot like selling tickets to a rock concert.
The three operating sub-communities are labelled with a square, triangle, and circle. Square and circle were done first and got two days' rations. Triangle got a week's worth. Eventually the others would too, on staggered days. Within a couple of weeks the system would be so smooth that the crew would be done by early afternoon, but for now the need to give out partial rations creates an enormous burden.
I haven't written in two or three days. We have no lights in camp and work from sunup to sundown. All I want to do after chow is go to sleep.
Sun 5 May
Sunny and hot today. In the morning I delivered a GP Large tent to inprocessing, then erected a barrier at the entrance to the supply yard and ran various errands. In the afternoon I and some Kurds erected a GP Large storage tent and floored it with Air Force cargo pallets. These are made of aluminum, are about nine feet square by three inches thick, and weigh 300 pounds apiece. The Kurds have no concept of distributing loads; they want to work next to their pals, so as often as not there would be six Kurds on one corner of the pallet and me on the opposite corner.
The schedule for Mass was changed on short notice, so I planned to go to chaplain Burr's service instead. Meantime I did some hand laundry and took a shower. Unfortunately, with no watch I lost track of the time and missed Burr's service, too.
Mon 6 May
Sunny and hot. I spent the day working in supply again. The last of our trail party came in from Saudi with our Humvees. We have about 6,000 in camp now, and most tents are occupied.
I was playing solitaire on the computer in the orderly room when Joe Bechlem came by and said "as long as you're on the computer, type this." It was a situation report on the water supply in Zakho, 5 pages worth. Actually it was pretty interesting.
Tue 7 May
Sunny, hot, and hazy. Another day in supply. We issued a week's ration to circle, then made up about 20 initial issues for "Double D" (a circle with a vertical line through it). The symbols are necessary because of the hierachical structure of the camp; subcommunities have symbols, zozans have numbers, individual tents have letters. I spent much of the morning moving 50-kg (110 lb.) bags of rice and flour. My hair is crusted with the stuff. We didn't get off until 1800.
Coyle and Rabideau have been out for three days on a mission to Amadiyeh, so I had the tent all to myself. They were back when I came in.
2830 people were processed in yesterday, but there is a backlog of 2000 more camped in the fields. It looks like Woodstock without the music. (I don't know if I can claim credit for inventing the name, it's such a natural, but soon everyone was calling the informal camp "Woodstock".) The camp now has over 10,000 people and is running out of tents. There are now five subcommunities up. The fifth one is dubbed "castle" but is actually an Engineer map symbol, a bridge. A sixth community would go up in a couple of days, called "snowflake" (*). A last addition would be built later and given a symbol like a wine goblet; it would be dubbed "Margaritaville".
At 2000 I went to Mass. The priest, Father Bill Devine from Boston, is with the Marines. He was a very pleasant young priest. After I got back to my tent, Wally Coyle and Mike Rabideau told me of seeing a "comet". Judging from their description, I guessed it was actually a satellite propellant venting or a satellite re-entry.
Wed 8 May
Hot and hazy, with high clouds. This was not a good day for human relations. The trouble started when SGT Perry and I started laying out food rations. To speed things up, I started reading off her chart. Unfortunately, I misread the chart and "corrected" some things that she had actually done right. She just plain "went ballistic" and we got into a major shouting match. Perry is actually not a bad NCO, and we were both stressed to the limit.
Having scored one triumph by noontime, I repeated later in the day. There was a Kurd who was making a pest of himself trying to get supplies. When I saw what looked to be the same guy inside the yard I ordered him out. It wasn't the same guy, but a new security guard and, to ice the cake, a highly respected man in the community. There was nothing to do but apologize as profusely as I could and be extra polite whenever I met him from now on.
Castle subcommunity is complete and snowflake is going up. There are 14,000 in the camp now. The kids near our housing area, mostly from Woodstock, are getting pesky. Mostly they're rummaging through the garbage for fuel.
Thu 9 May
Warm and hazy, with lots of blowing dust in the evening. This would be my last day in Camp I supply. We laid out the weekly rations for castle subcommunity, 3600 people. The camp is nearly full. The contractors began marking post holes for the big supply tent ("fest tent") today and will begin drilling tomorrow.
I am assigned to the Camp Badger (Camp 2) team, and will be NCOIC of the food distribution site there. I left work at 1500 to got to a meeting, reconnoiter the new site, and plan.
There was a severe wind storm at dusk. It collapsed two of the GP Large tents in the Camp 1 supply area. There was lots of dust, brief rain, and lightning in the distance. The lightning was very abrupt, like giant flash bulbs. I wondered if it was largely generated by static electricity caused by the blowing dust.
The "comet" of May 7 was actually a Soviet satellite re-entry, we heard yesterday.
Fri 10 May - The Wildest Birthday Party Ever
Sunny and clear, and a thoroughly wild day. CPT Yancy announced my birthday at the 0700 meeting. I went out to the new camp area, and after some initial confusion I staked out the distribution area. My total output by noon was driving four stakes. It felt so good after a week of exhausting days in the Camp I supply center. Mostly we spent the morning waiting for things to happen.
Happen they did at 1230. To get around Turkish border formalities, somebody concocted the idea of airdropping tents. The drop was set for 1230, and sure enough, the planes arrived right on time: four C-130's. They made one pass to check the wind drift, circled around, and came back just a bit to the south. The lead plane dropped his load.
It was an absolutely beautiful drop, perfectly on target, right on a hilltop half a mile northwest of us. I was amazed at how beautiful and graceful a drop was. The parachutes filled out without a sound and swayed back and forth as they fell. When they caught the sun they seemed lit from within. Our reverie was interrupted when CPT Lori Fisher yelled "Oh my God, look at the kids!".
For six weeks the Kurds had been conditioned that when they saw parachutes, there were usually goodies attached. Literally thousands of Kurds were swarming out of Camp I, a mile or so away, and heading for the parachutes. I jumped in the truck with SPC Ken Demerath and we raced cross-country to try to head them off. I wasn't so much concerned with the tents or the Kurds being hit (they could watch out for themselves), as with them running off with all the parachutes. I was doing up to 30 in spots; fortunately the fields were not too rough. We srove through the swarm of Kurds, yelling at them to turn back and trying to cut off their vehicles. It was like being in the middle of Custer's Last Stand.
Eventually I reached an empty road (the roads had been graded by the Engineers) and parked the truck across it to cut off any vehicles. Not that it would have done any good; the fields were flat enough that they could just drive around me. I started grabbing Kurds and turning them around; I gave one kid a kick in the behind when he didn't move fast enough.
Then the planes came back to drop the rest of their load, and we were right under the edge of the drop zone. I wish there was some kind of three-dimensional video camera that could have caught the next few minutes. For 360 degrees around, and horizon to horizon overhead, it was utter chaos: Kurds running, soldiers chasing them, vehicles careening around, planes overhead, parachutes opening and pallets landing. I wasn't concerned much for my safety; it was easy enough to judge where things were falling and get out of the way, but I breathed a quick prayer: "Dear God, please don't let a pallet land on my truck!" A pallet landed about ten yards from it and a second one a bit further away. I looked back to see four Kurds scramble out from under the truck, where they had taken cover, and run away.
Dutch Marines and Psyops loudspeaker trucks showed up and finally helped shoo the Kurds off. They also lost interest once they found the pallets contained only tents. Wow! I had an adrenaline high for the rest of the day that was just beyond belief.
