19 August 2009

Between Missions

Camp Arifjan, Kuwait 0230 hrs

Given the choice between pulling back-to-back missions and down-time, I would much rather be spending my time cruising Iraqi highways, staring at mud huts and featureless desert, and dodging potholes, camel spiders and "dub-dubs". "Dub-Dubs" are giant, beige colored 4 foot long, Kuwaiti, iquana-like lizards that are aptly named for the distinctive sound they make when you run them over with an up-armored humvee at 45 miles an hour. Hence the name "Dub-Dub".

Unfortunately, given the number of troops assigned to gun-truck and convoy escort security missions, there are only so many patrols to go around, which means that all of us at one time or another have to wait on the sidelines until we get called in for the big play. I have several friends that are fighting in Afghanistan now, and I have to admit that I feel just a tad guilty as I write this. I'm sure that they would kill for a little "down time", free from mortars, IED's and small arms fire, and the chance to enjoy some of the amenities that we do here as life goes on for us at Camp Arifjan. My apologies, boys!

Life for us here is backwards. It's too hot, and as the rainy season approaches here in Kuwait, too humid now, to work or do anything productive outside during the daytime. I joke with friends back home that I left my seniority at the Carson City Sheriff's Office, only to travle 7000 miles across the globe to work the graveyard shift. Just my luck. Fortunately, Arifjan has a fairly adequate nightlife for those of us that live like vampires, and plenty of distractions from the daily grind for those brave souls who dare venture out into the sunlight.

If one chooses to risk sunburn and stave off dehydration during daylight hours, there's always the AAFES (Army-Air Force Exchange Service) PX. It's a fairly decent sized complex roughly twice the size of your local Walgreens. The PX is stocked with everything a soldier might need, from personal hygiene items to electronics, from clothing to the latest periodicals, CD's, DVD's, groceries and jewelry. The only downside is that the Kuwaiti-run facility marks everything up roughly 25% to 50% above what you might spend for the same item in the states. Trust me, though; I'd willingly rather spend the extra cash than suffer being beaten by my fellow soldiers in my sleep with a sock full of oranges for refusing to replace my deodorant. Besides, we Americans come from a society that relishes instant gratification. Its much easier to simply hand over the twenty bucks for a DVD, or two hundred bucks to replace an IPOD than wait two weeks or more to have it mailed from home and risk it getting "lost" in transit. I'm not saying....I'm just saying. Which reminds me; If I ever find the Air Force mail clerks from Khandahar Airfield in Afghanistan that made off with my two boxes of goodies from home, they'll be introduced to a new level of pain and suffering yet unkown to mankind.

When not replacing deodorant, or financing a new IPOD, we can always visit the MWR (Morale, Welfare, Recreation) facility. The MWR is a nice respite from the daily grind of eat-work-out-sleep-watch movies-routine that has become our daily life between missions. At the MWR, we can watch any number of channels on big screen TV's, play video games, billiards, rent movies, use the WIFI, or just hang out and visit with friends in air conditioned comfort. The MWR also is the place to keep up on announcements of upcoming concert events at Arifjan. The USO usually sponsors big name performers, from NFL cheerleaders (always a favorite with the troops) to Country Western and Hip-Hop artists. Mark Chestnut recently performed here. I'm personally holding out for Toby Kieth, but that's just me.

There are several Kuwaiti run outdoor souvenier shops and brand name shops such as Oakley that make up the outdoor bazaar. Theres a barber shop, nail parlor, massage center, even a Chrysler and Harley Davidson dealership! My buddy, Jake Sere, recently bought himself a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle that he'll take delivery of when he goes home on leave this winter.

The Army is big on personal fitness. The Kuwaiti's (God Bless 'em) spared no expense on the gym. The "No Excuses" gym as it is called, is unlike most gyms that I have ever been to back home. Its a huge facility and the equipment is top-notch. Personally, the gym is the highlight of my day, and I hate when I have to miss a day. Our daily workouts prepare us to successfuly complete our APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) which we are required to pass, or we cant go out on the road. Fortunately, at my age, all I have to do to pass is show up, fog a mirror and register a discernible pulse. Ahhh, the benefits of AARP!

Arifjan is also equipped with an olympic sized swimming pool! Now before any of our wives or girlfriends back home envision tanned, toned and thong bikini-clad female soldiers, think again. This is Kuwait, not the Mandalay Bay Casino resort pool in Las Vegas after all, and modesty is the watchword. Think of late 19th century suffragettes clad in neck to ankle swimwear at the Jersey shore and you get an approximate picture. I mean, if they used to lop off hands here for stealing, I shudder to think what they wold lop off for dressing like you just showed up for a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shoot! Still, it's nice to lay poolside, plug the IPOD in and soak up a little sun. It's amazing how quickly you tan when its 132 degrees outside!

Food is plentiful here at Arifjan. If you tire of the usual fair at the dining facility, like T-bone steak and crab leg Fridays, there's always the food court. Hardee's, KFC, Pizza Hutt, Subway, 31 Flavors, and my personal favorite Starbucks, adorn the outdoor foodcourt that is always a hub of social activity. In fact, this very chapter was born at Starbucks. The 4 shots of espresso I just consumed may explain it's wordiness.

Despite the abundance of distractions here for the thousands of US sevicemen and women stationed at Arifjan, it's important to remember that this is a country, despite its wealth and relative isolation, that is effected by war and terrorism. Just last week, the Kuwaiti government arrested six members of an Al-Aqaeda linked terrorist cell that was planning to attack Camp Arifjan with an explosive and chemical laden truck bomb. This is the week of Ramadan, the holiest of Muslim holidays, and always an excuse for those muslim extremists on the fringe to attack U.S. interests wherever they can. Despite the success of the Kuwaiti's in thwarting what could have been a disastrous attack, many of us here, especially those of us that have to travel for several hours along Kuwaiti highways to beyond the Iraqi border and back, are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It doesnt take much to remind us that even here in Kuwait, despite the U.S draw-down in Iraq and all that there is for us to do, we are still very much at war...and we arent even half way through our tour yet.


  1. So thiat is what the new rmy is like. Where do I sign up??

  2. Trust me...It gets REAL old after a while!