April 10-14, 1991: Khobar and Dhahran:

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

Mon 8 Apr

Our advance party arranged a wash point for our vehicles. It's a private outfit in Dammam with four bays and pneumatic lifts. Third Country nationals work the day shift, but we work at night. I had the 0400-0700 shift. It's not a bad job but the vehicles are so dirty it takes forever to wash them down. The oil spots on the outside have to be scrubbed off with gasoline. I got back at 0825, helped Max carry a generator, and got to the mess hall a few minutes after it shut down. I was lucky to find anything; they had the food put away. Not that it matters much, since the food is as bad as when we were here before.

I spent the morning on a very leisurely weapon cleaning and hand laundry. At 1300 we had a formation, then started the paperwork for our physicals. I called Shawn, picked up some souvenirs, and visited the PX. Khobar has 40,000 people, and there are new areas open that weren't open in February. There are lines for everything, but they move fast enough. Shawn sent me a nice tape today, as did Christopher. I dictated a reply tape in the evening and sent it off. It was a busy day.

Tue 9 Apr

A quiet day. We did more paperwork and some initial physical exams for outprocessing, done by Doc (LTC) Ohmart. Otherwise it was a true nothing day. I visited the PX, rec center, and so on, and dictated another tape in the evening for Shawn

Wed 10 Apr

We formed up at 0630 and convoyed over to Dhahran Air Base for a dental exam. We stood in line for over an hour for a two-minute exam, then went to the PX. The two camps on the air base are called Camp Jack and Camp Jill. The PX at Camp Jack has Arab vendors outside. I picked up some prayer rugs for Christmas presents. After getting back to Khobar, it was more nothing. I visited the Arab Culture tent, which is actually an Islamic evangelism center, and picked up some of their literature. Shawn sent me two letters, and a letter came from Cindy and Bill Locke.

Khobar is a lot more laid back than in February. Nearly anything seems to go for uniform!

We had a sandstorm about 0300, rain showers much of the morning, then it was hot and muggy the rest of the day.

Some local witticisms, from a bulletin board of the 404th:

Also some Desert Storm hit songs, from a blurb posted on the 352d bulletin board in Kuwait:

Gulf War Image These guys are going home. We thought we'd be right behind them. Little did we know.
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Thu 11 Apr

The rumor mill was abuzz last night, and it was confirmed at our 0800 formation. We have a warning order to go to Turkey to aid the Kurdish relief efforts. This has been a topic of black humor ever since the Kurdish rebellion started while we were still in Kuwait. In the morning we drew our desert camo (after leaving Kuwait!). I spent an hour in line to draw $200 casual pay; the line stretched around three sides of the building. Then I tried to mail a parcel, but the Post Office was shut down early so they could process the people already inside by closing time. Everything here is long lines.

We start packing. The current plan is to go to Jubail tomorrow, then fly from Jubail to Incirlik in Turkey on Sunday. After that, ---??

Despite major-league grumbling, I think a lot of people are secretly glad to get a real mission. In many ways the Kuwait mission was disappointing. These people do not sound like people who just got their ticket home pulled.

At 1300 formation, it started to rain and thunder. Just as MAJ Dickson got up to speak, it poured. He rushed through his comments and dismissed us. The rain stopped a minute later.

We had several people volunteer to join us from other units for this mission: LT Sean Messick, a Turkish linguist and very capable officer, LT Litzelman, MAJ (Chaplain) Russell Burr, and SGT John Thomas.

Fri 12 Apr

40 people went to Jubail today to load gear. The new plan is to retrieve gear that we stored in Jubail before we left for Kuwait, bring it back to Khobar, and fly out of Dhahran, but we have no departure date yet. For those of us who stayed in Khobar, it was a very dull day. I finally got some excess gear and the presents sent home.

Somebody forgot to tell the postal unit that we weren't going to Jubail after all, so the mail went there. That prompted a round of verbal horseplay along the lines of "What a whale of a tale, the mail's in Jubail".

