432nd Civil Affairs Gulf War History – Pg. 15

A Side Trip to Emerald City

King Khalid Military City, Saudi Arabia—The onset of the ground war made it necessary for the commander to send a detail of about fifteen drivers 300 miles northwest to KKMC, dubbed Emerald City, as in The Wizard of Oz, in order to pick up additional vehicles for the 432nd’s move to Kuwait City. It was crucial to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. If the ground war were to be short, the 432nd would have to be ready for quick action in order to coordinate relief operations in its sectors of the city and save lives as soon as possible.

CPT Pressner pulling police call. Yes, Civil Affairs is that rank-heavy.
CPT Pressner pulling police call. Yes, Civil Affairs is that rank-heavy.

No one expected that the drive to KKMC would be the most dangerous aspect of the 432nd’s entire deployment. The unit’s drivers, along with those of the 431st CA Co. from Little Rock, Arkansas and the 352d CA Command from Riverdale, Maryland, shared two tour buses driven by two young Saudis; and the trip was memorable.

The two big buses rolled out of Camp 1 on Monday, February 25; and it didn’t take long for the troops to realize they were in a combat zone of a different sort. Once the freeway narrowed to a heavily travelled single-lane highway, people began noticing wrecked cars, trucks and buses beside the road, almost every three or four miles. The main reason was the Arab willingness to pass, regardless of traffic conditions. Unfortunately, Americans easily adopted the habit as well. Wrecked American vehicles were occasionally spotted; and on one busy stretch, a large US Army flatbed truck flew by the buses, down the center of the road forcing oncoming traffic onto the shoulder.

The vehicles we picked up at KKMC were barely operational.
The vehicles we picked up at KKMC were barely operational.

Despite the near miss and an over-heated engine on one of the buses, the unit made it to KKMC. The end of the line was a muddy motor pool filled with barely usable vehicles, from which the drivers had to select the best for the trip back to Camp 1. After finding the vehicles, the drivers then left the motor pool to find lodging for the night. The drivers who did not find vehicles boarded one of the buses for a ride to the barracks area for the night. Just as the bus pulled out of the motor pool however, a loud roar was heard from the right side of the bus, the driver’s blind side, as a large truck shot by, missing the bus by inches.

1SG Gerlach: "We're all family here!"
1SG Gerlach: “We’re all family here!”

Following that near miss and a good night’s sleep in a building adjacent to a green-domed mosque — which one GI described as the Space Ship Enterprise because of its eerie arrangement of lighted windows — the convoy of buses and newly acquired trucks made their way back to Camp 1, but not without scoring another near miss with the same bus. More monumental than surviving the trip back, the troops were elated to learn that enemy troops were unexpectedly fleeing Kuwait City in large convoys headed north to Iraq. Those convoys — compliments of the US Air Force and supporting ground units — were destined to have worse luck going north than the next convoy of the 432nd.


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