Iraq invades Kuwait
A couple of dozen of the unit fly to Camp Shelby, Mississippi to support Exercise Vulcan Knight. We fly to Gulfport, then bus to Camp Shelby. My first thought upon seeing the place is that it's Beetle Bailey's Camp Swampy, incarnate. The concrete block billets are not air conditioned. It pushes 100 during the day but is actually easier to take than the evenings. When it cools off, the moisture in the air stays the same and the humidity goes to near 100 per cent. I man a cell with CPT Gary Bomske and 1LT Lori Fisher, and learn to love Gatorade. About halfway through, the exercise begins to sputter as logistics units are called up to support Desert Shield, the military response to the invasion of Kuwait.
On the 27th, a few of us snag a chopper ride with some visiting German officers. We fly over the Mississippi and land on a sandbar. I think it's fun but the Germans are absolutely awe-struck - to them the Mississippi is the heart of the American myth. We take off and the pilot buzzes down a back bayou; clouds of pelicans and egrets spill out of the trees. We buzz over Natchez and view some of the old mansions and a riverboat. It's actually chilly at 3000 feet on the way home, but after a week of sweltering, I refuse to complain.
1LT Bob Trich has rented a car from Rent-A-Wreck, and with the exercise now officially dead, we have a couple of days of slack time. We go to New Orleans and out to Venice at the end of the delta. At the French Quarter, we run into some more of our German officers.
The night before we go home, we go out to eat at a fish place near Hattiesburg (ironically, I interviewed for a job at the University of Southern Mississippi here in 1979.) One of my tablemates is a MAJ Guderian who admits to being related to the famous WWII general. He clearly doesn't want to talk, so I don't push. A shame, since I have never heard anything about Guderian except that he was a fine officer.
Only a MUTA-1 drill, because of Christmas. Maj. Bob Dickson briefed the unit on contingency plans for mobilization. He said that the Army was not following normal capstone alignments but was selecting units based on readiness ratings. Ours was high. At that moment I knew beyond a doubt that we were going. Six of our junior enlisted, all but one female, were cross-leveled to a unit in Wausau. It looks like they deliberately selected women. Some of them had only an hour's notice. Our losses to the Wausau unit: PFC's Michelle Hoeffs, Lisa Vanenlangenberg, Jaye Buelow, Chutima Schultz and Andy Delleman.
I told Bob Wenger that we should plan seriously for my being called up, and drafted letters to various departments in the University just in case.
18 unit members were mobilized. One of them was 1Lt Brack Gillespie, a science major. I was in the department office when he informed Bob Wenger.
Our 18 mobilized members depart for Fort Bragg.
I got a call informing me that the unit was on alert, to report on December 26 and leave for Fort McCoy on the 29th. At least we will be home for Christmas, something that had not been at all certain.
Administrative drill. Latest word from our advanced party was that they had been bused to Dover AFB, Delaware, and were now in transit at Rhein-Main AFB, Germany. Three of them, CPT John Bestul, SSG Mike Van Rens, and SFC Mark Kazik, were sent home because they were on medical profile. Members of the advance party were: LTC Ken Bukowski, MAJ Carl Fisher, CPT Kevin Agen, CPT Len Beekman, CPT Wayne Huempfner, CPT Mike Wojta, CPT Wayne Scholze, LT Greg Freeman, 2LT Brack Gillespie, LT Jeff Ponkratz, LT Dave Gomoll, LT Bob Trich, SSG Bob Anderson, SSG Bob Haglund, and SGT Dan Aprill.
It's official. We mobilize. I had the secretary run off my letters. I signed them and turned them in and cleaned out my office. Mobilization vastly simplifies paperwork; anything I would not need in six months got thrown away. Late in the afternoon another call informed me that we mobilize on January 3, and report to Fort McCoy on the 6th.
Bob Dickson called me and told me to report on December 26, along with 25 others. Shawn was not happy!
We reported at 0730, to be informed that we report to Fort Bragg instead of Fort McCoy, because Civil Affairs is part of Special Operations. General dismay; Bragg is warmer than McCoy, but a lot farther from home. We spent the day finishing up our personal records, inventorying gear, and spray-painting our duffel bags. Shawn and the boys got dependent ID cards. Channel 11 did a brief spot with me, Don Larmouth and Niel Hensrud on how mobilization would affect UWGB. Cpt John Elliott, SSG Wally Coyle and I get a mission to acquire maps of Kuwait and Iraq, which was always referred to as "a country west of Kuwait".
