My First Sandstorm [Mar 25, 2003]
Submitted to this site by my friend who is serving in the military but not currently in the Middle East. He sends me commentary from time to time.
The first sandstorm I ever experienced was in Kuwait a few years ago. I was standing in the desert on a cool fall night shooting my carbine at some targets we’d set up in the distance. After a while, we got bored and started shooting tracer rounds into the night sky, our carbines on automatic as we carved out violent shapes--smiley faces and Tic-Tac-Toe games--of burning magnesium into the Arab night.
In the west, the horizon got hazy. The stars began to disappear one by one. Soon, less and less of the western sky was visible. I thought it was steam rising from the desert sands, but it wasn’t long before my platoon sergeant and I were huddled in our Humvee, riding out our first Kuwaiti sandstorm.
The worst sandstorms tend to hit Kuwait and Southern Iraq in the early fall and late spring. They can last for days, like the one currently bogging down our troops. The worst I lived through lasted about 12 hours, during which I led a convoy through the desert, navigating the whole way using my global positioning system and a map because I couldn’t see more than 20 meters in front of my Humvee. The turret gunner got the worst of it. When we got back to base, he was covered with sand. Five of us stayed up the whole night cleaning his machine gun.
I worry less about the soldiers during this sandstorm than about how the equipment will fare. Small weapons and machine guns don’t work well when caked with sand and grit, and the oil we give our troops makes matters worse, because it just serves as a magnet for more sand.
But overall, this sandstorm should give our guys some time to rest. They’ve been going at a blitzkrieg pace the past five days and no doubt want some time to catch up on sleep before the big push into Baghdad.