How we do in Kuwait
…And then I found out I had guard duty tonight in our operations center, which just so happens to have an Internet-capable computer. Sweetness.
Here is that entry I promised:
And so it came to pass that we should have training while in Kuwait. Announcements were made to prepare us for what was to come.
“We have a convoy live-fire range on the 28 and 29th. Pack a bag to stay overnight.”
Overnight? Pack what bag? I’m living out of my bags.
I made do with a pouch that normally attaches to a ruck sack. I threw in the essentials and one pair of undies. It was just one night, I could “rough it,” no problem.
So the 28th came…
“Formation at 0830 in full battle.”
We woke up and went out.
“Ok…the next formation will be at 1130. Dismissed.”
Turning around back to the tent, I wondered how we’d be able to be at lunch (they started serving at 1100), fight through the normal crowds, eat, walk the distance back, gear up, and be in formation at 1130. Hrmm, looks like I was skipping lunch.
“Ok…the busses leave at noon. Everybody line up and wait to get on.”
We boarded the stuffy busses in our armored regalia and, once on our way, sat through the 20-minute rerun of the “Kuwait Landscape Show.”
Arriving at the staging area outside of our camp, we hopped off our transports.
“Get in formation so we can split you up into your convoy vehicles.”
Standing in the desert afternoon with our sleeping gear, weapons and armor, we waited a good 15 minutes before all of the “Oh, she’s with your group?” glitches were worked out.
Properly soaked, I took my seat behind the driver of vehicle number three and readied my camera for whatever scene was to come.
Although I had time to look around, the only picture opportunities involved soldiers standing still. A little dry.
So, I returned to my vehicle and sat in the heat.
All in all, two hours passed before our fuel was topped off and we started down the road.
We pulled in to our training site around 1630-ish. The sun was settling into the bosom of the normal sandy haze at the bottom of the Kuwait sky.
“Get your shit, download it in tent six, and form up outside.”
Walking toward the two rows of four tents (the only feature inside of the sand perimeter) one of our sergeants major intercepted us.
“Get into tent seven and get ready for class.”
I spoke up, “Sergeant major, we’re still holding all of our sleeping gear and packs. Can we download them in our sleeping tent first?”
He stared at me — well right through me, really, and barked an order.
“Sergeant first class Jackson, direct this traffic into tent seven.”
“Yes sergeant major,” he replied.
“Well? Why am I still out here doing this?” Sergeant major said before storming off.
For a few bewildering minutes we stood outside, clutching our things. Personnel from the 101st Airborne Division were in our tents already, having arrived earlier, and there was no place for us to go.
“Drop your bags outside and wait,” someone eventually said.
Our leadership had disappeared to some meeting. We were on our own for the moment.
Many started to eat the “Jimmy Deans” we had been issued for dinner. These meals were sealed Styrofoam plates with a can of juice, potted meat, ham salad, Oreos, and a vacuum-sealed bun.
I normally drank the juice and gnawed on the bread for a while, but otherwise avoided the processed contents.
Some time passed but the cool of the early evening made it easy. Our numbers had dwindled as the leaders realized they brought too many to training. The extras boarded another bus to return didn’the other 3/5ths of the unit that didn’t even come.
The 101st guys eventually left, and we filed in to tent six — the sergeant major had gone back with the extras, so he didn’t care anymore. All was well for the moment.
“Well, you all were late, so no training tonight,” the civilian instructor told us when our remaining few had been seated. “We’ll start tomorrow.”
We did have enough for two groups — or “serials” as they call them in convoy-ese. One serial would sleep in tent six, the other in number seven.
And so at 1830, with the approaching night gathering to ambush the remaining light, we started to claim spots on the classroom tent floor to sleep on.
I got a wooden bench. My bag with toothbrush and underwear was my pillow.
“You have guard duty at 2000 to 2100.”
“Ok,” I answered, but then remembered, “Don’t the civilians have a security force out here?”
“Yes, but we ain’t trusting our .50cals to them jokers.”
“Fair enough. We gettin'” ammo?”
“Of course not.”
“What, we supposed to cuss at the bad guys if they come?”
“Be there 10 minutes before your shift,” the sergeant first class said curtly.
Reporting for guard, I noticed something and asked one of the soldiers we were relieving, “Hey, where are the .50cals?”
“Why are we out here, outside the perimeter, with no ammo, to guard stuff that’s not here?”
“Goodnight,” the soldier said in that ‘Ha ha, sucker!’ tone.
My shift wasn’t so bad, but others’ were. Many of the soldiers were a little tired the next morning. The seniors were fine, they didn’t pull things like guard, but the rest of us were a little drowsy.
“It’s 0400, wake up!”
Wow, two hours to sit up, put on my boots and walk six feet to my bench for class. Thanks.
Class was three hours of decent training. Any time our unit is not involved in events, they go pretty well. Let our unit handle things, though, and watch out!
Then came time for the live fire. Our four .50cals were cut to two since we only had two soldiers qualified to fire the damn things. Windows would be closed, so no love for the rest of us. We would just observe and help simulate injures and the like.
Walking out to our vehicles, I saw something was out of place, “Hey, where’s our truck?”
“Oh, I think the other serial took some of them — they had extra people.”
So for ten minutes of the big day, I handed out water to vehicles as they pulled up to the supply truck.
“Ok…you and these others are extra, go back to the tent and wait for everybody to get back.”
Walking back with my new squad, I noticed the Mitsubishi SUVs parked in a pretty line. Our commanders had come to see the glorious training.
Someone yelled, “Oh shit! We only have enough ammo for the .50cals to have 100 rounds.”
That’s about 20 seconds of firing. Not nearly enough for two runs through the 12-mile course.
Making it back to the tent, brushing past the flies and sand, I sat on my bench and thought of that cute Michigan girl I’ll eventually meet, and how I’ll split a beer with some friends down the road, remembering the exasperating futility of my time trying to live as a rational man in the military.