Maj. Merv Brott (left) and Sgt. First Class Kevin Connaughton in full gear in the desert of Kuwait. “This is pretty much the height of the dry season,” writes Brott. “Temperatures have been climbing over 120 degrees. In the morning, when it’s only 105, we say that it still feels ‘a little cool.’”
Team Jedi Episode 3: Combat Advisor Journal
Heat, Sand and Viper Snakes: Life in 'The Sand Box'
(Editor's Note: Merv Brott and Kevin Connaughton, former Sulphur Springs residents, are part of a 10-man team tasked with training hundreds of Iraqi soldiers how to do the job of protecting their country. Maj. Brott, the team leader, has graciously offered to write about the experiences of "Team Jedi" for the News-Telegram. These dispatches will appear in the News-Telegram as soon as possible, but will first be posted on the "Team Jedi" blog).
Episode 3: Nomads
12 Aug 08, Somewhere in the Kuwait desert
August 17, 2008 - Nomads have roamed this desert for thousands of years and have learned not just how to live, but to thrive in this harsh environment. Team Jedi has been here one week; we haven't quite made it to the "thrive" level.
The sunrise and sunset here cause you to stop, stare and take in the orange globe as the heat ripples across the horizon. The desert can be beautiful. The cool pre-dawn, late evening and brief periods in the middle of the day are inviting, but mostly she is cruel and unforgiving and teaches hard lessons to those new to her territory.
We are still at the adapt and survive level, so the constant hum of the massive diesel generators powering our life-support systems is reassuring. These behemoths look like they were plucked from mammoth bulldozers. It's kind of like listening to your own heartbeat. The constant thump-thump is intriguing, but there's a little voice in the back of your head wondering, "What if it stops?" You hope you never hear silence with the big diesels.
We take many things for granted back home: clean water, reliable electrical power, appliances that don't require transformers to work with the electrical output, running water, privacy, toilets that aren't plastic and the size of a telephone booth (those under 30 refer to an encyclopedia ... err ... I mean, Google it), and long showers at the temperature of our choosing.
I say it that way because sometimes you want a cold shower, especially if you've been in 120 degree heat for most of the day. Well, there are water heaters but there aren't water chillers for the showers. Water is stored in a tank above the shower trailer which means that the cold knob produces water that is about 102 degrees - great for hot tubbing but not so great if you want to cool down.
Here at the base camp, we are limited to 15 gallons of water per person, per day. There are no underground water pipes in this remote part of the desert. Every drop of water is trucked in daily. If you want to make enemies, let someone catch you taking a long shower in the shower trailer. No, camp policy dictates Combat Showers: 1. Get wet. 2. Shut off the water. 3. Lather up. 4. Rinse. 5. You're done. You've only got a few more gallons for the rest of the day - use them wisely.
Here in the tent we're packed in like sardines. Some of the guys started to bring back fruit and other snacks from the mess hall but we had to stop that. Food attracts mice, mice attract viper snakes, and there is no anti-venom here on the base. Two nights ago one of the guys left a pear near his cot and woke up to find a bunch of bite marks on it from the mice - that was it, no more food in the tent.
This is pretty much the height of the dry season. Temperatures have been climbing over 120 degrees. In the morning, when it's only 105, we say that it still feels "a little cool."
We've conducted some great training this past week, our first week in "Theater." Theater is the doctrinally correct term for our area of operations, but we all call it "The Sand Box." This recent training has been like one last tune-up before we go "over the berm." After the Gulf War in 1991, Kuwait constructed a large berm along its border with Iraq. So, whenever units finish their training in Kuwait and head North, we say we're going over the berm. The training at Ft. Riley, Kansas was pretty good, but the realism level is kicked up a few notches when you're over here. More than anything, it gives everyone a week or so to get acclimated to the extreme heat and reset our body clocks from the major shift in time zones.
Well, the Jedi are off to a good start. I could not have asked for a better group of ten men to conduct this mission. In the next few days we will go North and over the berm. As I type this, over the hum of our generators, I hear Taps being played over the camp loud speakers. Taps tells me it's time to lie down for the night and get some much-needed sleep. Until next time, this is Jedi 6, out