- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

CAMP GRIZZLY, Kuwait, March 13 (UPI) — The morning wind blows cold in northern Kuwait this time of year, carrying the region's loose sand with it and turning everything a dismal, depressing shade of light brown.

The sun, if and when it peeks through the cloud cover, is obscured and brings little warmth, giving away the time of day not by intensity but by position alone.

The atmosphere is appropriate. The thousands of U.S. Marines in this makeshift camp within 30 miles of the Iraqi border are living in a twilight zone of unrequited anticipation.

Will the order come to pack up and move to a dispersal zone, where battle formations will be set, before moving to their individual lines of departure for crossing into Iraq for the long-awaited campaign to forcibly disarm Iraq of chemical and biological weapons and also topple and regime of Saddam Hussein, come? Or will they sit here much as they have since February, training, waiting, living in a sandbath?

That decision is up to President Bush and the Marines wait for his orders.

But life at Camp Grizzly for men of the 5th Marines, is not without its moments.


It was a special formation earlier this week for men of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, of the 5th Marines. One of their own was being presented with an award for valor — no, not actions in the face of the enemy, but for actions in the face of Mother Nature's whimsy.

The Marine, you see, was sitting in a porta-potty doing what one does in a porta-potty, when a strong north wind gusted through the camp. Said porta-potty went end over end with said Marine in it.

The award from his fellows: The brown strip for valor for maintaining composure in the face of flying …

All lavatory facilities at the camp now feature sandbags on the floor to ensure the medal remains one of a kind.

Earlier, another Marine escaped serious injury when his porta-potty caught fire and melted. It's NOT a good idea to smoke in them. It's an even worse idea to throw a lit butt into the chemical mix below.


One of the hardest aspects of deployment overseas for troops is missing the birth of children. In Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, three men missed their wives' accusing looks as they lay in the delivery room at home — Staff Sgt. Sean Cox, Cpl. Chad Shevlin and Cpl. Stephen Dupont.

"It would have been better if I was there, but it will also make the homecoming much sweeter," said Cox, who like the others was informed of their parenthood by a Red Cross message from home.

In his 12 years in the Marines, the birth of Stephanie, his third daughter, is the first he had missed.

Shevlin's first child, daughter Mekayla was born Feb. 8 in Rochester, N.H., two days after he arrived in Kuwait.

"She (wife Natalie) had mixed feelings," he said. "She wanted me there, but she also knew I had a job to do. I'm just glad they are both in good health."


There's no escape from the wind and the dust it throws up. On Wednesday night, the howler clocked in a 45 knots per hour, forcing its way under tent flaps and flooring. The result, an indoor sand storm and hours of cleaning quarters and gear once morning came around.


Troops Thursday were issued for the first time with their plastic-laminated, Arabic-language phrase cards for interacting more effectively with Iraqis.

There's no "take me to your leader," phrasing, but plenty of others to cover basic situations. There are greetings, for example; "Peace be upon you," is spelled out phoenetically as "assa lamu alay-kum;" "hello," is "marrah-ba;" while "hands up" is "irrfa ya-dayeka."

There is also phonetic phrasing for surrender, give me your weapon, calm down and what's up.

I think the Marines will be picking and choosing a few key phrases to memorize and put the rest away — the print is so small, it would take minutes to find what you may need. And then, of course, there is the problem of what happens if someone answers back in Arabic?


"Gas, gas, gas." The voiced alarm is taken seriously by the more than 150,000 U.S. military personnel in the Persian Gulf, especially those arrayed along the Kuwait-Iraq border. Saddam Hussein is known to possess chemical agents, and the threat he may use them against U.S. troops, including pre-emptively, is considered very real.

The alarm is sounded at Camp Grizzly at least several times day, giving Marines nine seconds to literally drop everything and don the gas masks they carry with them everywhere. The drill are not announced beforehand and can come at any time.

Troops, grumpy about a nocturnal drill recently, were even more steamed Wednesday night when "gas, gas, gas" was sounded as they prepared to tuck into their evening chicken dinner.

For a full 10 minutes the hungry Marines sat with their masks on, sweating profusely, while staring at their uneaten fare.

Still, they know the importance of being ready and the grumbling quickly dissipated.


Speaking of chicken, a word to the wise to the wives and families of Marines deployed with 5th Marine Regiment Combat Team: For a happy homecoming, DON'T fix 'em a chicken dinner, whether it's fried, broiled, baked, roasted, however.

Dinner Thursday was to be roast chicken. Dinner Wednesday was roast chicken. Dinner Tuesday was …

Well, you get the drift. Chicken will not be the food of choice when America's warriors are home.


Oh, and then there is the story about chickens used in another way. A few weeks ago, someone got the idea of using chickens as live gas detectors, much like canaries were once used in coal mines.

The birds obtained locally for the experiment didn't take well to being caged on the hoods of HUMVEES and armored vehicles, and many died.

Now, did they make it into the oven?

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