23 SEP 90
Got up this morning, shaved, brushed teeth, cruised in to work and grabbed my bag of goodies (running shoes, shorts, tank top, towel, book) to go “fill sandbags”. Today we took 369 and 367 Marines, I was the only officer to go with 36 enlisted. After agreeing on where it was that we were actually going, accounting for everyone and splitting into 3 groups, we loaded onto 5 tom trucks for the 25 minute ride to the camp. The drive was through open desert and deserted highways, uneventful, saw about five cars. Glad I was up front versus sitting in the truck bed, where the nice hot air was blowing at about 50 miles per hour. Arrived at the camp and talked to the manager, then turned everyone loose on the phones, pool, basketball court, store, snack bar, pool tables, bowling lane, barber shop, laundry etc... We made a phone list from junior guy up to me and started calling. The receptionist dialed the numbers, told the guys to pick up one of three phones, and connect the call. Then you tell whoever you’re calling the number, to call you back and hang up. Go to the desk, pay three dollars for the one minute call and wait for return call. The switchboard would connect you and you had 10 minutes. We let everyone police themselves on how long they talked, told them to make one quick call so everyone could get through, then hop back in line if they wanted to make another call. Basically it would be three hours before it was my turn. First I went down and talked to Mr Wilson, the man who runs the camp. He was a very interesting man. He retired in 1978 after 25 years in the British Army as a Sergeant Major. Mainly in tanks, spending 17 years in and around Saudi Arabia. He did most of the talking, but basically he said that he wished someone had done this for him when he was a troop. He is opening the camp up for as many as 40 per day, plus he gets a lot of stragglers, and charges nothing, other than the cost of food. I was eager to hear his opinions on our military and political situation. Seeing as this will be a tank war with lots of air and arty support. I asked his opinions on what he would do if he were in charge. He said roll into Kuwait and kick Iraqs butt out, maybe put a bulge in Iraq’s border, see if anyone has shot Hussein by then, and see what happens. SH has already been more daring than Hitler, and every day we wait he is bleeding Kuwait dry by stealing their resources and hardware, driving citizens out and leaving an empty shell for Iraquis to fill up. If he moves northwest through Jordan and bumps off Israel, he’ll be the hero of the Arab world. Wouldn’t that be special?
I asked if he thought Hussein would move into S.A., and he said only as far south as the oil rich Saffiniya area. He thought we should defend against him by channelizing him into a valley or onto a road, cut his logistics train and shoot him up. Interestingly enough he pointed out the same areas along the coast where we plan to do this. We talked about tank vs helo, form both aspects. He thinks SH Armies are worthless, but says yes, we will lose people. He was adamant about not concerning ourselves about “hostages” taken from oil camps. He said everyone comes over here for the money and knows the risks, and that it is not fair for us to risk more lives worrying about them.
He also told where the best places to go for liberty, basically south, along the Persian Gulf shoreline, even down into UAE. Says there’s a Hilton down there with an ice rink! Ha, wouldn’t that be a great picture? He showed me a picture of his house in Portugal and in England. His wife was home in England when this kicked off and she was worried about him, so he told her to stop watching the news and come over. So, she’s here now.
The camp has small houses, one to two bedroom, a small community. Mainly Asian workers to clean and refurbish oil production equipment, with an Arab staff. You can walk across the camp in about 10 minutes. The main office has several little used rooms with phones, about the size of a double wide. After I talked to him for a while, he went home for “tea”. Went down to see what they had in the store. I got a Very Berry Strawberry ice cream at the Baskin Robbins, a coke and a bag of Fritos. Walked back and sat in Mr Wilson’s outer office, ate ice cream and Fritos, drank Coke, while he visited with our Sgt Major. He brought an Arab News and I read about S.A.’s 58th National Day. King Abdul Aziz unified them in 1932, from a bunch of marauding Bedouins into one country. They’ve done a lot in a short time, lots of growing pains, lots more to do. They’ve cancelled all celebrations as a show of solidarity for Kuwait. The paper gave a good, short history lesson. Probably learned more from reading it than all of my history classes and intel briefs.
Tried calling home again, no luck, ate camel burger and fries, drank a Pepsi, bought brush, fly swatter, M&Ms, scotch tape. Went back to office, read Newsweek, talked to Group Sgt Maj, and tried phone call again. Finally got through on call. Passed word on what our everyday routine was.
Got some things right in my mind about coming to grips with situations that I can’t change, and realizing that I have to go back to simple life of doing what I think is right, and be willing to accept the consequences. That way I get in trouble for my own screw ups, not someone else’s. The trick is, I have to let my Marines make their own mistakes, not mine, and be willing to take the heat for them. I had a long talk with Sgt Lee about lots of things. Basically I don’t want deficient leadership to hold them back, I want to be a friend, but sometimes I have to be the boss. Since Flight Equipment has so many projects, it’s hard for me to keep from butting in all the time. Lots of “engineering” going on here. These guys have worked “so hard for so long with so little, they will now attempt the impossible with nothing.” I want them to keep their drive and initiative, so I cut them back to 8 hours a day. I refuse to punish them any longer for the Marine Corps’ “idiocracies” in manpower management, especially when Marines from MALS who have nothing to work on yet are sitting in their tents all day and do nothing when they could be helping out. We rate 9 guys for a squadron of 12 Hueys and 12 Cobras, now we have 18 more advanced aircraft with only 3 guys who are school trained, and 2 more who are OV-10 ejection seat mechanics and were trained on the job. My Sgt, filling a SNCO billet, is a seat mech. So, needless to say, I am in awe of the work these guys do. The Sgt handles everything, including message traffic, logistics, fiscal accounts, and explosive safety maintenance and monitoring. I wanted him to know how much I appreciate their efforts and told them only to expect “mo betta” things in the future. We talked about our families, he has a little girl. It was fun talking about families, leadership hurdles, new challenges. I told him we’ve got a good crew and I’ll do my best to screen them from the br-ass.
Had the best Marine Corps spaghetti I’ve ever had, but no mail, so it’s a break even day. Mail is probably enjoying liberty in England somewhere. Got my hair trimmed, it’s growing back. I’m never cutting it short again. Buzz gave me crap about it, it did look funny, like Curious George or something. It’s growing out and staying out this time, and I just hope someone says something.