Monday, August 02, 2010

Desert Storm - Getting Ready To Go

After we were officially told we were being deployed to the Middle East, preparations started in earnest. There were personal preparations as well as packing up our platoon's gear and equipment. It takes a lot of work to get an armored cavalry unit across the ocean with all its heavy vehicles.

Rail loading our trucks wasn't hard, but it was rather tough on me. Apparently, the wood on the flat cars is covered with some kind of pine tar to which I am allergic. My nose ran like crazy the two days we were working on the rail head.

Personal preparations included getting lots of shots. The worst one was the Gamma Globulin. This fun consisted of two shots given simultaneously in both buttocks. The reasoning for two simultaneous injections? I was told because they hurt so much after the first one, too many people were opting out of the second. Oh yes, it hurt a lot - for three days. I was reminded of the horror every time I pressed in the clutch of my truck.

As the preparations when on, the members of our platoon were given the opportunity to have a going away picnic. While we were having our picnic with friends and family, someone from the squadron's operations office came to the park to tell us that the FORSCOM Commander (General Edwin Burba) was visiting Fort Bliss and specifically wanted to see our platoon's aircraft. We packed up the picnic, ran home to change into our uniforms and headed over to the air field for the "Canine & Equestrian Show."

All of us met back up at our hangar and plugged a ground power unit into one the aircraft so we could turn on the equipment and show all the flashing lights. We waited for at least an hour before the General, the Regimental Commander, the Squadron Commander, our Lieutenant and a host of other officers made their way to where we were waiting.

Our LT gave a short briefing, the "elevator pitch" if you will, about our aircraft's purpose and capabilities. Everyone nodded and smiled - until The Question came up. The General asked, "Are you men ready to go?"

That's when our platoon sergeant (PSG) spoke up. "No, sir, we are not."

The General turned to him with a puzzled look on his face. No doubt, this was not the answer he was looking for. The color drained from the LT's face as the faces of the other leaders in our chain of command turned very red.

"Well, Sergeant, what seems to be the problem?"

The PSG went on to explain that in order to do our jobs properly, we needed to be trained in the Arabic Language. Since we were all Czech linguists, we would be less than useless to the regiment's mission. He stated that in order for the platoon to work properly we'd either need to go to school to learn Arabic (which would mean several months of intensive training) or we would need to turn our platoon equipment over to some who were already proficient in Arabic.

The General thought for a moment, turned to the other officers in the entourage and asked, "Is this true?" The LT spoke up, "Yes, sir. This is true. The men are willing to do whatever they can to help the mission, but as it stands they are not properly trained."

The General said, "Well, we'll have to look into this. Thank you." And, he turned and walked away.

I was rather shocked. Of course, the PSG was correct. I was quite surprised he didn't drop dead on the spot, with most everyone in the General's group staring at him with looks that could kill.

In the end, we still ended up deploying (of course, or there wouldn't be much reason for me to write this). The linguist problem was solved somewhat after we arrived in country.

In the meantime, we kept on working to get ready to go.

This is part 2 in a series. Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19


  1. We were fortunate to have JR as PSG!

  2. Yes we were. We had a great group of folks in our platoon.

  3. He is a rare find in a career soldier...he always spoke the truth no matter what...

  4. Hey Spiff - Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, he's a good one. I wonder what he's up to these days. If you have contact info, please email it to me.

  5. Gents, Really good to see this string going! Jackie was a great PSG! Probably one of the best in my 24 years. I wish that he had taken as good care of himself as he had of us. It was tough being at his retirement ceremony and seeing him cross the stage STILL as a SSG! He deserved so much more!