NBC. Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. These were some of the most thought about things in the blast furnace of Iraq. Not that we did not have other things to think about but the idea of a virus that could live 3-5 days in the desert environment was not something to take lightly.
I guess the reason I thought about it so much was because our unit had nothing to stop it. If we got hit we basically died unless of course the dosage was metered by drug intervention for reasons of scientific study ( more on that later ).
I had studied the flash cards of military vehicles for years and knew all of the Russian vehicles we came across like I knew my own. The Russians have a very nice decontamination system that uses what amounts to a jet engine strapped to the back of a rather large truck. It was said this machine could decon a vehicle in seconds were our pressure washers would take many minutes to do the same job. Minutes might not matter to you here and now but every second did to us then.
Being in a signal company, no matter how many generals kissed our butts* and begged to use our systems, we were the last in line for decon. To make matters worse our equipment was rather sensitive and we could not use standard DS2 decon spray. This spray would melt all of our interconnect and loop-through cables which meant we could not operate properly. The equipment was always first priority. Without this simple decon the vehicles were unfit to travel in to the main decon point. They decided to issue us bleach instead. The only drawback to this was that the bleach destroyed our protective mask inserts, leaving us up shit creak without a log to float on. You get the picture, again we die. We ( the lower enlisted ) had decided screw the bleach, we would ride with the chemical on us rather then in us.
All of this was taken in stride by my buddies and me as the weeks wore on, and we gradually crept with the division closer to the front. Hell we figured our chances of survival were as good as many others and better then some because we had our perimeter inside of the division perimeter. That was always a comfort until we crossed the border to find tanks dug in while we set up our big christmas tress on top of the ground and ran our shots out of magnesium aluminum shelters. Thank god for strong backs and deep foxholes.
I had a few jobs besides running the commo vans. I was one of four sixty gunners in our perimeter, and was also issued LAW's and AT4's. I also oversaw the final decon check point on site. Basically this involved running an M8 alarm over anything and anyone we needed to come in contact with. Since I already had an M8 in this capacity it was decided I would use it in the perimeter at my foxhole as an early warning system.
We had another early warning system we don't talk about much in the civilian world. If you found yourself to be on a decon clearance team ( a team that would clear an area for the unit before jump ) or within the perimeter of a chemically compromised site, one person would always be first to unmask. Not a great task to have. Would make you feel rather useless I imagine as you were obviously the least needed in the unit to find this task assigned to yourself. So basically you unmask after the "test kits" said the site was clear. Only a few seconds at first, gradually increasing the time until all the others were satisfied you were not going to die. Kind of arcane huh? Like I said, that's not a good job to wake up with.
We had many instances were our alarms would go off indicating the presence of chemicals, and went to MOP4 and MOP5 almost dailey for a time. Sometimes many times a day. I had not noticed it much at the time but looking back I now realize that most of the scuds pointed our way would airburst. They did not airburst from patriot missiles as was said stateside. The patriots clearly missed the objective and exploded at a higher altitude nine out of ten times. Guess that's why we sold them to Saudi Arabia and Israel after we left. All of this activity had some weird effects on people. One of my team members , convinced of impending death did not even make the effort to mask at one point. Almost had to beat the shit out of this crewperson to get them back into reality.
We dealt with this on a daily basis so no surprise it was taking a toll on some of the more sensitive individuals. The whole time this is going on, in almost every instance, division passed it down that it was a false alarm, no chemicals had been deployed. I am the one sitting there monitoring the damn M8 while division tells me it's not happening.
After a few months of this we get a call one morning to meet with the NBCNCOIC. We all proceeded to a GP large tent used for eating ( if you were stupid and not living in a foxhole ) What came next shocked me. Our NBCNCOIC told us there had been some supply mistake. He told us some of our equipment had been mis-issued. To get to the point he told us our mask disk inserts, mask filter inserts, and 3 of 5 lot numbers of our MOP gear were training devices. In other words we had been sent out into this without real equipment, drugged up ( this is another story ) and had been allowed to be contaminated.
I will tell you something here, the agents they dropped on us were so strong the Army developed another MOP level just for us, MOP5. This new MOP level consisted of all of the MOP gear now covered by our rain gear as the charcoal of the suit was no match anyway for the shit they had. To find out it was all bogus ( they said the disks in the M8 alarm were phony too, that's why we got so many "false alarms" ) was a seriouse blow to my belief system.
Note: by David