January 6-14, 1991

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Arrival at Fort Bragg

Sun 6 Jan

Up at 0500 to catch a flight at 0700. The unit left in four groups, some from Green Bay and some bused to Milwaukee. My flight left at 0700 amid many tears and news people. After stops in Chicago and Charlotte, we arrived in Fayetteville about 1500. It was beautiful, sunny and about 60 degrees, but we would see very little weather that nice the rest of the time at Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg is down to about 5 per cent of its normal strength.

In the hope of finding a quiet spot, Wally Coyle and I share a 2-man cubicle on the second floor at the far end, with SSG Jeff Poh in the opposite cubicle. Most of the rest of the group took bunks on the first floor. When the rest of the flights came in and set up housekeeping, the second floor was nicknamed "the geriatric ward". In anticipation of the desert, I had brought along a pair of sunglasses I'd used in the Antarctic. I took them out to show Wally and a lens fell out and shattered on the floor. I just felt sick about it.

I called Shawn at 1830, then we had a meeting at 1930. It was just breaking up at 2100, when our trucks arrived; they had been driven down on commercial carriers. 1SG Gerlach called for 10 drivers, so I changed back into BDU's, only to be told that only four drivers were needed. However, it was expected that more drivers might be needed later on that night, so I slept in uniform. The last flight came in about midnight, but the drivers were never needed.

Our billets are in the 18th Airborne Corps NCO Academy, with bunks and nice wall lockers. Some units have been here since before Christmas with 80-100 in a building and no lockers. Our advance people did very well for us.

Mon 7 Jan

PT at 0515, then process through finance and get ID cards. The expiration date of 2 July on the cards is an optimistic note, a reminder that this will eventually be over. The company split into three groups; mine, the over-40's, was done in an hour and a half. The rest of the day was spent on Common Task Training. The weather was cloudy and chilly, with rain in the afternoon. We got off at a reasonable hour, so I took advantage of the chance for a full night's sleep.

Tue 8 Jan

Today we had the first PT test. We got up at 0400 and marched to the site, then stood in the rain and freezing wind while 2LT Nellis went to find the evaluators. After half an hour, we started. I passed the push-ups and sit-ups, but was over time on the run, as usual. After breakfast we went to the dental clinic. On the way MAJ Johanson had some choice words about the organization of the PT test! The horror stories we had heard about the dental clinic turned out to be largely untrue, though a few people did have bad wisdom teeth extracted.

Spent the afternoon as a duty driver, then was duty NCO that night with SPC Lahela Corrigan, who is a nice kid but was vaccinated with a phonograph needle. It's a good thing I got sleep last night. Called Shawn about midnight.

Our orderly room is in Building 3544, about half a mile from our billets. We use the upper floor for administration, and the lower floor for supply. Eventually we would share the upper floor with several other companies.

Wed 9 Jan

The weather is still cold and damp. We got off duty at 0700, then went to join the company at the clinic for physicals. The over-40's had to fast since 2200 last night, so I didn't get breakfast. I got two shots: gamma globulin in the rear and flu in the arm. Spent the afternoon mostly at the PX and running errands. I tried to call Shawn but she had gone to church by the time I got to a phone. The lines for phones mean waits of anything from 10 to 45 minutes. Our inprocessing is mostly done, so from here on our hours should get a bit more regular. Our tentative load date is 18 Jan, implying arrival in Saudi about 23 Jan.

Thu 10 Jan

Still cold and gray. PT at 0600, then spend morning on supply detail in S-4. I made contact with the language center, which turns out to be only a stone's throw from our orderly room. We spent the afternoon on NBC training, with briefings in the evening. I called Shawn at suppertime, but had to cut it short because of 1800 formation. When I tried again later, nobody was home.

Fri 11 Jan

The weather is still cold and damp. We had the second PT test at 0600. I did 46 push-ups and sit-ups, and 18:30 in the run. That's passing, but I need 18:06 to make the 70 points for Special Operations validation. I am sure now I can push a bit harder and get it.

The rest of the day was spent on Common Task Training, training in the morning and testing in the afternoon. I taught and tested Claymore mines. I gave each group a terrorist scenario, then put a pillowcase on my head and sneaked out to turn one of the mines around. Most people got a kick out of it, but I got one group.

It rained heavily all afternoon. We were going to test outdoors, but CPT Mark Haney persuaded the evaluators to move the testing indoors - by standing out in the rain and discussing the matter with the major in charge! Smart!

We had a weird incident at 1800 formation. There had been a sexual assault in the area on the 9th. Two CID agents came over and ordered "all white males" into the officer billets. They lined us up and walked down the line looking us in the eye to see who flinched. After this we finished Common Task Testing and loaded up our rucksacks for tomorrow's 10-kilometer march. The standard is 55 pounds or 1/3 of our body weight, whichever is less. To get the 55 pounds, most people had to resort to sandbags and rocks.

