a Someone should care, maybe not you....: Guard duty .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Someone should care, maybe not you....

My thoughts on many things including the army, war, politics, the military corrections system, chaos, life, books, movies, and why there is no blue food. Feel free to comment on what I say. Feedback is nice.

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40+ year old former teacher, linguist, interrogator, soldier, and lastly convict. We all do stupid things every once and awhile. I am an economic conservative and a firm believer in civil rights. Starting a new life now and frankly not sure what I am going to be doing.

30 December 2005

Guard duty

When we arrived in Camp Udari Kuwait we were sitting there without any ammunition for our weapons.  This was still early enough that some sort of raid was considered a (slight) possibility.  Udari is close enough to the Iraqi border to see the glow (and sometimes the flames) from burning oil wells.  So not having ammo was considered by us to be a very bad thing.  Since the active unit we were attached to had already expressed a certain lack of interest in us (Oh Well) we were not confident of getting ammo issued to us soon.  Thus when we were asked for a volunteer to take guard duty I raised my hand because I knew if I was a base guard I would have ammo.
I was assigned to a night shift duty in a tower initially.  I did get my ammo.  I quickly realized that while we considered the possibility of a raid it was pretty obvious that the “post” didn’t.  Or if they did, they had a real strange way of showing it.  There were two of us in the tower; we had a radio that didn’t have a big enough battery to leave it on all night.  So we were supposed to leave it off unless we had something to report.  Now the problem with this is that if something happened at a different tower or at the gate that should put us on alert we wouldn’t know it unless we actually heard shooting.  Also, if something happened, we would call in and there may or may not be someone hearing us.  The reception on the radios wasn’t great.  In addition to that little detail we were on guard duty in a tower in the middle of a dessert at night.  We couldn’t see a damn thing.  We would know the Iraqis were attacking us when they came over the berm in front of us.  In theory we had night vision gear.  In fact my unit had it.  (My guard unit that is) Of course it was in Kuwait city.  The active duty unit we were attached to didn’t give us any.  I suspect their stuff was up in Iraq.  So we sat in the dark (do you know how cold it can get at night in the dessert in April?)  The answer is COLD.  Of course as soon as the sun came up it got hot as hell again.  In the tower it was interesting.  In fact it was beautiful.  The sky was brilliantly clear and the stars were so bright you could see by them.  The graffiti in the tower was interesting too.  Guys writing about where they were from, what they saw, how they felt.  About a week before we got to Udari there had been a green on green incident.  (that means friendly fire) a British Tornado fighter bomber was shot down by a Patriot battery right outside Udari.  (During the day light you could see the wreckage from my tower)  The graffiti in the tower from the incident was telling.  I am going to paraphrase it.  “Airburst north east of the tower, altitude about 500 feet.  GAS! GAS! GAS!  Life sure sucks.”  That was a soldier who figured he had just seen the chemical warhead blow up and at that instant some nerve agent or something equally vile was drifting down on him and all of his buddies.  Most of who were sound asleep and would die in their sleep in a truly horrible manner. (The chemical alarms at Udari were not terribly effective)  That graffiti was written by a soldier who had just climbed into his chemical suit and was waiting to see if he or the guy with him would begin to twitch and foam in a few minutes.  He was scared to death.  Probably.  Interestingly enough something similar happened to me later in the week.
I had been switched from tower guard to gate duty.  They needed an NCO to run the shift.  I was in charge of about 8 other soldiers and more importantly in charge of making sure that no one snuck a bomb onto the base through my gate.  Hundreds of trucks came in every day (not counting military convoys) all of these trucks were driven my third country nationals, each driver needed to be searched, his papers checked, and his vehicle searched.  There was of course absolutely no way a thorough search could be conducted on all of the vehicles coming in without everything down too much to survive.  But we did the best we could.  We were lucky in that on the night shift very few trucks came in until daylight.  The dayshift guys got hammered all the time.  We never go busy except for the last three hours of the shift.
One day it was after dawn and we had a long line trucks waiting to get in and a long line of vehicle waiting to get out.  For some reason I had the radio on and heard some squawking.  I held it up to my ear and heard “garble garble confirmed mustard garble” This was not a good thing to hear.  I got on the radio and asked them to say again and it came back.  Confirmed mustard agent, gas gas gas.  Now official policy is that when the gas call comes in you drop everything and get in your MOPP gear.  There was no way I could let all of my guards stop doing everything and get dressed, so I pointed to three of them and told them to MOPP up, then the next three, then the next set and me last.  While this was happening we sealed the gate.  No vehicles in or out.  As this was going on a reporter in a vehicle that was no stopped at the gate rolled down his window and rather timidly asked me “Should I be worried?”  I told him “Yes, roll up your window and stay in your car.” as I was putting my chemical gear on (at last).  Then, there in full MOPP, we all went on full alert and sat for about 2 hours wondering what in the hell was going on.  Nothing further came over the radio.  No vehicles came from the interior of the base, no word at all.  After about two hours of keeping an increasingly restive group of truck drivers and an even more restive group of civilians parked at our gate I go the word that it was all Clear.  We could undress and start traffic moving again.  This pretty much happened as our shift ended so we left.  It turns out that a helicopter came in from Iraq and as it was landing all of the chemical detector around the airfield went off at once.  For a mustard agent.
Now the interesting thing is that when the word came in there was a “confirmed Mustard agent” you would think I would get scared.  But I didn’t.  I remember going “OH SHIT!”  but then it was all work.  How to get the gate sealed and get my guys into MOPP as fast and efficiently as possible.  I remember standing there in the gate watching my guys get into their gear and wondering if someone was going to try and rush the gate while it was going on and if I was going to suddenly feel a burning sensation in my eyes and lungs.  But I wasn’t scared.  I guess the training actually worked.
We never did hear why the chemical detectors all went off.  I have kept that in mind all the time I heard about “No Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

But let me tell you, those words confirmed chemical agent are words you NEVER EVER want to hear.

Addendum.  I read my journal after writing this.  This event actually took place the first night I was on gate duty.  We were in MOPP suits for 1 hour not two.  Otherwise, it is as I told it.


Blogger gunngirl said...

Just stopping by to wish you a Happy New Year! :)

6:17 PM  
Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

I'm glad nothing worse happened. I would have missed having you to read. Very much

9:18 PM  
Blogger Babs said...

Exmi, you know what? Now I kinda get to understand why pople get all nervous when they hear of an earthquake/suicide attack or anything within 1000 miles of where I live. I mean, reading your entry, I was rally really glad you're not curently back in the field. And thats without knowing you. So stay safe in 2006, huh, and have a fantastic year.

2:33 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

That's a frightening story. Of all the horrible ways to die, I heard mustard gas is one of the worst. I'd definitely be freaking out.

the wikipedia has some wonderful articles on the different kinds of chemical weapons. Have you ever seen that site? If not, it's http://en.wikipedia.org. You can search anything there, and their chemical weapons section is excellent.

7:57 PM  
Blogger exMI said...

Wonderful and chemical weapons aren't two words that go together very often. I think I have studied and had drilled into me the effects of various nerve/blood/blister agents to make me want to go read more. But I might anyway.

9:23 AM  
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