Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Gulf War I

There were two MI units short listed for the gulf during the build-up: Kirk's C company 108th MI, and a unit down near Nuremberg. In the end the other unit was tagged - although both groups lied about their readiness, the other guys had lied more. The day after they were told to prepare for the Gulf their readiness plummeted and they began frantically cannibalizing other units.

AFN began running short tips about safety and awareness. We were told to avoid parking our cars (obviously American because of our license plates) in isolated areas, do visual checks before we got in the car, watch for any following vehicles. The base did its best to up security as well. They parked a large personnel carrier outside the miniscule, off-base commissary. Granted, it had no weapon and wasn't manned, but it looked impressive if you didn't know what it was.

Actually Kirk said the German polizei took care of the very small threat that existed. They already knew who to watch, and simply performed routine traffic stops on the couple of cars involved. I got the impression there were army guys dressed up in polizei uniforms, who did a lovely dramatic double take when they searched the cars and 'accidentally' found arms and things in the trunk.

I remember vividly the day the war began because Kirk woke me up that morning. 'The war started,' He told me. 'The Iraqi air force is gone.' Such a strange, surreal thing. At our age we had no real memory of war. I vaguely recall my mother saying 'Thank goodness' when the end of the Vietnam war was announced; beyond that my entire concept of war was shaped by M*A*S*H and old movies. The troubling thing was that between the rock-star status of Wolf Blitzer, and the video game-like daily briefings with their fuzzy flashes of light ('Ah! See, another thing just exploded. Trust us, it was vital') this most publically exposed war of all seemed less realistic, not more. The highway of death changed that, at least for me, but it wasn't until our friends returned and we talked to people who had actually been involved that the human element really emerged.

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