The old adage of a Marine aboard ship…
There we were, forward deployed, ready to meet Saddam’s forces.
OK – the year was 1993 and we were there to demonstrate U.S. and coalition resolve that Kuwait would not be vulnerable again. This meant military exercises, running around the desert, and mostly for me, providing command level intelligence and as an ancillary task, to provide communication (primarily because we did not bring a comm guy along because everything was supposed to work). The communication problem was easily solved with some good wire and an MRE spoon.
We were given a corner of a huge warehouse at Camp Doha, northwest of Kuwait City. We set up our computer equipment which plugged right into the established secure network within the building. But we had nothing for external communications. Since we brought two Hueys with us, we needed to communicate directly with them. This presented a minor problem as the concrete block and steel building prevented our signal from getting out. It appeared that we weren’t the first ones assigned to this corner with that problem. Along the floor, there was a small hole, maybe ¾” that went through a couple layers of block and led to the great outdoors.
Assessing the situation, we were fortunate to be on the northwest side of the building. Our helicopters would be flying both north and west. Right outside the building was a wooden structure, almost like a gazebo where folks could sit and smoke, that is, if smoking is worth it in the 120 degree heat (it was July). I looked at our frequency that we would communicate on, divided it by 234 and came up with a distance from the building in feet. That distance coincided with the forward wooden support beams of the gazebo. I built a reflecting horizontal center fed dipole antenna that reflected the signal off the building which in essence, doubled the strength of our signal and improved the reception comparably. We went from no comm to 5 by 5 in a matter of minutes. The CO was pleased. But I digress.
The bathrooms at Camp Doha were small, air-conditioned trailers. And as part of the employment program, they each had their own attendant. Ours was a nice Bangladeshi man who spoke no English or any other language any of us knew. So we smiled and nodded. He could have been the happiest man on the planet because he was working in Kuwait, in July, in air conditioned comfort. I drank a lot of coffee, the desert heat was not a distraction from my foibles, so visited the small trailer a fair bit. On one occasion, the nice gentleman was having his lunch and had his picnic set up on the floor, half of which was under the urinal. He gestured for me to go ahead. I felt bad about infringing, but nothing impeded this man’s happiness. We later combined to give him a present of some sorts to thank him for taking care of that restroom for us. But I digress again.
The real attraction of Camp Doha was a chow hall that had limitless food and of only the highest quality. Private contract employees ran the show and the chow hall had to cater to all elements – Jew, Muslim, Christian, and G-d knows whoever else came along. This only meant that there wasn’t any pork. You could get just about anything else, including hand-scooped ice cream. But there was one catch on the ice cream – it was not self serve.
The server at the ice cream booth in the back of the chow hall was a gruff looking older Arab man. I have no idea from which country he hailed, although I suspect he was a Kuwaiti. Regardless, the stand usually had tubs of 10 or 20 different flavors, I forget exactly. Almost always available was a flavor called Rooty Tooty. There were usually four or so of us who would eat together and each one of us, one at a time, would go to the stand and ask what the colorful looking berry flavor was, by simply pointing and asking “What flavor is that?” In his harsh bass tones, the server would say with a heavy Arabic accent, “Rrrroooty Tooty” (r appropriately rolled with long o’s in both words). Twice a day for three weeks we perpetrated our childishness on this poor man, who served us some other flavor – we never actually ordered the rooty tooty.
The ice cream was good and I gained some 10 pounds in three weeks. I found it impossible to work out as even at 4 in the morning, ambient temperatures hovered around 90 degrees with a hot breeze blowing constantly. The breeze reminded me of what comes from a blow dryer – my eyes would dry out instantly. The grit carried on the breeze got into everything. Everything that is, except our chow which we always dutifully consumed in the chow hall. The chow hall also had a large barrel in the middle with the green Oat & Honey granola bars. I took one or two at every meal. They were too dry to eat, so I accumulated these throughout our trip. It was probably some kind of ethical violation to take these, but I knew that I would eventually eat them and that is what they were for. I had so many of these by the end of our deployment that I used them as packing material in everything I shipped back to the U.S. When I got back home, my consolidation of all the granola bars filled a gym bag. I took these to CENTCOM Headquarters where I eventually consumed them all, much to the chagrin of my well-cleaned out system…
The bottom line is that the greatest thing the world has to offer is its people and the common bond of life that we share.