February 13-20, 1991: Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia

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

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!

gwh213f.jpg (75003 bytes) These prefab dorms were originally for oil refinery workers.
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gwh214e.jpg (203967 bytes) Bunk, sweet bunk.
gwh213d.jpg (64291 bytes) Left: Guard post.

Below: volleyball and basketball were popular.

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gwh217a.jpg (93161 bytes) Formation

Thu 14 Feb

Valentine's Day. Spent 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.

gwh220a.jpg (80597 bytes) This is the mosque in the compound. Official guidance was not to photograph mosques but if you were discreet there was no problem.
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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.

gwh217b.jpg (94200 bytes) MAJ Bob Johanson Makes A Fashion Statement (Our First Desert BDU's). CPT Jim Pellinen judges the fashion show.

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.

Jackpine the Combat Carpenter (AKA SSG Jeff Poh)

gwh214a.jpg (66451 bytes) Jeff, a carpenter in civilian life, does his thing as SSG Jim Jakubenas and SSG Max Mitchell (our supply sergeant) supervise.
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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 buildings 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 (pictures below: 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.

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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.

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