Later in the afternoon, CPT Beekman and I got tired of waiting for our GP Large office tent to be delivered, so he, I, Demerath and two Kurds loaded one ourselves (they weigh 1000 pounds!) and brought it back. A squad of Dutch Marines took over and put it up for us.
In the evening I helped move some generators to the medical clinic by our camp, then started drawing up issue charts for the new camp.
Sat 11 May
The excitement continues. At 0030 the company was awakened because of refugees coming in on buses. In reality, there was no real need to get everybody up. The thousands of incoming refugees dwindled to a few busloads. Most of them stayed on the buses overnight. A few had just been stranded by the roadside. A party of us got some bundles of blankets from the Camp 1 supply yard, passed them out, and went back to bed by about 0100. Most of the company had already figured out on their own that was the wise thing to do.
In the morning we set up the new food site and off-loaded rice, flour, beans and sugar- from Cuba, yet! It didn't take a rocket scientist, or even a geologist, to figure out why the food site in Camp I was so much work. The place, like Topsy, had "just growed" and supplies were put wherever there was room at the time. The result was supplies far from the point of usage and roundabout routes. The tents made matters worse. The crew that put up the office tent put it up at right angles to the perimeter rather than along it. We didn't appreciate at the time what a problem that would cause and left it. The supply tent we put behind it had the same orientation. Thus we had two tents cutting the supply yard nearly in two. The windstorm a few nights ago was a blessing in disguise in allowing the office tent to be put up in the right direction. My plan was to avoid these problems by having the office tent along the roadside, keeping the area behind it clear, storing supplies as close to the point of usage as possible, and making sure there was a clear and direct path from the supplies to the issue points.
We let the workers go about 1600 and were just about to go ourselves when four truckloads of charcoal came in! I wasn't about to put the stuff in the supply yard. Since it's not the sort of thing people would be too likely to hoard, I sent one truck up to the first subcommunity, where there were already a few Kurds, and told him to dump the charcoal on the edge of the tent area. When the next three trucks came in, I wanted to tell the drivers to wait till morning, but one driver had left his son at the border post, so we helped unload the trucks at the edge of the second subcommunity, and got absolutely filthy.
Sun 12 May
We finished laying out the weekly food for the first subcommunity. Demerath began issuing cards and we issued food to 15 zozans in the afternoon. SSG Gene Jakubenas is yard boss and supervises much of the yard work. CPT Beekman and LT Rich Kuhr are officers in charge, and SFC Lyke helps out.
We had awoken to find three Royal Mail semis from Scotland parked in our camp full of clothing. We fought a running battle all day long to keep from becoming the repository for it and finally lost. The clothing created a constant security problem. We filled a tent with the clothing, but the excess outside drew Kurds all day long. Finally, toward the end of the day, I came up with a plan. I offered to give each bystander a bag of clothing if he'd help carry three bags over to the issue point. The Kurds did their part, but there were so many it was hard to know who was legitimate and who wasn't, and it really didn't matter much. We let them carry off all the excess. It got boisterous but was never violent.
Part of the excess was a big pile of shoes, and people were constantly pawing through it. So we decided to take the shoes over to the first subcommunity and let them paw through the pile over there. The stickers on the bags said "From the people of Scotland to the Kurdish refugees". The clothing came from the people of Scotland. It went to the Kurdish refugees. Mission accomplished.
What saves us from even worse chaos and pilferage is the fact that the Kurds are cooperative and generally law-abiding. They could strip us to the tent pegs in five minutes if they put their minds to it. In fact they'd probably go after the tent pegs for firewood. Nevertheless, apart from curious kids, they stay out of our camp. If something lacks clear ownership, or is owned in common, or they think they're entitled to it, it will vanish. That's not too different from the way Americans behave. But if something is clearly defined as off limits, they are generally pretty good about observing the restriction. Simple engineer tape is enough to define a boundary, and they'll observe it.
We didn't get back to camp until 1900. CPT Watson was late taking care of security matters. The delay was compensated by being able to get some absolutely spectacular shots of cloud shadows on the mountains.
One of our NCO's is headed home after an accident. He was towing a water trailer yesterday and a little Kurdish girl fell under the wheels. She later died of a brain hemorrhage; the pressure of the trailer forced the blood to her brain and burst a blood vessel. At first he wanted to stay on but the shock got to him. He's taking it very hard. He's a first-rate soldier and everyone feels for him.
Also an Iraqi spy nearly caused a riot yesterday at Camp I when he was spotted at in-processing. The MP's took him to Zakho and released him, but the word now is that he came back to the area for some unaccountable reason, was killed, and his body found along the road. During the melee CPT Deb Luebker, who is a good deal taller that most Kurdish males, spotted a Kurd with a stolen shovel handle and yanked it away from him, to his great loss of face and the glee of some of the Kurdish women.
I went to pastor Burr's service at 2000, which was very good. We had a good bull session afterwards. This job is a strange mix of deep need and deep ingratitude. The other night I tossed blankets to people freezing by the roadside - today I heard that somebody at in-processing wanted to exchange blankets because they weren't new!. One woman actually asked to have hers washed. A medic told me of treating a man who hadn't eaten in two weeks, and a zozan leader has made a continuing pest of himself trying to wheedle more food. I asked pastor Burr why the Gospel didn't say something like "I was naked and you clothed me, then I complained because the blanket was dirty". He very perceptively pointed out that it's all there in Exodus, which it is.
Mon 13 May
This was a pretty good day. Most of the first subcommunity has picked up its food, and some was laid out for the next one. The plan for this camp was to give the subcommunities military insignia. The first one was Captain, the second was Lieutenant (which ended up looking like just an I), then the mayor's office decided there weren't any more easy-to draw insignia that the Kurds would recognize, so the remaining subcommunities were just called C, D, and E.
A couple of Hispanic NCO's from one of the supply units are also here, a MSG Pagan and SFC Achingas. I suspect they originally thought they'd have to show us how it was done, but they decided we had things well in hand and just help out. They're good guys.
One problem that keeps recurring is explaining to the zozans that the food is for everyone, and that if a few new people arrive they'll simply have to re-divide it. They divvy up the food as soon as they get it. It causes some friction between newcomers and people already here.
One milestone was passed: the UN raised its flag at Camp Jayhawk (the official name of Camp 1) today.
About 1700 two German semis with Turkish drivers came in with still more clothing. We had them park overnight. One of them had lived in Germany 17 years and spoke good German, so I got most of the formalities taken care of in German. Today I spoke Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, German, and Spanish. I spoke to a Russian woman in Kuwait, and in a day or so I would speak Italian, too.
Tue 14 May
We have been fighting a running battle for several days over what we issue (everything, it turns out) and how to protect it. What we need is a chain-link fence. What we are getting, for the time being, are some GP Large tents at intervals with a perimeter rope in between. We used the tents to store clothes and blankets. Late in the morning we got stuck with the additional task of issuing the initial rice and blankets, a task formerly done by in-processing. The rest of the day was confusing but not otherwise bad. We spent a lot of the slack times brainstorming how to get all the extra tasks done.
Wed 15 May
A surprisingly smooth day. We have a real flow going and things went well. We handle the daily issue by giving each tent a water jug two-thirds full of rice; we issue two things at once. They have to figure out what to put the rice in once they get home! We have gone to a "lumber yard" approach to issuing food. An escort takes each zozan leader into the yard with his helpers and has them take the necessary amount right off the pile. It saves moving everything twice. Blankets are only issued to zozans; that keeps the double-dippers from Zakho from processing in just to get a free blanket.
