Barracks Row. Somewhere in Kuwait on the Iraqi Border.
Flying into Kuwait City at midnight, is a lot like flying into any other large, Western metropolitan city. If that city happens to be Beverly Hills infused with trillions of dollars worth of oil money. Kuwait city from the air at midnight makes the Las Vegas strip look like a public housing project. Downtown Kuwait City and the accompanying developed coastline is absolutely beautiful from the air. Imagine a futuristic Hollywood movie set designed by the worlds best special effects artists, and you get an idea of what it looks like. Kuwait city fom the air at midnight, however, is about as close as I would ever get to seeing it's beauty up close.
After landing, we climbed aboard several large buses that were waiting for us on the tarmac. We quickly boarded and were told to keep the blinds closed for the duration of our ride to where we would be stationed, "somewhere near the Iraqi border". Sneaking a peak through the closed blinds, I could see that our convoy was accompanied by several unmarked, black SUV's and large up-armored gun trucks with .50 cal machine guns and flashing red and blue LED light bars. Even in the relative safety of Kuwait, I was reminded that this is a region at war and that despite our best efforts, we are not a popular people.
We arrived at our destination shortly after sun-up. The desert sand and distant horizon blended seamlessly. The morning sky was dust colored and rose skyward like a dirty curtain blocking out the sun and reducing it to nothing more than a weak lightbulb. By 0830, it was already nearly 90 degrees. Two hours later, it was 101 degrees and rising. Imagine sticking your head in your oven after removing a freshly cooked pizza, and thats just about what it felt like. Fortunately, a lifetime of being raised in Arizona had prepared me better than some for the effects of the heat, and I was suddenly grateful for those summers during high school in Scottsdale spent working as a landscaper for movie money. As strange as it may sound, the only other relief, other than the air-conditioned barracks is a visit to the latrine. The latrine resembles the "hot box" that Burt reynolds character, Paul Crewe, in the movie "The Longest Yard" was placed into for punishment....just a bit larger, but no less smelly. The latrines arent air conditioned, and as such the heat inside is indescribably intense. After just a few moments inside, youre almost ready to swear off eating or drinking anything at all just to avoid ever having to got the bathroom again. After spending just a few moments inside, stepping outside into the desert heat is actually a relief. Comparitively, it feels like stepping from the fiery pits of hell and into a cool breeze....if only for a few moments. Still, I remember our only ameneties in Afghanistan being a single 6 foot deep by 3 foot wide by 8 foot long open trench to straddle over to complete one's morning glory. War is hell.
Our "base in the desert" will only be temporary. Once we acclimate ourselves to our new home, finish up last minute training and relieve the current unit who is anxious to get home to their families after a year of duty, we'll take over the mission and get down to the job of escorting convoys, literally from one end of Iraq to the other. But before we can start to earn our pay, theres more training and range time to accomplish. The 1864th Gun Truck Company is almost ready to earn our place in history.................