May 26 - 31, 1991

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Back From the Mountains

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.

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