From now on we have PT every morning at the YMCA at 0700. The we had a briefing, a very poor one, from a local Marine who had been briefly in Saudi Arabia but who actually knew very little. Then our team went off to UWGB to check the map library, where we found a complete collection of 1:250,000 maps of the region we needed. We spent much of the day Xeroxing maps and collecting references. We were careful to put the maps away and carry off all waste copies to maintain security, though it would not be hard to figure out our mission. The maps showed southern Iraq to be topographically featureless and uninhabited. I wondered what kind of Civil Affairs mission we could have there.
I had ordered some tapes on the space program from the Jet Propulsion Lab before this all began, and they finally came today. It will be some time before I can properly enjoy them.
The town of Little Chute is locally famous for the elaborate Christmas displays some homes have. Shawn and I went down with the boys to see them. It was worth the trip.
PT at 0700, then spent the morning copying 400 pages of an Arabic book and gazeteer of Iraq. In the afternoon, went to UWGB to get more materials, and also got a Fort Bragg haircut.
PT at 0700, then spent the day working on a language training outline. I had been working on this the previous spring. The game plan was to develop a master vocabulary list for polishing my Italian, then start on Greek for this January's student trip. However, the January trip fell through, so I let the project languish. Now I revived it, only to learn Arabic instead of Italian and Greek.
No PT today. Spent the day developing the language outline.
PT at 0700. Finished the language outline. Our orders came, so I took them to UWGB to make copies, and began preparing to pack. By the end of the day I had finished memorizing the Arabic alphabet.
New Years Day was a day off. The family went to Sue Rylander's in Appleton for lunch. Her sister Barb is a medic with the unit in Menasha. We've probably met before when I took my physical or when they came up to review our records. In the evening we went to services at Christ Church and an ice cream social.
PT at 0700, then went to UWGB to finish copying maps and clear up a few loose ends with Personnel. We had been in contact with an Intel unit in Detroit that had the Arabic Headstart program. They sent it to us, and it arrived today. I spent most of the afternoon Xeroxing it, and began copying the tapes.
Today was M-day, the day the whole unit mobilized. No PT today. A TV crew filmed in the morning. We spent most of the day sorting and boxing supplies. Wally brought in the best Arabic reference yet, but unfortunately, he didn't bring it along when we departed, and there was no time to copy it entirely. In my spare time, such as it was, I continued copying Headstart tapes. That evening we had a scheduling conflict, so I went to Chris's high school orientation while Shawn went to the first dependents' briefing at the Reserve Center.
The car stalled in the cold, so I never made it to PT. It was a chaotic day. I helped in-process about 40 people who came in from Chicago (308th CA Group) and Kalamazoo (415th CA Company). The 308th people arrived in the morning. We briefed them and then put them in the day room to sort and pack their gear. We took them around to get new issue and spray-paint their bags, a task complicated by having a 53-foot semi parked in the drill area. Later on the 415th people arrived. Late in the afternoon we began packing the semi, and to my amazement the job was done by 1830. I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some last-minute items, and then soaked in the tub. It was an exhausting day.
I did some mental calculating and estimated my cut in salary amounted roughly to my buying a trip to Saudi Arabia. Actually, thanks to a tax exemption in the combat zone plus interest reductions on my mortgage mandated by the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act, I nearly broke even.
Backfills (replacements for vacancies) from the 308th Civil Affairs Group: COL Arthur Truss, LTC David Ohmart, CPT Sylvester Jones, CPT Tim Yancy, CPT Alvin Howard, CPT Cove Green SFC Maurice Lyke, SFC William Taylor, SFC Charles Wren, SFC Dennis Kieltyka, SFC Calvin Lewis, SFC Al Mitchell, SFC Curtis Jackson, SSG Keith Chamble, SSG Charles Betts, SGT Don McGovern, SGT Rich James, SGT Olivia Davis, SGT Fern Davis, SPC Nicole Stampley, SPC June Williams, SPC Anaya. SPC Kevin Sanford, SPC William Magby, SP4 Mark Kuyper, PFC Franklin Towner.
Backfills from the 415th Civil Affairs Company, and individuals from other units: LTC Curcio (chaplain, but did not deploy for health reasons), CPT Greg Judd, CPT Mark Haney, CPT Dave Pressner, CPT Gerald Watson, LT Rich Hegemann, SGT John Momich, SGT Al Meccia, PFC Dave Mabin.
PT at 0700, then finish up at the center. The semi left about 1000 for Fort Bragg. We had briefings until lunch, then the final formation. The mayor addressed us, then LTC Christopherson. He started to choke up while addressing us. Col Biese, the former commander, and SFC Gene Gibbons, a former member of the unit, were also there. We were out by 1300, but I was not off. I packed, changed the spark plugs in Shawn's car, and unclogged the basement drain. Jim and Stacey Adams came over for a farewell about 7 in the evening.
Last Update January 14, 1997
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