Late in the afternoon the Engineers came by to find out where to place our latrine, and the contractors started on our storage tent. There can be no permanent structures in these camps; they are supposed to be temporary. Thus we can have a storage tent that can be put up and taken down in a few days, but not a hard-sided building. Also we cannot keep permanent records, lest they be used to identify camp occupants later and lead to reprisals. What occupant records we keep are supposed to be easily destroyable once the camps are vacated. No computer files.
There are over 8,000 in camp now. We are issuing to Lieutenant and E and giving initial rice to D. Wally Coyle is helping issue zozan cards, and we have some Kurds working as well. SPC Mark Kuyper is helping in the office. He takes a lot of ribbing from a lot of people in the unit, good-naturedly, but he proves to have an astonishingly good rapport with the Kurds and soon is taking care of almost all the issuing along with his Kurdish assistants.
In the evening we had a big mail call. I got two letters and a birthday card from Shawn, a letter from a former student, Andy Alles, and a goodies package from Muriel.
Thu 16 May
We had a violent rain and wind storm all night after midnight, and rain squalls off and on much of the day. Getting to work was a comedy of errors. The roads were so muddy and slippery we could scarcely move, so we went cross-country. The work flow was smooth, and it was a very quiet day. About 1200 the clouds took on a strange orange-brown color. At first I suspected we were seeing smoke from Kuwait, but the next shower solved the mystery. It was wind-blown dust, andd every raindrop left a pink splotch of mud. We were done by 1530. I dictated a tape home to Shawn. We got more mail. I got some journals from Fritz and birthday cards from the kids at Green Bay Christian School. This is the first day since May 4 that we have gotten off work even a little early. It is so nice to have even a little time off.
I was in a good mood one morning about this time and was humming "Zippidy-doo-dah". When I got to the line about Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder, it all came together:
Zippidy doo-dah, Zippidy-yay
Oh my God, another Kurdistan day
Busloads of refugees headed my way
Zippidy doo-dah, Zippidy-yay
There's a Kurd squatting by the shoulder
It's the truth, it's actual
It's been months since I've been sexual
Zippidy doo-dah, Zippidy-yay
Please God, not another Kurdistan day
A day or so later I was moved to yet another flight of lyric achievement:
I don't wanna go home, I'm a Wars'R'Us kid
And there's a million wars around the world
That I can fight in
From Kurdistan to Congo-land, wherever CA stuff is,
I don't wanna go home, cause baby if I did,
I couldn't be a Wars'R'Us kid
More guns...more bombs...Oh boy!
I couldn't be a Wars'R'Us kid
These were duly posted on the bulletin board for the cultural enrichment of the unit. (At the time, there was a cyclone in Bangladesh, a really ugly civil war in Liberia, and no shortage of places to send a CA unit after Kurdistan. There's a grim note of prophecy in the "Congo-land" bit, which was put in solely because it fit about four years before Rwanda.)
Fri 17 May
We had to chase a mob of would-be workers out of the area; they refused to leave after we selected our workers for the day. After that the morning was quiet until 1100. Then, all at once:
Dutch soldiers pulled up with 5000 blankets,
A Dutch TV crew came by to film them,
Officers from the 418th CA Company came by to check out our operation, and
The Engineers came by to install our latrine.
I called home 1t 0500 and talked to the kids (that was 9 P.M. Green Bay time), then again at 1300 to talk to Shawn. We had a satellite link to Fort McCoy, then they put through a commercial collect call.
Our fest tent is going up today. The frame is up. Camp 1 has a completed tent by now. Thanks to the melee with the workers and the security problems over clothing storage, we had Italian MP's much of the day. I got to use my Italian just a bit.
Things that would be perfectly reasonable to do for individuals are impossible with hundreds of people around. The other day an old couple came up just as we were shutting down and asked for their day's allotment of rice. I didn't have the heart to turn them away, but we ended up dishing out another 50 or 60 rations to others as a result. Much as we would often like to help some people sometimes it is just impossible because we'll end up with a mob demanding the same thing.
We also have had problems with double dippers from Camp 1 coming over with Camp 1 ration cards to get food here. I know all the Camp 1 symbols and alerted our crew to the scam. I caught one guy and read him the riot act, calling him a thief and every other name I could think of, and shoving him out of the area. I deliberately put on quite a show so the word would get out. I don't care if he spoke any English or not; he knew perfectly well what the issue was. After I was done one English-speaking Kurd said: "Good for you, Mister".
Every day ends with payoffs to the Kurdish workers; sugar, rice, or whatever.
CPT Haney invited me up to the mountains for 4 or 5 days to advise on food distribution there. I have wanted to get into the mountains ever since we got here, so I am absolutely delighted.
The great anti-climax of the evening: We saw a great cloud of black smoke, so CPT Watson and I barrelled over to check it out. Some Kurds were burning a tire!
Sat 18 May
The 418th CA Company is opening Camp 3 a few miles east of us, to be run on a KOI (Kampgrounds Of Iraq) basis: bring your own tent. This camp would fill quickly with our backlog plus newcomers, to 10-15,000 people, but it would not stay full long. The bottleneck is a town called Dohuk; once Dohuk is demilitarized, which it would be in a few days, many of the Kurds would go home. There were plans for a Camp 4 a bit further east, but it never materialized.
CPT Haney came by at 0830, said he'd be back about noon. I packed and waited - all day! Apart from a hike to Camp 2 to take some pictures and see what's going on, I hung around camp all day. The outer skin is going up on the fest tent in Camp 2. Haney finally showed up about 1800, and we drove to the British 40th Marine Commando near Kani Masi. The scenery was lovely, even if it was almost dark when we got there. SPC Lahela Corrigan is the third member of the team.
On the way to the British camp, Haney stopped to examine a truck for evidence of tainted seeds. He found piles of orange lentils, which are tinted to indicate they've been treated with a mercury-based fungicide. He suspects that tainted lentils, probably taken unwittingly from seed stores, may have been responsible for some infant mortality in the mountains. We found piles of orange lentils later at many locations. That may be a good sign: that people were aware of the danger and discarded the seeds.
There's a story going around about a shootout between British soldiers and Iraqi guards at Saddam Hussein's Winter Palace near Sirsenk, in the next valley to our south. The Iraqis deny it; Haney says it's true and that two Iraqis were killed.
Sun 19 May
A gorgeous sunny day. We spent the morning conferring with the British Marines at A and C company on food distribution. I described how we had laid out allocation tables, and we brainstormed ways to devise field methods of weighing out food. That really only took a couple of hours, but it seemed to help the British get a handle on the problem.
At A company I met a U.S. medic named COL Griffin who graduated from Berkeley in 1965. We had some fun reminiscing about Mario Savio and others. Bettina Aptheker, who scandalized everybody by announcing she was a Communist back then, is now one of his daughter's professors at UC-Santa Cruz!
In the afternoon, we drove up the "switchback road" toward Sirsenk to chat with the U.S. Marine way station and check out a temporary Kurd encampment nearby. Using my little Arabic I was able to get a count of the people there from the head man. We also encountered Kurdish graves in the road cut; simple boxes of rough stone slabs. Then we went through Kani Masi and on to Baloka, the end of the line. As Haney put it, "if this isn't the end of the world you can see it from here". The "end of the world" is a surprisingly busy place. We met Americans, British, French, Canadians, Germans, and of course Kurds. The scenery is breathtaking; any national park in the world would fight to get scenery like this. On the way to Baloka we ran into a Special Forces team that included SSG Paul Timmerman, whom I haven't seen since his team left for the mountains three weeks and more ago.