I was in bed about 2200 when CPT John Elliott came in with some stuff that had just arrived from Saudi: maps and some cultural notes. I looked at one sheet that was purportedly Arabic, but even at my rudimentary stage I could tell it was gibberish. Then I realized it was a joke; a list of polite things to say when being taken hostage! I got just plain hysterical. It was a good end to a pretty good day.

Sat 12 Jan

Form up at 0730 for rucksack march. We got dummy M-16's (made of rubber!) and weighed in, only to be told we had to go back and get our gas masks as well. MAJ Johanson had specifically asked and been told we didn't need them. Everyone was highly irritated. We had two hours to make 10 kilometers with 55 pounds, and all our marchers made it. We had a little sun at dawn, mostly cloudy during the march with some rain (which felt good), and a little sun later on. In the afternoon we prepared for the MOS test until about 1400, then had off. I had taken a nap right after coming in from the march, and got up for lunch with piercing pains in my shoulders. I took another nap before supper, and awoke to find I hurt very little.

Today Congress voted to allow the use of force against Iraq. In the evening we went to the JFK Center for a good rah-rah film on Desert Shield and some generally uninformative briefings. The useful stuff was all classified; the stuff we heard we could have gotten out of the newspapers. We did get these tidbits:

THE 5 STAGES OF MOBILIZATION

Nonchalance - Curiosity - Concern - Fear - Panic

THE 7 KEY CONCEPTS OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS

Sun 13 Jan

No PT today. People who needed to validate on the firing range, mostly new people who drew a new weapon from us, got up at 0515, the rest of us half an hour later. After formation at 0715, we spent the morning on minor chores. I went to the warehouse, formerly the old PX, to get references out of storage, and took the opportunity to get my State Department Arabic book. After lunch, the Common Task testers tokk their tests, then we took the MOS tests, which were simple. Church call after supper. It was a slow day. Dawn was clear for the first time in a week. It clouded over later, then cleared by sunset. It is impossible to describe how good it was to have sun and no rain after a solid week of yuck. Our departure date has slipped and is now scheduled for somewhere between the 19th and 22nd.

Mon 14 Jan

The first really sunny day since we arrived. We had PT at 0515; it was clear and cold, with heavy frost, but warmed up nicely later on. Some of us donated blood in the morning. I still had a Claymore mine trainer left from Common Task testing, so the running gag at the blood donor center was "be nice to the guy with the Claymore". As luck would have it, the girl who was drawing blood from me fumbled the tube when drawing samples after I donated, and made quite a mess (spilled maybe two tablespoons of blood). She was terribly embarrassed, but after 50 donations I am not too affected by the sight of blood. I spent the rest of the morning on minor errands at Admin. In the afternoon we masked our last three trucks for painting and drove them over to the paint booth where civilian contracters would paint them. Driving a truck whose windows are masked with paper is scary; the only visibility was a slit cut in the windshield. After supper, we went to team orientation class, where the different functional teams gave briefings on their functions. It was inane because many teams had been unable to locate any good guidance on what they were supposed to do. Then we went to Supply to get additional clothes. We would get so many clothes that most of us eventually had to send excess home.

One thing I did after giving blood was make contact with the language center and set up an Arabic Headstart program for Tuesday and Thursday (since we were still expecting to leave in a week). Then I found out Thursday was planned for a company farewell dinner, and Tuesday was Commander's Time (free time), so the training fell through.

On Friday I had gotten a strange message: "Call George French in Green Bay about Toby Roth's Committee on Space and Space Technology." The CO let me use his phone today, and I billed the call to my home phone. It turned out Congressman Roth was getting up a committee to advise him on the recent Augustine Report on NASA priorities. I said I was willing to help, though hardly in a position to do much at the moment! French wanted to send me a copy of the report at Fort Bragg, but I told him we barely had room for the stuff we had now, and suggested he wait about 3 weeks until we got to Saudi. In fact, I would not see anything until March in Kuwait.

Wisecrack of the day: Chief Witbro threatened to cut off our left hands if we messed with his neat piles of clothing in supply. Someone asked if he meant right hand instead, Saudi-style. He replied: "No, I want you to be able to write. I might need you in supply".

Some interesting personal anecdotes:

SGT Don Langel brought along some needlework projects to pass the time.

SSG John Holmes, a 308th addition, collapsed during the first PT test. We feared a heart attack, but it turned out to be only a muscle spasm. Later he completed the rucksack march in 1:35; 10 minutes faster than me.

SPC Nicholson was not feeling well on the rucksack march. He was really wobbly, but finished. Next day he shot 40/40 on the rifle range.

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