I went to the Persian Gulf on December 1991 to participate on operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I left Germany on the 31st of the mentioned month and landed in Saudi Arabia a few hours before midnight. I thought since it was the desert; it was going to be hot. The joke was on my fellow soldiers and me because during the rainy season the temperature drop. Our winter clothes were stored in our combat vehicle, and we didn’t have anything to keep us warm. We used a big piece of plastic found on the airfield to preserved the heat in our body. We waited for hours for a bus to take all of us to Cobalt Tower a building complex designed for the Bedouin people who dwell in the desert. They didn’t want to leave the desert, and the structured were abandoned. We have thirty individual in the platoon, and the apartment was big enough to hold all of us. The reason; they can have as many wives as long as they can provide all their need.
Believe or not; that was the first time I eat lamb. It’s delicious meat. Sorry, if I offended a vegan or a vegetarian, but I like roasted beef. I am glad they didn’t serve us camel meat. We were in a different culture, and we didn’t want to offend our host. Anyway, in the military, you can’t have the luxury of eating whatever you want. You have to consume what they have or die of starvation. You could eat, meal ready to eat(MRE), which taste awful, but you can survive on it. We stay in those apartments for three days ’till our equipment arrived at the seaport. Then, we went to the desert; where we prepared for the invasion of Iraq. The raining season was on, and the water pours on us every single day ’till spring. The sand turned into mud with the movement of the massive military vehicle. We wear winter clothes as if we were in Germany. When we took a shower, the upper half of your body was exposed, and you could feel the cold wind hit your bones. We have to evacuate our bowel in a bucket, and the feces have to be burned with a mix of MoGas and diesel. To urinate, we dig a hole put a metal tube, with plastic bottle cut halfway on one end, into the sand to prevent any decease carried by desert flies. We washed our clothes in any bucket we could find and hang them to dry.
To move from point A to B; we used direction and distant using a compass because the place was flat without any terrain feature. Only the officer had Ground Positioning System (GPS). Twenty years ago we didn’t have the technology we had today. If you deviate a little on your course; you could end up anywhere in the vast Saudi Arabian desert. You probably think there aren’t wild animals in that arid terrain, well you’re wrong. At least, there was a wild pack of hungry dogs running around the camp at night. The mosquitoes at night eat you alive. I hated those little vampires. You got a be careful where you sit because the scorpions waited for preys under the rock or the sand and they could do some damage. Not everything was terrible, the camel run free, or as free they could be, all of them had an owner. You can see desert people in their black ten along the way. It was a good experience.
I won’t write about what happened during the few hours of combat, because, what happens in war is depressing and hurt the soul. We travel thru a sandstorm from our base of operation in Saudi Arabia to Iraq in a crossing that lasted three days. Let me be clear, the storm didn’t last three days only the long drive to get there did. We didn’t get too much sleep on the road. Since we have a deadline to meet. We were only allowed to take cat-nap along the way. It was a sight to see, the whole division move in a diamond formation. If you know how big is an Armor division. You understand what I’m talking about; too bad, I was part of the military establishment, and all I could see was the combat tank in front of me. We crossed the border between the two countries thru the West part and then move East to attack Saddam military forces on their right flank. The battle didn’t last long, but what I saw after, gave nightmares for a long time. A scene that I won’t describe in this article.
We camp out under a cloud of black smoke coming from the burning oil well the Iraqi Forces set on fire before leaving Kuwait. We were beneath that toxic environment for about a week before the fire was extinguished. The platoon I was assigned too, stay in the north of Kuwait for three weeks. The winter was over and the temperature to around 103 degrees Fahrenheit. We have to keep enough clothes on to prevent dehydration. The desert air is so dry that you sweat evaporate immediately. You could lose the moisture off your body without realizing it. We were dressed the whole time there. So, after the war was over, I went into a tank ditch took off my clothes have a shower with a gallon of water and lay under the sun for ten minutes. I need it that, and the sun rays felt nice on my skin. Mischief I did, because, it was against the rules.
Author; Melito Santos
Desert Storm veteran