Haney has a selected spot where a small waterfall creates a good, if cold, shower point. We stopped there to clean up, and he slipped on a rock and hurt his foot. It causes him severe pain.
Mon 20 May
Haney's foot hurts badly. He decided to go into Silopi to have it checked, and found out it was broken. I weent out with British Navy LT John Howells to Baloka, Kani Masi, A and C Companies, Begova, then in to Zakho for the NGO (Non-governmental organization) meeting. I stayed through it just to see what was going on, but it was mostly a talk fest and there was little information of real interest for our team.
This is a good point to talk about the NGO's. They live in Camp Red Eye, their tents are adjacent to ours, they use our mess hall, and they get along very well with us. They include professional relief workers and volunteers who signed on for a few weeks to come down and help out. Many of them had never worked with the military before, and they were apprehensive about dealing with us, but their comments are invariably favorable. Most of them have no romantic illusions about human nature. I mentioned the problems we sometimes had maintaining order and one of them said "It's amazing how nasty you sometimes have to be to help people".
Spanish MP's are guarding the road by the camps now. We got home about 2000. The British Marines strike me as a very likable, relaxed lot, articulate, competent, and confident. Since they are well-disciplined themselves, they have little need for external discipline.
Tue 21 May
In the morning we went to A and C Companies and Batufa Clinic with Lt Howells. Batufa is staffed by German doctors. In the afternoon we drove north from Begova to Nazdour, a spectacular ride over the mountains, unfortunately marred by haze. On the way back I rode in the open hatch of the Humvee shooting pictures - great fun. We stopped at the wash point. Corrigan went first and Haney and I waited in the Humvee. Haney had a British catalog of survival gear and we gradually both got hysterical over the dumb ads and overpriced merchandise. Then some Kurds came by in a car that kept stalling every 100 meters or so. In the mood we were in, that generated still more hysterics, which we were barely able to stifle.
I found out the British aren't always so laid back. When the unit first moved in, one of the Marines threatened to kill a sergeant and drew 28 days' confinement. That sobered the rest of them up and put them on their best behavior.
Wed 22 May
We spent most of the morning in camp because the British are planning a mission and Haney wants to be around if anything happens. A team in the mountains found bodies which may be the remains of a BBC team who vanished in March.
In the afternoon we went to Company C with Lt. Howells. As we were leaving, Chaplain Burr, LT Pat Cassidy and CPT Yancy came by. From their description it soundes like morale in Zakho is poor from inactivity; there was a rowdy party last night that the MP's had to quiet down. In the aftermath, camp rules have been tightened up, including no alcohol. They hinted we'd probably be best off staying in the mountains. We invited them to come up to Uzumlu later on but they declined, wisely it turned out.
Down the road from Company C is a camp which we checked out after our visit. From the description we heard, it sounded like there was a water problem in the camp. When we got there, we found a beautiful flowing spring, surrounded by a well-built wall, right in the middle of the camp. And just to make matters more interesting, there were two civil engineers there, a British chap I recognized from Camp 1, and a Kurd. To say there was no problem is a major understatement.
Then we went up to Kani Masi. Howells stayed on there while we went up to Uzumlu, a former camp on the Turkish border. The road was scraped out by the Kurds with tractors and earth-movers; it is an incredibly bad road with incredibly wild views. I gave Haney credit for finding a road that was as bad and as wild as any I'd seen anywhere. At the base of the mountain was the most unusual vehicle I'd seen taken by the Kurds: an abandoned fire truck.
At the top of the mountain is a broad bowl that at one time held 40,000 people. Now the last few people were leaving. There was a poignant scene of a woman praying at a gravesite, saying a last goodbye before leaving, in all likelihood, forever. We could drive right up to the Turkish border, where there were a few Turkish soldiers on guard. By this time the sunny day had given way to clouds that were just skimming the mountains, and new snow was falling on the mountains in Turkey. A warrant officer said they had snow flurries last night.
Thu 23 May
Corrigan and I went back to Zakho and check in and run errands. I visited the food site in Camp 2 to find that operations were running smoothly. In fact most days the place shut down early in the afternoon. The Kurds were running most of it. Nobody missed me at all, a fact that suited me just fine.
One of the things I did at camp was get a set of maps, so I can plot geology on them. LT Jeff Ponkratz also caught me and taped me for the company video, something I'd feared I'd missed out on. The current word on redeployment has us leaving for Turkey on June 1, convoying our vehicles to Iskenderun, and leaving for the States by June 15. Except for the convoy part, the info was nearly on target, but nobody dared believe it.
We also got our mail. It had been getting critical. I was in the mountains, surrounded on all sides by targets, and running low on ammo. Then - salvation! A FILM RESUPPLY! Six rolls from Mom, and nearly as valuable, a package of spearmint leaves. I tried to call home on the satellite link but got no connection. From camp we went to the border post so Corrigan could try the commercial phone; that too was a no-go. This was the first chance I had to see Zakho, which is a generally grubby and nondescript town. My only previous visit was the first night we were here, in the dark.
When we got back to camp, we heard the real story on the rowdy party, which will live forever in unit lore as The Mother Of All Bonfires. It got a bit out of hand. The MP's came by because they could see the fire from headquarters several miles away.
We got back to the British camp about 1400, only to find Haney had gone up to Kani Masi. So Corrigan and I took advantage of the clear day and went up to Nazdour to get better photos. The scenery is truly gorgeous up there.
Early in the morning four British Sea King helicopters arrived. They looked oddly familiar, and I finally realized they looked like giant locusts. After the Marines boarded, they took off eastward to recover the bodies that were found yesterday. They found one man and one woman. There are no clues who did it, and no ID, but the suspicion is strong they are the missing BBC news people. There is also no clue what happened to the third reporter.
Two of the British Marines have this sign on their tent: "You are about to enter a seriously mellow zone".
Fri 24 May
In the morning we went to Kani Masi to escort an earth mover to C Company. The earthmover itself is a compact little gem, made in Germany, that has every conceivable excavation tool built in. It really was a marvel of engineering. The only problem was it was front-heavy, and several times along the way it hut a bump and the rear wheels left the ground entirely.
After visiting C Company, we washed up at the bath point, then went over the mountains to Sirsenk. The pass on the south side of the mountains is just wide enough for the road and was probably barely wide enough to walk through before it was blasted wider. Most of the people Lt. Howells wanted to meet in Sirsenk were gone, but we did check out the supply yard, where the people in charge seemed quite competent. Then we ate at the mess hall, my first mess hall meal in a week.
Sirsenk International Airport is a huge complex designed to serve Saddam's Winter Palace. It seems purposely located to displace the Kurds, since the ground requires a lot of cutting and filling and there appear to be a lot of places in the valley better suited for an airport.
In the evening I spent a lot of time in a futile effort to get Haney's Coleman stove running. He tried, too, and we finally gave up and got a British hexamine stove to replace it.
Sat 25 May
We went to camp to check on the current move-out status and get mail, then went into Silopi. We picked up a few items in town, then went to the base. Haney had his foot checked. The mess hall had the sorriest excuse for a lunch I ever saw: soup, bread, and sardines. Corrigan suspects the French are running the mess hall this week; they eat lightly at lunch. The PX involved a long wait for bare shelves, but the Turkish PX next door was different. I found a nice chess board to replace my old Turkish chess board that was ruined in the flood last year. On the way back we stopped at the border post and I called Shawn. We stopped at camp again; I wanted to ask about clothing for one of the British companies to hand out, but it turned out most of ours had been given out by now. We got back to the Briish camp about 1500.
