Sunday, June 12, 2011

Desert Storm - Postlogue

Finally, back to "The World," back to life as we knew it. We were reunited with friends and family, back in our homes and our warm beds with clean sheets. Well, at least I got to my warm bed after I found an apartment and bought a bed.

The first order of business was to take some leave time and head up to Michigan to visit family and friends there. I had a great visit, and even got my name and picture in the Downriver weekly. I went to my sister's school (the same grade school I went to) to thank her class and the other kids for all the wonderful support they gave us. It was a very nice time spent with the kids. The reporter from the newspaper came to the school so we could do an interview when I was done visiting with the kids. It was very strange, though, being welcomed home as a "hero." I certainly didn't feel all that heroic. I was just doing the job I signed up for. Still, it was all very nice.

It took several weeks for our equipment to get back from the Middle East, so much of our time was spent taking it easy. For the first few weeks, we worked half days. We'd spend about 2 hours in the gym in the morning working out and running. Afterwards we'd go into the office to do paperwork. At lunchtime we took the rest of the day off.

On those afternoons, I went to the Sun City Amateur Radio Club (K5WPH) and put the club's radio station on the air. I made hundreds of contacts during that time. It was a great opportunity to practice my Morse code skills, and I managed to get up to about 10 words per minute or so. I could never seem to crack the level so I could upgrade my license, though. It was still a blast being back into my radio hobby.

We had a Military Affiliate Radio Station (MARS) station assigned to our squadron while we were over there. I can't remember my call sign any more, but I joined Army MARS before the war started. Since I was already a member, it was pretty easy for me and our signal officer to get a station. It was a TenTec rig fitted inside a portable container along with an antenna kit and a small generator. We set the radio up at the airfield we ended up at in Iraq so the Squadron Commander could contact hams in El Paso to relay messages from people in the unit. I found it interesting that I wasn't allowed to use the thing since I was the one who got it for them in the first place.

Look! A Parade!
The people of El Paso had a huge celebration a few weeks after we returned. The entire Regiment, plus soldiers from the other units headquartered at Fort Bliss were invited to march in the parade. We marched down Montana Avenue from near the airport all the way to downtown El Paso. It was another great welcome home, though I think most of us would have rather been in a truck rather than walking that whole way. Still, it was great for the city to set that up.

Minor Adjustments
The first odd thing I did when I got back was on the first day back in the world. After emptying my friends' hot water tank for the third or fourth time taking a long, hot shower, I headed to the PX to pick up some stuff. As I walked in the store, I realized I had to pee. Without even thinking about it, I headed back outside to the parking lot. It was so natural just to walk outside and pee in the sand, that I didn't even catch myself until I got outside and realized it. I thought to myself, "Hey! I'm back in the world of porcelain and tile. What am I doing out here?" That would have been very embarrassing had I not caught myself.

I was out with some ham radio friends who had also been over there as part of one of the air defense units. We went to Denny's to drink coffee and tell lies. As the time to head home came, we all headed out to the parking lot to finish our conversations. As we were standing out there, a truck backfired on I-10 very loudly. We all had a good laugh as we crawled out from under someone's jacked up pickup. Even though I had never been shot at directly, the hyper-vigilance thing still kicked in.

Wrapping It Up
I thought I'd wrap up this series with some random memories which I didn't mention in previous installments.

Our sister platoon's Platoon Sergeant was a wise and learned man, especially in the area of air mobile operations. He had an uncommon accent, though, and sometimes was hard to understand. He had this word he would say instead of FUBAR or SNAFU when things were messed up. I didn't understand it until many years later when I was watching a Three Stooges short, "G.I. Wanna Go Home." Moe gets into a cab and tells the driver to go to an address on "Mishugina Avenue." THAT's what he was saying, "That's mishugina."

One of our number had a CD of Garth Brooks' "No Fences" which we often listened to in the evenings before going to sleep. When I got back, I found I had trouble sleeping so it occurred to me to get a copy of that CD and play it when I went to bed. The familiar songs helped me sleep.

Speaking of that CD: we made up lyrics to some of the songs on that CD to reflect the situation we were in. One line that sticks in my mind was "I'm shavin', shavin' with another guy." We did everything together, including shaving.

One of our group was describing how a septic system worked. Having lived in the city all my life, I found it rather interesting. Pondering on that thought, I came up with a urinal system using water bottles. Instead of peeing by our living areas, I buried these water bottle and duct tape monstrosities out away from our tent areas to keep the waste away from where we were living. It had mixed success.

It's always interesting to meet with others who were there at the time and exchange stories (read: lies). In 1993 I met a Lieutenant in the Czech Army who was the personal Chemical Defense Officer for one of the Saudi Princes. He said his duties were mainly to be in the Prince's retinue and travel around with him. He said it was interesting, but not very exciting.

This is part 19 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

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