May 10 - May 13, 1991: The Eventful Birth of Camp II

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

Fri 10 May - The Wildest Birthday Party Ever

Sunny and clear, and a thoroughly wild day. CPT Yancy announced my birthday at the 0700 meeting. I went out to the new camp area, and after some initial confusion I staked out the distribution area. My total output by noon was driving four stakes. It felt so good after a week of exhausting days in the Camp I supply center. Mostly we spent the morning waiting for things to happen.

Happen they did at 1230. To get around Turkish border formalities, somebody concocted the idea of airdropping tents. The drop was set for 1230, and sure enough, the planes arrived right on time: four C-130's. They made one pass to check the wind drift, circled around, and came back just a bit to the south. The lead plane dropped his load.

It was an absolutely beautiful drop, perfectly on target, right on a hilltop half a mile northwest of us. I was amazed at how beautiful and graceful a drop was. The parachutes filled out without a sound and swayed back and forth as they fell. When they caught the sun they seemed lit from within. Our reverie was interrupted when CPT Lori Fisher yelled "Oh my God, look at the kids!".

For six weeks the Kurds had been conditioned that when they saw parachutes, there were usually goodies attached. Literally thousands of Kurds were swarming out of Camp I, a mile or so away, and heading for the parachutes. I jumped in the truck with SPC Ken Demerath and we raced cross-country to try to head them off. I wasn't so much concerned with the tents or the Kurds being hit (they could watch out for themselves), as with them running off with all the parachutes. I was doing up to 30 in spots; fortunately the fields were not too rough. We drove through the swarm of Kurds, yelling at them to turn back and trying to cut off their vehicles. It was like being in the middle of Custer's Last Stand.

Eventually I reached an empty road (the roads had been graded by the Engineers) and parked the truck across it to cut off any vehicles. Not that it would have done any good; the fields were flat enough that they could just drive around me. I started grabbing Kurds and turning them around; I gave one kid a kick in the behind when he didn't move fast enough.

Then the planes came back to drop the rest of their load, and we were right under the edge of the drop zone. I wish there was some kind of three-dimensional video camera that could have caught the next few minutes. For 360 degrees around, and horizon to horizon overhead, it was utter chaos: Kurds running, soldiers chasing them, vehicles careening around, planes overhead, parachutes opening and pallets landing. I wasn't concerned much for my safety; it was easy enough to judge where things were falling and get out of the way, but I breathed a quick prayer: "Dear God, please don't let a pallet land on my truck!" A pallet landed about ten yards from it and a second one a bit further away. I looked back to see four Kurds scramble out from under the truck, where they had taken cover, and run away.

Dutch Marines and Psyops loudspeaker trucks showed up and finally helped shoo the Kurds off. They also lost interest once they found the pallets contained only tents. Wow! I had an adrenaline high for the rest of the day that was just beyond belief.

Later in the afternoon, CPT Beekman and I got tired of waiting for our GP Large office tent to be delivered, so he, I, Demerath and two Kurds loaded one ourselves (they weigh 1000 pounds!) and brought it back. A squad of Dutch Marines took over and put it up for us.

In the evening I helped move some generators to the medical clinic by our camp, then started drawing up issue charts for the new camp.

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Sat 11 May

The excitement continues. At 0030 the company was awakened because of refugees coming in on buses. In reality, there was no real need to get everybody up. The thousands of incoming refugees dwindled to a few busloads. Most of them stayed on the buses overnight. A few had just been stranded by the roadside. A party of us got some bundles of blankets from the Camp 1 supply yard, passed them out, and went back to bed by about 0100. Most of the company had already figured out on their own that was the wise thing to do.

In the morning we set up the new food site and off-loaded rice, flour, beans and sugar- from Cuba, yet! It didn't take a rocket scientist, or even a geologist, to figure out why the food site in Camp I was so much work. The place, like Topsy, had "just growed" and supplies were put wherever there was room at the time. The result was supplies far from the point of usage and roundabout routes. The tents made matters worse. The crew that put up the office tent put it up at right angles to the perimeter rather than along it. We didn't appreciate at the time what a problem that would cause and left it. The supply tent we put behind it had the same orientation. Thus we had two tents cutting the supply yard nearly in two. The windstorm a few nights ago was a blessing in disguise in allowing the office tent to be put up in the right direction. My plan was to avoid these problems by having the office tent along the roadside, keeping the area behind it clear, storing supplies as close to the point of usage as possible, and making sure there was a clear and direct path from the supplies to the issue points.

We let the workers go about 1600 and were just about to go ourselves when four truckloads of charcoal came in! I wasn't about to put the stuff in the supply yard. Since it's not the sort of thing people would be too likely to hoard, I sent one truck up to the first subcommunity, where there were already a few Kurds, and told him to dump the charcoal on the edge of the tent area. When the next three trucks came in, I wanted to tell the drivers to wait till morning, but one driver had left his son at the border post, so we helped unload the trucks at the edge of the second subcommunity, and got absolutely filthy.