I went for a walk in the fields and encountered a huge land tortoise about a foot long. The area is crawling with little lizards, impossible to catch, and the stream is full of tadpoles. Corrigan tells me she has seen crabs in the streams (not crayfish but real crabs). I have found a few claws but have not seen any crabs myself. There are lots of squirrels about, more like red than gray squirrels. They're brown and small. There is also a gorgeous bird I have seen both here and in the Gulf. It has a gold back, turquoise breast and dull greenish wings. I found a dead one at Khobar. Nobody can tell me its name, not even the Kurds. (After getting back I looked it up; it's a common or European roller.)
On the way back from my walk I spotted a wall buried in the opposite stream bank. A closer look turned up some pottery shards. Kuyper and the Three Amigos have been calling me Indiana Jones for so long this had to happen. I showed it to Haney; in the morning we'll survey it and report it.
Sun 26 May
In the morning I surveyed the wall site and collected the loose pottery shards. I photographed them in place before collecting them; they would have soon fallen into the stream and been lost. Then we drove to the switchback road on the way to Sirsenk and drove the Humvee into the river to wash it. I was trying to keep dry but Corrigan demolished that plan. She threw a tub of water onto the roof and most of it hit me. I spotted live crabs in the stream but couldn't get close enough for a good picture. (After returning home, I looked it up and found that fresh-water crabs are widely distributed in warm regions of the world, but there are few in North America.) The river is full of fish up to a foot long. We've seen Kurds with them; they're silvery things, my guess is shad or alewife.
We spent the afternoon mostly relaxing, Haney and I having a lengthy bull session. Then we got a lukewarm shower; the British finally have a shower point. It was my first warm shower in a month.
There are mines about. Not many, but enough to keep people on their toes. Here are a few current stories from the past few days:
1. At Kani Masi, a US EOD team put an explosive charge on a mine, then retreated behind the nearest large rock, which was also mined. All four of them were hurt. Haney called this "the oldest trick in the book".
2. A French EOD man was setting out a charge to blow up a small scatterable mine. He knelt down on a second mine, which blew him backwards onto yet another mine, this one a Bouncing Betty. He was killed, three others hurt.
Mon 27 May
We drove down toward Dohuk, and got within sight of it when we were stopped by MP's commanded by a full colonel. We needed a pass to get into Dohuk, but the passes were only available in Dohuk. I wrote "typical military logic" in my journal. Actually, we had blundered into a very sensitive situation. We had cut a deal with Iraq to have a small number of US troops in Dohuk, all identified on a roster. Dohuk was strictly off limits to everyone else, but we hadn't gotten the word up where we were.
On the way to Dohuk, we passed 5 turkish trucks on the switchbacks. They were too heavily loaded to make the grade, and were waiting for a tow. The trucks are supposed to go through Batufa, which is an easy road but an hour longer. When we came back two hours later they were still there, too dumb to turn around and take the long way. None of us had the slightest sympathy for them; those trucks are tearing the road apart.
In the afternoon I translated for a Turkish truck driver who came in with a load of lumber destined for A and C Companies. He wanted to be paid off. I finally got across that he would be paid in Silopi when he got back. I wonder how he liked the road to C Company; he had a semi and the road is extremely rutted.
Later on Haney and I went out with a Brit who wanted to learn to drive a Humvee. We went to Kani Masi camp, by now almost empty, then through the ruins of Kani Masi village and on up the valley a few kilometers.
The Kurds are not really nomads, but they actually migrate between summer and winter homes. A lot of them keep orchards. In the border area the Iraqis sprayed the orchards with persistent herbicide. We saw many dead orchards. Some accounts of chemical attacks may actually have been herbicide sprayings, though there were undoubtedly real chemical attacks as well.
The commander of the 40th Commando had invited us to a farewell dinner, then General Potter and assorted other VIP's turned up, so only Haney went. I went out for a walk and found a few more possible buried walls and lots of loose pottery shards. I documented them and photographed them for our report.
Tue 28 May
We loaded out in the morning. Lt. Howells seemed sorry to see us go. He is an excellent officer. I showed Haney the new artifact sites, we visited C and A companies, then got in to Camp Redeye about 1300. SSG Max Mitchell was collecting field gear, which I was delighted to turn in, along with my weapon. Hooray! Then Bill Sieja and I walked out to the wadi beyond Camp 2, about a 4-mile round trip.
We had a meeting at 1745. Camp 3 will be consolidated into vacant spots in Camps 1 and 2. General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is coming on Thursday for a short visit and tour, a remarkable thing for a task force as small as we are. Convoy assignments for the trip back to Turkey are posted. We are waiting on our final order; we expect to leave between June 1 and June 6, spend two weeks or so in Turkey, and be home around June 23 or so. A tape from Shawn came in the mail today.
Wed 29 May
We were supposed to perform vehicle wash in the morning but the arrangements fell through. I went over to Camp 2 to help out and spent the morning helping erect a school tent. The teachers wanted a parachute rigged up as a sunscreen to enclose a bigger play area, so I spent the rest of the afternoon figuring out how to rig it up. The strong wind didn't help a bit. The whole area was paved with "hersey mines"; the Kurds don't like latrines so close to their tents, so many of them defecate in the field. The schoolyard must have had 20 deposits. I finally decided the Kurds put it there, and they can clean it up if they don't like it.
After I got back in I typed up the report on our "archeological site". It's certainly an unusual incident; we'll see what the system does with it. (My guess, turn it over to the U.N.)
Thu 30 May
We went to vehicle wash in the morning. COL Miller had worked out a deal with the water works to use their hoses. This was a highly secret arrangement; everybody else was washing vehicles in the river. I was assigned to a 5-ton truck, which was no problem in itself. We got to the intersection in Zakho where we were to turn (actually a U-turn through the median, typical Arab traffic control) and I turned. It was too tight to make the turn in a single maneuver, so I started to back up. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a trailer right behind me. My first thought was "Who's the idiot crowding me with that trailer?" My next thought was "How did he get a trailer up so close behind my truck?". Then I realized I was the idiot. I'd driven all the way down without realizing I had a trailer in tow; it was completely hidden by the rear of the truck! Backing trailers is not my strong suit. I had the trailer on one wheel at one point, but I got enough room to finish the turn.
Only one of the pumps at the water works was running, and the big hose was in constant use filling water trucks, but the managers ran a garden hose out for us. I left about 1130 to get back for a noon meeting of drivers for General Powell's visit, only to find the meeting was postponed until 1300. I went to headquarters to get a much-needed haircut. The Iraqi barber used hand clippers; it was like going to the barber in 1910. The barber chair was a pile of cement slabs. I got back, and the meeting was postponed until 1400. When we finally met, we got a small fact folder and a five-minute briefing. I showered and reported to Camp 2 at 1430. Powell and his entourage arrived an hour hater in 4 choppers. LTC Christopherson, aided by Jeff Poh, gave the briefing, then the group piled into buses and Blazers for a short tour. I drove a Blazer with two majors and a captain, pretty small fry by the standards of the tour group. We drove over to Captain subcommunity, looped through the area and back to the city center. The tour took only 15 minutes, but my group seemed very pleased by what they saw. Then Powell and his crew departed. The whole affair went like clockwork, and our brass seem very happy indeed.