While thinking about the omelet and ham MRE's and T-rations we ate in Kuwait, and the ones we were going to eat in Kurdistan, I was moved to poetry:

I do not like Green Eggs and Ham
I do not like them Uncle Sam
I would not eat them in a tank
Or on a camel, smelling rank
I would not eat them in a Hummer
That would be a real bummer
I would not eat them in a Bradley
They would make me vomit badly ...

It may only be a coincidence, but Doctor Suess died a few months later. Actually the omelet MRE isn't bad; the secret is not to look at it. The T-ration omelets are fairly good.

Sat 13 Apr

As a reward for a day's work, the Jubail crew got to go to the resort at Half Moon Bay. They got there too late, the day's quota had already been admitted, so they were turned back! Trying to get to Half Moon Bay would turn into a real saga of frustration, since something always seemed to go wrong.

I spent the morning on various errands, like trying to get the chapel garage for a briefing. In the afternoon some of us went with SSG Max Mitchell to pick up heaters and tents. SGT Don Langel, SGT Dan April and I managed to wrestle the heaters off the truck by ourselves; no small feat since we started with a container weighing about a ton, and even after we broke it apart the separate stacks of heaters weighed several hundred pounds.

We went to the air base club for supper, as we would every chance we got. It's a vast improvement over the local mess halls. I went to Mass at 1930, then I relieved SSG Pat Monfort as duty NCO so he could go to clothing issue. In return he would try to get me a hat in a size normally worn by humans. He got back at midnight, but the only hats they had were large sizes.

Our laptop computers have a variety of solitaire games, and they have become a popular way to pass the time in the evening or during slack time, which is much of the time lately.

Sun 14 Apr

I prepared and gave a briefing (poorly attended) on Turkey. A lot of people have an unrealistic idea of conditions there; they expect to work at extreme altitudes in severe cold. In reality, the valley floors are at moderate elevations and the temperatures should be mild. Then a COL Hayuk from the 354th Civil Affairs Group, which would turn out to be our new higher command, gave a good talk on the Kurds and the situation in Iraq and Turkey.

The poor Jubail crew got shut out again! They got to Half Moon Bay only to find out that most of the facilities were shut down for the day. So LTC Ken Bukowski led a somewhat irregular trip to Bahrain for some of them at least. Bahrain has the only legal alcohol in the Gulf and is tightly off-limits without a pass.

I was taking a nap late in the afternoon when SGT Bill Seija and SSG Wally Coyle woke me up to take a walk to town. Despite signs proclaiming the town of Khobar off-limits, visits are at the discretion of the commander, and the MP's don't care about people leaving. The 4-mile hike took about an hour. Khobar looks like Southern California in many ways, and the traffic is lethal - fast and furious.

For the first time I saw Saudi women. Their garb varies from total coverage, to a veil exposing only the eyes, to having the entire face exposed. It was common, and a little surprising, to see women with children, or small groups of women, out unchaperoned. I later learned that Khobar houses a lot of Kuwaiti refugees, as well as a lot of third-country nationals, so it is probably a bit more liberal than the rest of Saudi Arabia. The most comical thing was to see veiled women with glasses; they would have the eyes exposed and glasses perched atop that black veil.

The main mall in Khobar looks like any American mall, with Saudi touches. Many stores have notices about the need to make women follow accepted dress and conduct standards, and the little cafeteria in the center had signs forbidding women to sit there (which military females simply ignored). Some US females were wearing outfits that would get stares in a US mall, so their impact on the Saudis must have been unnerving.

We had dinner in a Thai restaurant, then browsed the mall. The mall is closed 1200-2000, because this is the Eid, the post-Ramadan festival. Eid is the closest thing the Arabs have to Christmas, at least from a secular standpoint. I got two rolls of film, so my film situation is no longer critical, then we got back to camp at 2200.

The rumor mill has the Turkey mission lasting about 30 days (that turned out to be close to the truth), but no firm word yet on departure.

Dhahran, April 14, 1991 Gulf War Image
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