April 17 - 23, 1991: Waiting for Kurdistan

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

Wed 17 Apr

CPT Beekman asked for volunteers to go to the airport and spend a couple of hours tying down cargo nets. 11 hours later we got back. He got heavy ribbing for it! Cargo netting is a surprisingly exacting task, since the bottom corners of the nets must be very tight and it takes a while to develop a feel for which strap to pull.

SSG Max Mitchell was supposed to be by about noon with some wood. We waited, then broke for lunch and came back. Still no Max. So we went to the Camp Jack PX for a while, and came back to give Max one last chance. The wood was there - 10 tons of it! While we were loading it we had some exciting fly-bys by two C-5's and half a dozen F-15's. F-15's are among the most graceful aircraft in the sky. Nobody will ever call a C-5 graceful, but they are immense. The climb so slowly that it seems certain they will fall out of the sky at any moment, but they always make it.

I got back and found a lizard in the kitchen. He was sand-colored and perfectly camouflaged, but not for an apartment. How he got to the 7th floor I do not know. I was showing him around when he snapped off his tail and escaped. He was last seen in SSG Bob Haglund's rucksack. I was sure I was going to hear about that for a long time, but the lizard apparently escaped successfully.

Never Volunteer, April 17, 1991

Actually, volunteering for the right things can be a real boon in the Army, but sometimes you guess wrong. This "two-hour" cargo loading job turned into an 11-hour sunburn fest.

Gulf War Image Gulf War Image

Thu 18 Apr

We spent the morning finishing up the cargo netting and tying down some rolls of rubber matting. The afternoon was mostly free time. We got the vehicles loaded and sent in for weigh-in, along with our duffle bags.

Fri 19 Apr

I have day duty as duty NCO, mostly tending the signout sheet at the door. Since we expect the moveout order on short notice, we have to know where everybody is at all times. I also rotated the vehicle guards at the airport. That took two hours since both the incoming and outgoing shifts wanted to eat lunch at the Pentagon.

I have been battling a bug all day: headache, upset stomach, and muscle aches. I went to bed at 2000 to try to shake it.

Sat 20 Apr

I still have the bug a little. I spent most of the day waiting for Chief Witbro to finish the paperwork on new vehicles. We were supposed to go over and get them at 1000, then 1200, then 1300. A little before 1400 I went to the PX, came back, and found out the detail had left.

I went into town from 1700-2100. I went into town alone but ran into SSG Haglund and others, so we prowled the mall for a while. I got a few more rolls of film. One humorous note: men vastly outnumbered women in the mall, and the plumbing in the men's room was out of order as well, so there was a long line. A woman major came by and said "a line at the men's room! Way to go, guys!" The shopping mall in Dhahran is actually quite modern. One of the things I needed to get was a light meter battery.

Going into town was a mistake; the bug came back with a vengeance. I didn't even make it from the main gate to our billet before I had to visit a bathroom, and spent the night tossing and turning.

Dhahran, April 20, 1991 Gulf War Image

Sun 21 Apr

I have the bug full force: headache, muscle ache, cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, and sweats. I dropped out of 0800 formation and went to sick call, where I got some Tylenol and Immodium. I came back, packed my last duffle bag, and laid down. I slept until 1500, got up, packed my rucksack and carry-on bag, then went back to bed at 1900. When I'm awake I can hardly go an hour without having to visit the bathroom. I was supposed to be on the first flight but somebody, bless his or her heart, put me on the second flight because of my illness.

Mon 22 Apr

The plan originally had the first two flights leaving at 0730. Then the second flight was pushed back to 1730. Now the first flight is pushed back to 1600, and the second flight till tomorrow.

I'm still not feeling the best, but pulled vehicle guard from 0600 to 0930. The 7th floor cleared out and moved to the 6th floor, and the first flight people left for the airport about noon. I slept a lot in the afternoon.

Tue 23 Apr

We are due to leave at 2300 now, but the first flight was diverted to Germany because Incirlik is too small to handle all the air traffic it now has. Later the base commander, a colonel, would remark that he had a dozen generals on his post. Does this make April 22 the winners of the out-of-theater pool? We count ourselves lucky since the word is that the group in Germany is stuck on the plane. It turns out that the "poor guys in Germany" were doing just fine, thank you. More on that later.

After sleeping for most of the past two days, the bug seems to be wearing off, though it would be a week before I was fully over it. I tried to call Shawn about 1430 (0630 Green Bay time) but she wasn't home. She had talked about going up to a friend's in Door County about this date, so that's probably where she is.

Now that we're packed, there is absolutely nothing to do here. Life in Saudi Arabia must be bland beyond belief. There was depth and history and variety in Turkey; I don't see anything like that here. Once Islam spread beyond Saudi Arabia, Arabia went back to sleep (possibly they exported all their best people). Saudi Arabia seems superficial to a degree that makes a California shopping mall look like Golden Age Athens. I haven't been as free to see things as I was in Turkey, but nothing I have heard or read from others makes me suspect there's more than what meets the eye.

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Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 11 June 2020

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