Fri 31 May
We had a formation at 0700, then some of us went over to headquarters to try to get a chopper ride. The plan, which never got off the ground, was to ferry groups on short flights around the camps. While we were waiting, Don Langel, Joe Bechlem and I tagged along on a resupply flight to a British post, then buzzed over Dohuk and returned. There is nothing on God's green earth as much fun as a low-level chopper flight with the doors open; it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Unfortunately, we didn't get to fly over the camps; the choppers kept getting bumped for other missions. I went over to Camp 2 for a second try about noon, spent some time chatting with the Italian MP's before this flight, too was scrubbed. So I hiked out to the wadi to take a few pictures, then spent much of the afternoon relaxing. We played volleyball later on.
Breakfast was our last cooked meal. Our mess crew has packed all its gear and nobody else is taking up the slack.
Sat 1 Jun
Formation at 0730, then we were off most of the day. I read and relaxed in the morning. At 1330 I went on a shopping run to Silopi. I cashed a check at Finance for $100, then got a copper plate at the Turkish PX, visited the U.S. PX, then hit the street vendors. The south side of the road opposite the camp is lined with vendors mostly selling carpets; I nicknamed it the "Silopi Mall". I got a rug and a tapestry. I had just returned to camp when CPT Gerald Watson and SSG Wally Coyle said they were walking into town, so I decided to go with them.
I had a specific mission in mind. A few days ago the Fishers (MAJ Carl and CPT Lori) came back from Zakho with a Kurdish cradle. I thought Shawn would love one. We walked through downtown, out to the river to see the old stone bridge, then back via a different street. And there it was, outside a shop, price 30 dinars ($6). I put it on my shoulder and we started back the four miles to camp. It was a riot; every male Kurd waved, smiled, gave me the V sign as if to say "You sly fox, you've still got it"! One gave me a little brass amulet for "the baby"; I didn't have the heart, or the fluency in Kurdish, to tell him the cradle would likely end up a planter.
The vendors along the roadside are real pests, selling bayonets and Iraqi currency. Headquarters has issued orders forbidding dealing with them because of the safety hazard created by people crowding the road. For the same reason it is now forbidden to toss candy to the kids. These two regulations should have been posted the first day!
Sun 2 Jun
No formation today. I went to Chaplain Burr's service at 0830, then packed up my cradle for shipment. It was so big I had to piece together two boxes, to pack it. I dismantled it, using my mini tool kit, then wrapped my carpet around the three major pieces in an S-shape. I did technical inspection on my convoy vehicle, then went with Haney and Raby back up to the British Marine camp. He went up to get his evaluation, which the British had forwarded to Special Forces. I went to get some missed geology shots. It felt strange seeing some of these places that were by now so familiar, and knowing that it was really for the last time.
At the British camp, we heard that a car tried to run a British checkpoint the other night. They stopped after 11 shots and three flat tires.
Then we went in to Silopi. It took over an hour to mail the package, which was almost too big for SAM (Space Available Mail, the cheapest rate). The limit for SAM, length plus girth, is 100 inches. The box measured out at 100 inches exactly.
The carpet patterns at the Silopi Mall are interesting. In addition to the geometric patterns, they have unicorns, naked ladies, the Last Supper, Sacred Hearts, Confederate flags, Our Lady of Guadalupe (honest!) and other traditional Moslem artistic motifs.
We returned to camp. I ate and played volleyball, very badly tonight. The current speculation has us leaving Friday. The Kurds demonstrated twice, at 0900 and 1800, against the coalition pullout. It took me back to the Sixties. This was the first time I had ever seen anyone demonstrate to keep U.S. forces in a country, sort of a "hell, no, you can't go" demonstration.
Mon 3 Jun
Formation at 0830. We are released from the mission. 40 of us drove to Silopi with personal gear. The plan throughout the departure was to avoid Turkish border formalities by dribbling through a vehicle at a time. We carefully packed our vehicles so nothing excess showed from outside. We spent the morning tearing down tents. I drove out with PFC Dave Mabin about 1320. We unloaded, then drove back only to find out we weren't needed. We detoured south from Zakho a bit (I wanted to check out the geology) then went back to Silopi. Silopi, marvel of marvels, has a shower point which is utterly glorious.
We have not brought eternal peace to the Middle East. The Kurds marched on the police station in Dohuk today, and the Iraqis opened fire. The Kurds returned with weapons and a shoot-out ensued; two Iraqis and four Kurds died.
Tue 4 Jun
We returned to Zakho at 0730 and finished breaking down the camp. At 1130 Major General Garner came and gave the three Civil Affairs companies (ours, the 431st and the 418th) a farewell address. To our surprise, it was short and informal (he broke the formation and just had everyone gather around). It was also very complimentary. Our plan to "convoy" out at intervals degenerated into an Indy-500 start. My own departure was delayed a bit when the 418th's trash burn started a small grass fire. Considering the burn area was surrounded on all sides by bare earth, it still created quite a hubbub.
It gets very hot soon after sunup, reaches over 100 during the day, and cools off only at sunset. The camp at Silopi is bleak and shadeless. It gets huge dust devils; one took down two GP-Medium tents today.
I sent home most of my excess clothing to make room. (This would be the only box to suffer damage or loss; it broke open en route. I lost a few clothing items, but what hurt much more was losing a box of old music tapes). Mailing it used up most of the money I got from Finance the other day.
Funny remark of the day: on the way out of Iraq, I was talking with CPT Pressner about the designs on the "Turkish" rugs. He said he liked the naked ladies on the unicorns best. I said I didn't think my wife would approve. He said "My wife doesn't like unicorns either".
A formation was set for 1800, then cancelled. The word now is we may send our vehicles out on flatbeds instead of convoying them.
The tent next door is occupied by Marines who like loud music. I went out at 2300 to ask them to turn it down and bashed my toe on a tent stake. Then when I fell down I took of half the skin on my leg sliding down the rope. Ouch!
Wed 5 Jun
It was a dull day until 1600, then got very exciting indeed. There was a formation at 0830, then I washed my laundry. In the afternoon I visited the Silopi Mall. There were some spectacular dust devils, some forming perfect hollow tubes that went up hundreds of feet. Mostly it is too hot to do anything except try to avoid the heat.
There was enough shadow along the side of the tent for me to lie down about 1600. I had only been there a few minutes when MAJ Bob Johanson came by and told me to pack for a chopper flight at 1700. I threw my stuff together and loaded up in a truck for the helipad. The "terminal" was a garden gazebo.
Miraculously, it all came together. We were just on the point of giving up when a French Gazelle came in at 1700. It was a fantastic flight. We buzzed the fields about ten feet off the ground, then set down briefly in Zakho. We took off again, flew by the camps, then went on to Sirsenk. We landed and were rolling when the pilot lifted off and set us down about 50 feet away; the shortest flight I ever took. We got thoroughly sandblasted by the propwash. We made the MAC flight to Incirlik by 5 minutes. The flight, in a C-130, took two hours. Johanson called headquarters when we got in. By sheer luck LTC Bukowski was in (at 2000). He took us to the camp, then we went to the burger shop and the gym for showers.
We got four people on the morning bus run with just minutes to spare. We could have gotten a lot of others since there were only two other people on the bus. They beat us in by 20 minutes.
