May 3-9, 1991: Camp I in Operation

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

Fri 3 May

Another beautiful day. CPT Beekman told our team to work in different parts of the camp and get familiar with operations so we'd be prepared to start Camp 2. I spent the day working in the food distribution center, a fatal mistake, since I would be doing this for the next two exhausting weeks. I spent the morning supervising the erection of a GP Large supply tent, then the afternoon loading pallets and guiding fork lifts. It was an exhausting day. The 431st CA Company and some of our trail party from Saudi arrived today.

Sat 4 May

Gorgeous weather again. I spent the morning supervising truck unloading, then LT Glowacki asked me to draw up ration charts showing how much groups of people would get for various numbers of days. This turned out to be one of the most useful tools we had. Over the next few days they evolved into tables showing how much bulk food to give the zozans for a week. Most of the afternoon was spent helping to regulate food distribution. It was a lot like selling tickets to a rock concert.

The three operating sub-communities are labelled with a square, triangle, and circle. Square and circle were done first and got two days' rations. Triangle got a week's worth. Eventually the others would too, on staggered days. Within a couple of weeks the system would be so smooth that the crew would be done by early afternoon, but for now the need to give out partial rations creates an enormous burden.

I haven't written in two or three days. We have no lights in camp and work from sunup to sundown. All I want to do after chow is go to sleep.

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Sun 5 May

Sunny and hot today. In the morning I delivered a GP Large tent to inprocessing, then erected a barrier at the entrance to the supply yard and ran various errands. In the afternoon I and some Kurds erected a GP Large storage tent and floored it with Air Force cargo pallets. These are made of aluminum, are about nine feet square by three inches thick, and weigh 300 pounds apiece. The Kurds have no concept of distributing loads; they want to work next to their pals, so as often as not there would be six Kurds on one corner of the pallet and me on the opposite corner.

The schedule for Mass was changed on short notice, so I planned to go to chaplain Burr's service instead. Meantime I did some hand laundry and took a shower. Unfortunately, with no watch I lost track of the time and missed Burr's service, too.

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Mon 6 May

Sunny and hot. I spent the day working in supply again. The last of our trail party came in from Saudi with our Humvees. We have about 6,000 in camp now, and most tents are occupied.

I was playing solitaire on the computer in the orderly room when Joe Bechlem came by and said "as long as you're on the computer, type this." It was a situation report on the water supply in Zakho, 5 pages worth. Actually it was pretty interesting.

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Tue 7 May

Sunny, hot, and hazy. Another day in supply. We issued a week's ration to circle, then made up about 20 initial issues for "Double D" (a circle with a vertical line through it). The symbols are necessary because of the hierachical structure of the camp; subcommunities have symbols, zozans have numbers, individual tents have letters. I spent much of the morning moving 50-kg (110 lb.) bags of rice and flour. My hair is crusted with the stuff. We didn't get off until 1800.

Coyle and Rabideau have been out for three days on a mission to Amadiyeh, so I had the tent all to myself. They were back when I came in.

2830 people were processed in yesterday, but there is a backlog of 2000 more camped in the fields. It looks like Woodstock without the music. (I don't know if I can claim credit for inventing the name, it's such a natural, but soon everyone was calling the informal camp "Woodstock".) The camp now has over 10,000 people and is running out of tents. There are now five subcommunities up. The fifth one is dubbed "castle" but is actually an Engineer map symbol, a bridge. A sixth community would go up in a couple of days, called "snowflake" (*). A last addition would be built later and given a symbol like a wine goblet; it would be dubbed "Margaritaville".

At 2000 I went to Mass. The priest, Father Bill Devine from Boston, is with the Marines. He was a very pleasant young priest. After I got back to my tent, Wally Coyle and Mike Rabideau told me of seeing a "comet". Judging from their description, I guessed it was actually a satellite propellant venting or a satellite re-entry.

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Wed 8 May

Hot and hazy, with high clouds. This was not a good day for human relations. The trouble started when SGT Perry and I started laying out food rations. To speed things up, I started reading off her chart. Unfortunately, I misread the chart and "corrected" some things that she had actually done right. She just plain "went ballistic" and we got into a major shouting match. Perry is actually not a bad NCO, and we were both stressed to the limit.

Having scored one triumph by noontime, I repeated later in the day. There was a Kurd who was making a pest of himself trying to get supplies. When I saw what looked to be the same guy inside the yard I ordered him out. It wasn't the same guy, but a new security guard and, to ice the cake, a highly respected man in the community. There was nothing to do but apologize as profusely as I could and be extra polite whenever I met him from now on.

Castle subcommunity is complete and snowflake is going up. There are 14,000 in the camp now. The kids near our housing area, mostly from Woodstock, are getting pesky. Mostly they're rummaging through the garbage for fuel.

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Thu 9 May

Warm and hazy, with lots of blowing dust in the evening. This would be my last day in Camp I supply. We laid out the weekly rations for castle subcommunity, 3600 people. The camp is nearly full. The contractors began marking post holes for the big supply tent ("fest tent") today and will begin drilling tomorrow.

I am assigned to the Camp Badger (Camp 2) team, and will be NCOIC of the food distribution site there. I left work at 1500 to got to a meeting, reconnoiter the new site, and plan.

There was a severe wind storm at dusk. It collapsed two of the GP Large tents in the Camp 1 supply area. There was lots of dust, brief rain, and lightning in the distance. The lightning was very abrupt, like giant flash bulbs. I wondered if it was largely generated by static electricity caused by the blowing dust.

The "comet" of May 7 was actually a Soviet satellite re-entry, we heard yesterday.

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Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 11 June 2020