Al Jubail: February 21-25, 1991

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

Al-Jubail and Tapline Road

Thu 21 Feb

We spent the morning on DC briefings. We started with an excellent briefing by Fred Cuny from the State Department, whom we would see again in Kuwait and yet again in Kurdistan.[Note: Cuny 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.

First Glimpse of the Oil Smoke, 23 February 1991

A strange dark gray sky, yet cloudless, was our first introduction to the oil fires. It was also quite chilly, bringing uncomfortable reminders of the "nuclear winter" controversy that was current at that time.

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A Briefing by an Eyewitness

The young woman, Sandra Williams, was a Kuwaiti Airlines stewardess who was hidden for a couple of months by her Kuwaiti friends before finally being able to leave Kuwait.

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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.

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