Thu 6 Jun
The camp is a tent city on the north side of the base just off the residential area. It's quite nice, very casual (no hat, no salutes in the area) and has a nice recreation tent and shower point. It looks a bit like Dodge City with its wood sidewalks. They used a lot of wood here!
In the morning we went to chow, then headquarters and the PX. I cashed another check for $100. In the afternoon I took a nap. It's warm here but not nearly as bad as Silopi. Later on most of our crew went to town, but I couldn't because all my civilian clothes were in the bag I left behind in Silopi. I hiked up to the MAC terminal to leave a message for COL Miller, who's flying in from Diyarbakir, then ate supper and revisited the PX. The mess hall and the PX are about half a mile from the tents, about a 10-minute walk. Most of our company arrived by bus about 1800. The last group got in about 2130. They were delayed by flat tires, and were annoyed to find that most everyone had gone off to party. They were not happy campers at this point. Much to my surprise, the 431st and 418th also arrived; I thought they would be a few days behind us.
Fri 7 Jun
A day off. In the morning I walked to the mess hall, then went to sign my evaluation report. I spent some time reading, then visited the Turkish Exchange on post. After lunch I bought 83,000 lira ($20) at Finance and went to town. My original plan was to go into Adana, but outside the main gate I ran into SSG Poh, COL Miller and LTC Christopherson and went with them to "rip-off alley", the strip of shops just outside the base. The press is more diplomatic and simply calls it "the Alley". The shops are actually very nice and within a few minutes I had spent $42, almost all my cash. I decided it wasn't safe to be off post.
The current word is we have a mission number and take-off time, Monday at 0750. The 431st and 418th will be going along with us. The chaplain is organizing a trip to the sea tomorrow. I signed up for it.
Sat 8 Jun
We had formation at 0800, then the tour group went to the rec center to board buses for the trip to the beach. It's about an hour and a half trip. Adana seemed mostly modern and nondescript. Tarsus was wall-to-wall slum; no wonder St. Paul left! Mersin is the cleanest and most modern town along the route. For some reason all the banks in Turkey have warehouses along the road here. West of Mersin there is lots of construction along the coast. There are many mosques going up. They are all modern but beautifully done in traditional styles.
The beach area is called Kizkale (Maiden's Castle) or popularly "The Castle by the Sea". There is one old castle on shore just east of the beach, a second one about a quarter mile offshore on a small island. Legend has it that some ruler had a princess who was cursed to die from snakebite, so he built her a castle on the island to keep her safe. Of course a snake got over there anyway. The castles look medieval: Byzantine or Crusader. I found a Greek inscription on a stone in the shore castle.
Late in the day a fishing boat put out and circled his purse net. I don't know if they were doing it as a demonstration, or whether they expected to catch anything. At any rate, they didn't catch much. We left about 1700 and got back to base about 2000. My cash situation is critical. I was down to $1, 1000 lira and 2 Saudi Riyals before I managed to cash a $20 traveller's check at the Shopette.
Intelligence warns of increased PKK (Kurdish Communist Party) activity ahead. The base will be restricted starting Monday, and there will be no unofficial trips to Adana. We're leaving just in time.
It was muggy all day but by sunset it was cool enough to run. This was my first run since Kuwait.
Sun 9 Jun
We formed up at 0730 and went to the gym for farewell speeches by Lieutenant General Shalikashvili, BG Campbell and COL Beahm, commander of the 354th CA Group at 0800. The remarks were short and highly complimentary.
I had volunteered for vehicle detail but everyone dispersed after the farewell so the rest of the morning was uneventful. I spent the afternoon packing. At 1800 formation, CPT Pressner cracked up the whole unit. Every time 1SG Gerlach talked, Pressner did a convincing imitation of translating into sign language. Top knew something was going on, but every time he looked back, Pressner just grinned.
In the evening we loaded up our weapons and took them to the MAC terminal, only to be turned back because we couldn't provide an armed guard. Our officers and the MAC people brainstormed every way they could think of to get around it, but nothing worked. Eventually we brought them back. Everyone is keyed up. I finally got to sleep at 2300.
Mon 10 Jun
It really happened today! We got up at 0300, loaded up and got to the terminal at 0400. We processed through Customs and boarded at 0600, but our hopes of an early departure were dashed by slow loading. Our unit decided to lean on the no-shows at formation; they got baggage detail. The other units had volunteers. Our no-shows ended up getting "punished" by having to ride in First Class! We taxied out at 0830, then spent an endless half-hour at the end of the runway waiting for clearance from Ankara. Our great dread was that somehow the flight would be cancelled.
Wheels up at 0910! We headed west and crossed over Izmir, then south of Athens and across the Adriatic to Brindisi. From there we flew up the coast to Ancona and across Italy to France. Being a military flight, we couldn't fly over Switzerland. We glimpsed the Alps through holes in the clouds, then on to Rhein-Main at Frankfurt. The views were beautiful, with green and bright yellow fields lit through holes in the clouds. We later found out the yellow fields were canola (rape) seed.
We spent an hour and a half in the very nice USO tent at Rhein-Main, then boarded again. The flight was mostly cloudy for some time, but I did see northeastern England and the Outer Hebrides. I slept most of the way across. We didn't see the ground until the pilot announced we were in U.S. airspace, over Maine. We spent 45 minutes at Kennedy Airport. I called Shawn, who already knew we were in Germany. The support group has quite an intelligence operation.
We arrived at Pope Air Force Base about 2130. There was a short welcoming ceremony, then we were bused to our billets, not too far from where we had been in January. Our baggage arrived about 2300, after which we settled in for the night.
Tue 11 Jun
I got up at 0630 for breakfast, did laundry and spent a lot of time sleeping off jet lag. It was a day off, and we just relaxed. In the afternoon I hiked up to the PX, about a three-mile hike each way.
Wed 12 Jun
I got up at 0630 for breakfast, and by 0745 was so bored I went for a run, then did more laundry. The current rumor has us getting a charter flight to Green Bay, then the 308th and 415th people would get connections from there. They were upset, and I can't say I blame them (they eventually got to go directly home). Most of the day was spent relaxing and reading. At evening formation at 2000 we got the new word on departure. The 432nd will fly to Green Bay on two Wisconsin Air National Guard tankers, the rest will get commercial flights directly home. We also got some word on events after we return, a parade at 1900 on June 21, a picnic, and so on. I called Shawn. She told me Sky King (the nickname for my roommate during my first tour in Turkey) wanted me to call him collect. I tried but couldn't get through.
Thu 13 Jun
Up at 0500, formation at 0600, then went over to the clinic by the JFK Special Warfare School for medical outprocessing. I didn't even get in until noon, and we were all out by 1600. Almost all that time was spent waiting in lines or waiting rooms.
Fri 14 Jun
Up at 0530, formation at 0630. The morning was spent on briefings about benefits and legal matters. We also filled out forms for our DD-214 (discharge form) and Finance. Most of the afternoon was spent on paperwork for travel vouchers for our time in Turkey and Iraq. It got ridiculous because some people got hung up on petty details (they bought a meal at the airport on the way to Fort Bragg in January!)
The first two days here were very nice: 80 degrees and dry. Since yesterday it's been over 90 and very muggy.
