I glance at my wristwatch and become aware it that hour of departure is approaching rapidly. As I drive toward the base I take mental pictures of the world I am leaving, hoping lean on those memories during what I know will be trying times. Leaving is hard and never easy to do. Quickly getting a grip on reality seems to be the answer for this deployment.
The whole platoon stands and formation awaiting the final manifest roll call. The platoon Sergeant First Class Eric Evens reads off everyone’s name and concludes with, “Get it on; let’s go.” I picked up all my gear and stumbled through the open field under cover of the night, making way to the gym where we would say our final goodbyes to our loved ones. Wives, fiancés, and other family members stand behind the roped of the assembly area. After dropping our gear, the Platoon Sergeant gives us permission to say our final goodbyes before we board the buses and make way to McCord Air Force Base for our 19-hour plane trip to Kuwait.
We board the bus, turning our backs on everything we love and live for.
Young children yelling emotionally, “I love you, daddy; come home safe.” A pregnant woman waves at her husband with one hand on her stomach and the other handle blowing a kiss, as tears streamed down her face.
We board the bus and sit quietly in our seats. I glance over and see a soldier grabbing his computer bag tightly as if it was a child and begin to cry. I just looked out the window and stare out into the night, taking in as much as I can.
We get on the plane, and I tried to make myself comfortable, but having a flak vest, my computer and my radio bag, things were not looking too good. To make the long plane trip, we land a couple of times to refuel and then progress onto the beautiful country of Kuwait.
We disembark the plane, and as soon as I hit the door. It is like walking into a windy furnace. I just put my head down and make my way to the bus that awaits us. We board the bus and head to Camp Buehring. We finally arrived at the camp, after what seems to be three hours of endless, bumpy roads. We got off the bus and made our way to the luggage located by our new home- 35-9.
During the week, conducting classes and being acclimated to the weather is the priority. Our first chance of getting used to working in the heat was going to the zero range. This range was scheduled for the whole battalion.
It was like playing war games on the Sun. The temperature at 0730 stood devilishly at 101° wearing a 70+ pounds of gear and trying to be hoo-ah about what is going on is almost impossible to do.
The range concluded by doing a final brass and animal check. I cannot even explain how hot I was, only to say that if you would have seen me, I might have looked like a fireball room in the Kuwait desert.
One of the subjects that leaders have enforced over the years of peace and wartime is having accountability for your equipment. While serving in Iraq, you are required to carry your assigned weapon every day, all day until you go to sleep, and even then, your weapon will be in arm’s reach.
Caring your weapon 24/7 is not bad unless you are carrying an M240. Since this weapon is awkward, the leadership allows soldiers to holster a 9 mm instead.
This week some of us have become too lax and have started to forget things. I have been guilty of this infraction also. The rule is if you forget something you will pay the price.
Unfortunately, I made that mistake along with four other members of the squad. We ended up doing rifle physical training in the 110-degree weather.
“OK, if you want to leave things unsecured this will be your corrective training. I don’t want to do this, but there’s only one way to learn — through pain,” Staff Kevin Sergeant Pearson, our detailed ordinated squad leader said in a stern and unwavering voice. All four of us lined up in-between the tents, next to some air conditioners that were sending out waves of heat. The squad leader presented his case and then concluded with instruction.
“We will be doing rifle PT. Extend you’re rife out in front of you, and then bend your knees. While you do that pull the cocking handle to the rear; then release it; then come up.” What seemed to last forever really only went on about 30 minutes. The heat and that air conditioner burning my face with waves of heat made for a terrible experience, but it was a valid lesson learned.
The weather in Kuwait seems to be the same every day — hot and windy. Lately, the temperatures have ranged from 120 degrees in the early afternoon to 80 degrees in the evening. During the day the platoon conducts training outside, and every minute outside results in a shower of sweat.
Throughout the week I have already lost 10 pounds. The good thing about being here is you can get some good PT at the gym — that is if you want to walk a mile to the gym. By the time I get home, I am going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as having a “Baywatch” tan.
In the coming week, the platoon will be conducting essential combat training and getting our gear up to combat speed. As of late, I have not heard much about what has been going on in Iraq, but I am sure the terrorists are continuing to create work for the coalition forces.
As time draws closer for the battalion to make the push into combat, the men are entirely confident and clearly focused on the task presented to us. When I look around the tent, I see American soldiers — young and old
coming together for a great purpose. We may never know how we have directly had an effect on the overall war on terror, but we all know we are a part of history.
I look forward to the push into combat. This is not to say that I am not a little concerned about bullets and RPGs flinging my way, but I will do just fine. LET THE FUN BE.
To be continued…Operation Fly a kit