Sunday, October 03, 2010

Desert Storm - The Wait Is on

We found ourselves in the middle of the desert in the Middle of Saudi Arabia. The area was barren and featureless; so much so that maps of the area were nothing more than brown pieces of paper with grid lines and the occasional elevation marking. There was nothing as far as the eye could see, other than the camel herds led around by Bedouins which passed by from time to time.

It was here that Longknife Squadron made it's home for the next three months. We carved out a spot in the desert where engineers had fashioned a flight line by pushing aside the sand and exposing the bedrock below. The entire squadron was arranged in an oblong circle, longer on the east and west sides and shorter at the north and south. The flight line ran along the western side while our platoon's camp was situated on the southwest side near one of the entrance points. The entire circle was surrounded by triple strands of razor wire (which we called "concertina wire").

When we first arrived, of course, there was nothing but vehicles and aircraft. We soon started putting together a reasonably comfortable camp for ourselves. One of the pilots was an expert scrounger. He managed to get us sheets of plywood to make nice floors for our tents as well as some hooches for some of the guys and a large storage closet for the goodies we received. He also managed to "procure" quite a bit of other lumber for building projects (2x4s and 4x4s).

As time went on we made improvements to the area. We built a nice place at one end of the our site we called our "breakfast nook." This was a patio-like area with a large crate for table where we had our morning  coffee and breakfast time. The benches around the crate were fashioned somewhat like a picket fence as the backs of the seating bench with wooden seats. The large area really resembled a scale model of an Old West Town, so we christened it "Quickfix, Arizona."

For the first part of our stay there, we were only allowed to work in the mornings until around 11 AM or Noon. Work stopped then because it was just too hot. At 4 PM work could commence again.

Not that there was too much work to do. I've heard it said that war is nothing more than hour upon hour of sheer boredom punctuated by brief periods of sheer terror. In this case, the boredom lasted for months. Thankfully we had our projects to keep us busy. We also had daily games of cards (Spades and Cribbage were the most popular), Risk (we played A LOT of Risk), personal reading and answering the many letters we got from home addressed to "Any Soldier." We got so many letters from complete strangers we couldn't possibly have answered them all. After a while we divided up those letters and only answered those which came from our home states. If you sent a letter and didn't get a "Thank you," please consider this your thanks - your support was greatly appreciated.

Our main project was making sure we had some creature comforts. One of these was a shower. It was interesting that a company-sized unit with only twelve members was afforded a separate shower in their area, while our platoon with twenty members was forced to share a similar shower facility with the rest of our troop, which had over over 100 members. Thanks to some creative thinking, we built our own two-stall shower. It consisted of wooden pallets for the floors and ceiling, a 2x4 framework and plywood for the walls. At first we used camping shower bags for a water source. Later, someone took the rubber hoses off the shower bags and attached them to metal drums mounted to the roof of the shower. A frame was built over which plastic map overlay material was wrapped making for a very nice solar heater.

Next to the shower was our laundry area. We had some large containers, which I believe were for carrying some of the aircrafts' equipment during shipping, which we used for washing and rinsing our clothes. Someone in the group fashioned "T" poles from 4x4s and strung up a clothesline. Clothes dried very quickly in the hot Saudi sun.

For whatever reason, the squadron leadership didn't think it appropriate that we should have our own shower and demanded we give it to another unit. After threatening to burn it down (after all, we procured the materials and built the thing) they relented, only to forbid the water truck from filling it a few days later. Some quick thinking (and some bribes from our "Goody Locker") soon solved that problem.

The Goody Locker was where we stored the largess of the bounty from the support we received from folks back home. We had more candy, cookies (and other assorted baked goods), gum, toilet paper, baby wipes, cigarettes (but not smokeless tobacco), powdered drink mixes, tea bags and other items than we could possibly use. We shared quite a bit of our bounty and used a lot for trading.

For example, I once wrote home that I was tired of the toilet paper the Army gave us because it was similar in texture to 20-grit sandpaper. A few weeks later I got a case (that's 24 rolls) of an extra soft name-brand toilet paper in the mail. Needless to say, that was quite a popular item. Another time I mentioned we had a TV and VCR along with a generator to run them, but no movies. A few weeks later I got a box from home containing a dozen or so VCR movies my sister and her class at school scrounged from home or from video rental places. All of us got stuff like this - and I am quite grateful to this day for that support. It really did make life a lot more bearable.

That's not to say the Army didn't take care of us. We were supplied large quantities of bottled water, a daily ration of ice, food, clothes and shelter. We would have survived quite nicely without the help from home, but it helped made things a whole lot better.

There are a lot of "Army" things to do, too. I'll cover those in the next installment so you don't get the idea we lazed around the whole time we were waiting for the shooting war to start.

This is part 5 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. You guys got ICE?!?!?!?!?! Must have been nice! We had to get up first thing in the morning to grab as many bottles as we could fit under our bunks to keep them cool!!

    Brave Rifles,


  2. Thanks for stopping by, Stu.

    Yes, we got ice just about every day for the first few months. Once we moved up to the border I don't think we got any more.

    You think that was luxurious, I could tell you about one friend who was "stuck" at KKMC the whole time and had to deal with Baskin Robins with only 15 flavors and Kentucky Fried Chicken. :-)

  3. Elmer - Great info on our shower, but you left our YOUR VERY OWN engineering Feat! The Pee TUBE!! Brother, these postings are excellent!

  4. I have some pictures of one of those things. I need to dig around in my storage unit and pull out some of the pics and scan them so I can put them on Flickr or Facebook.