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Sun 12 May

We finished laying out the weekly food for the first subcommunity. Demerath began issuing cards and we issued food to 15 zozans in the afternoon. SSG Gene Jakubenas is yard boss and supervises much of the yard work. CPT Beekman and LT Rich Kuhr are officers in charge, and SFC Lyke helps out.

We had awoken to find three Royal Mail semis from Scotland parked in our camp full of clothing. We fought a running battle all day long to keep from becoming the repository for it and finally lost. The clothing created a constant security problem. We filled a tent with the clothing, but the excess outside drew Kurds all day long. Finally, toward the end of the day, I came up with a plan. I offered to give each bystander a bag of clothing if he'd help carry three bags over to the issue point. The Kurds did their part, but there were so many it was hard to know who was legitimate and who wasn't, and it really didn't matter much. We let them carry off all the excess. It got boisterous but was never violent.

Part of the excess was a big pile of shoes, and people were constantly pawing through it. So we decided to take the shoes over to the first subcommunity and let them paw through the pile over there. The stickers on the bags said "From the people of Scotland to the Kurdish refugees". The clothing came from the people of Scotland. It went to the Kurdish refugees. Mission accomplished.

What saves us from even worse chaos and pilferage is the fact that the Kurds are cooperative and generally law-abiding. They could strip us to the tent pegs in five minutes if they put their minds to it. In fact they'd probably go after the tent pegs for firewood. Nevertheless, apart from curious kids, they stay out of our camp. If something lacks clear ownership, or is owned in common, or they think they're entitled to it, it will vanish. That's not too different from the way Americans behave. But if something is clearly defined as off limits, they are generally pretty good about observing the restriction. Simple engineer tape is enough to define a boundary, and they'll observe it.

We didn't get back to camp until 1900. CPT Watson was late taking care of security matters. The delay was compensated by being able to get some absolutely spectacular shots of cloud shadows on the mountains.

One of our NCO's is headed home after an accident. He was towing a water trailer yesterday and a little Kurdish girl fell under the wheels. She later died of a brain hemorrhage; the pressure of the trailer forced the blood to her brain and burst a blood vessel. At first he wanted to stay on but the shock got to him. He's taking it very hard. He's a first-rate soldier and everyone feels for him.

Also an Iraqi spy nearly caused a riot yesterday at Camp I when he was spotted at in-processing. The MP's took him to Zakho and released him, but the word now is that he came back to the area for some unaccountable reason, was killed, and his body found along the road. During the melee CPT Deb Luebker, who is a good deal taller that most Kurdish males, spotted a Kurd with a stolen shovel handle and yanked it away from him, to his great loss of face and the glee of some of the Kurdish women.

I went to pastor Burr's service at 2000, which was very good. We had a good bull session afterwards. This job is a strange mix of deep need and deep ingratitude. The other night I tossed blankets to people freezing by the roadside - today I heard that somebody at in-processing wanted to exchange blankets because they weren't new!. One woman actually asked to have hers washed. A medic told me of treating a man who hadn't eaten in two weeks, and a zozan leader has made a continuing pest of himself trying to wheedle more food. I asked pastor Burr why the Gospel didn't say something like "I was naked and you clothed me, then I complained because the blanket was dirty". He very perceptively pointed out that it's all there in Exodus, which it is.

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Note the plaintive plea at the bottom.
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Mon 13 May

This was a pretty good day. Most of the first subcommunity has picked up its food, and some was laid out for the next one. The plan for this camp was to give the subcommunities military insignia. The first one was Captain, the second was Lieutenant (which ended up looking like just an I), then the mayor's office decided there weren't any more easy-to draw insignia that the Kurds would recognize, so the remaining subcommunities were just called C, D, and E.

A couple of Hispanic NCO's from one of the supply units are also here, a MSG Pagan and SFC Achingas. I suspect they originally thought they'd have to show us how it was done, but they decided we had things well in hand and just help out. They're good guys.

One problem that keeps recurring is explaining to the zozans that the food is for everyone, and that if a few new people arrive they'll simply have to re-divide it. They divvy up the food as soon as they get it. It causes some friction between newcomers and people already here.

One milestone was passed: the UN raised its flag at Camp Jayhawk (the official name of Camp 1) today.

About 1700 two German semis with Turkish drivers came in with still more clothing. We had them park overnight. One of them had lived in Germany 17 years and spoke good German, so I got most of the formalities taken care of in German. Today I spoke Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, German, and Spanish. I spoke to a Russian woman in Kuwait, and in a day or so I would speak Italian, too.

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Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 11 June 2020

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