Sat 15 Jun
Up at 0530, formation at 06630, then off to the dental clinic for a quick checkup. I was out by 0900. That, amazingly, was the activity of the day. The morning was not bad, cloudy and cool, but it got sunny and muggy later. In the sfternoon I walked to the PX and visited the base library. On the way back I tried a short cut through the woods behind the riding stables. The trail dead-ended, and I got scratched and muddy cutting through the woods to a horse path. I also picked up loads of ticks. I found two after getting back to the barracks, plus a third one later on my clothes, plus a couple of others that turned up later.
Mars, Jupiter and Venus have been getting closer together for the past couple of months. Tonight they are very close, but the sky is murky and the view is poor. I couldn't see Mars at all.
Sun 16 Jun
Nothing scheduled today. I read and did laundry in the morning, then started hiking to the PX. The Commander and COL Miller came by and gave me a lift, then I hiked back. I stopped off in the snack bar and got trapped by a fierce thunderstorm. It rained heavily and flooded the street, but did nothing to cool the hot and muggy weather.
Mon 17 Jun
We were off until 1430, then went over to the Transition Point to check our discharge forms. We were done in an hour. SGT Bill Sieja, SSG Wally Coyle, SSG Jeff Poh and I went out for a Chinese dinner in the evening, then drove back through Pope Air Force Base in a futile attempt to find something to do.
Tue 18 Jun
Formation at 0730, then we went to the Transition Point to sign off on our discharge papers. I joined a detail to assemble our personal files, which were scattered all over the place. We were done by 1030, then returned to the barracks to pack and clean house. It was cool in the morning until the clouds broke, then hot and muggy.
CPT Pressner and SGT Hardy left at 1700, the first to go. Hardy was back by 2100 - he missed his flight. People got into serious partying. An MP dropped by to lay out the ground rules "for when you really get rowdy. You're not there yet". His reminder that any serious problems would cancel our departure kept a tight lid on things.
The sky tonight is beautifully clear for the first time since we got here. I got a good view of Mars, Jupiter and Venus in a tight cluster.
Wed 19 Jun
The Day! We got up at 0630, packed and cleared our billets. Then we bused to the Green Ramp, the same place we departed from in February. We loaded our bags onto the hauler. The process got downright rowdy, with some of the junior officers flinging bags out of the bus. We howled with laughter, though we'd have been furious if anybody else treated our bags that way. We weighed in, then went to wait in the departure terminal. Two KC-135's arrived at 1130. The first one came in too steeply and had to make a touch-and-go landing, much to everyone's dismay, but soon the planes taxied in. It was great to see WISCONSIN on the tail fin. We lifted off at 1230. On the way I got to ride for a bit in the boom bay and look straight down, an amazing view. We did a flyby over the airport, then landed. When both planes were down, they opened the doors and we saw a huge crowd. We fell in behind the color guard, took a few steps, and somebody yelled "Here they come". That was the last time anything remotely resembled a military formation. The crowd rushed us. I looked for Shawn but the kids found me first and plowed into me from either side before I even saw them.
We had a short ceremony. The band played the national anthem, then there were short remarks by the County Executive, a spokesman for Toby Roth, LTC Christopherson, COL Henshaw, commander of the 308th, and the commander of the 86th Army Reserve Command. I took Shawn and the kids to see one of the tankers. We went home a couple of hours (the house was done up in yellow ribbons), unpacked, then I went back to retrieve my bags from the Reserve Center.
Thu 20 Jun
The day was spent relaxing, unpacking, and sorting. We went to the Reserve Center at 1830 and marched as families down Oneida Street, shaking hands with well-wishers on the way. It was loose, informal, and infinitely more meaningful than a formal parade could ever have been. We were greeted by the 890th Transportation Company, who beat us home by about 10 days, and the Vietnam Veterans of America, who were a huge help to our support group. At the Arena, there were short remarks by the mayors of Green Bay and De Pere, plus LTC Christopherson. After repeated glitches with the music, Jan Butz did the National Anthem a cappella. There was a brief fireworks show, then we got on buses and returned to the center.
Tue 2 Jul
We went to Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells today and all got ferocious sunburns. Very embarrasing to spend six months in a desert war and get my first really bad sunburn at home in a water park!
Wed 3 Jul
I spent much of the day trying to arrange airline tickets for a trip to the West Coast and then working at the University. I wrote up an abstract for the Geological Society of America meeting in San Diego on my observations in Iraq. They may not accept it, since today is the deadline, but I decided I had to give it a try. If they accept postmark dates, it may make it. (They accepted the postmark, but not the paper.)
Thu 4 Jul
About 50 of us reported at 1000 for the Fourth of July parade. The parade formed up on Bond St. between Fisk and, appropriately enough, Military. The parade route went east on Bond for a few blocks, then south to Dousman, then east again to the Museum. We were in position 49, about halfway through the parade.
We fell in by height, tallest in front and to the right. CPT Mike Wojta called cadence. The 890th marched behind us. The crowds were enthusiastic and applauded practically the whole way. The weather was ideal, sunny with scattered clouds. Even a brief rain squall just before the end was brief enough to be refreshing. After we reached the end point, there were a few other brief showers, including one really intense one that lasted only a minute or two and got the remaining marchers pretty wet. Everybody should get to merch in a parade at some point in their lives
Tue 30 Jul
We flew to my parents' home in the San Francisco Bay area for two weeks. After we collected our bags, we walked out to the curb to see a big white stretch limo. I joked "Oh you shouldn't have!" My sister Louise said "that is yours" - she had rented it for us as a welcome-home surprise! So we rode home in a limo, complete with bar and TV set. When we got home, the house was decorated with 300 red, white, and blue balloons, and our bedroom was filled with 100 yellow balloons. They had planned to fill the room to the ceiling but fortunately they ran out of balloons when the room was barely knee-deep. We returned to Green Bay August 11. I spotted a bag on the turntable as we collected our baggage. It was marked John Bestul. He was part of the advance party, but could not deploy because of his knee, so he ended up in the Public Affairs Office in Stuttgart, and just got back the day before.
Sun 18 Aug
Christopher and I drove to Appleton to welcome home the 395th Ordnance Company, the last unit from this area to return. Also representing the 432nd were LTC CHristopherson, CPT Elliott, SFC Russ Oestreich (a member of the stay-behind crew in Turkey), SSG Don Hansen, SSG Dale Lapacz, and SSG Connie MacNamara. Former MAJ Chuck Sanders, Connie's husband, was also there. I brought along Saudi and Kuwaiti flags, and the others brought a big 432nd banner. They seemed to appreciate it.
Fri 6 Sep - Sun 8 Sep
Our first drill weekend. Like all September weekends, it was a field weekend at Bear Paw Scout Camp. There was very little we could do since all our gear is still in transit, so it was a very laid-back weekend. We did a little common-task training. I did a slide show Saturday evening. We met some new people who joined while we were gone, the members of the stay-behind party who stayed on a few weeks longer in Turkey, as well as some of the old-timers who couldn't deploy. They were pretty concerned with how they'd be received, but they all stayed home for reasons beyond their control, and I don't think anyone holds it against them.
Sat 28 Sep
The last member of the unit still on duty came home today. MAJ Gary Bomske, who stayed in Fort Bragg because of his stomach surgery, came home on the 1255 flight. The reception committee included Don Hansen, Dale Pagel, Bill Bartelme, Max Mitchell, Cindy Hermsen, Mrs. Jim Eliason, and me.
Wed 9 Oct
Our Conex containers from Turkey arrived tonight, and a party of 18 or so volunteers spent an hour and a half unloading them. All our people and all our gear are finally home.
Note: by Steven Dutch, 432nd Civil Affairs Company