The Kurdish Detour
Incirlik, Turkey—Once in Incirlik, the unit learned of its mission to Iraq to help Kurdish refugees. BG Don Campbell informally addressed the troops, explaining that the 432nd possessed experience and skills that were not available to active duty troops. That, in part, answered the question as to why reserve units were given an active duty mission, while active duty units were being “held in reserve,” meaning that they were going home while the 432nd, and other CA reservists, were being reassigned. The general also challenged unit personnel to be open-minded about the Kurdish mission urging the troops to “give the assignment two weeks,” so that people would realize the value of helping the Kurds. About thirty-six hours after the general’s briefing, the 432nd found itself rolling eastwards out of Incirlik in a convoy aimed at helping Kurdish refugees. The refugees — more technically “displaced civilians,” because they were seeking shelter within their own nation — were fleeing Saddam Hussein’s retaliation for their revolution following Operation Desert Storm.
President Bush originally had told the American people our forces would return quickly from the Persian Gulf. But when media coverage of Hussein’s brutality against the Kurds aroused outrage around the world, the President then called on US forces to render humanitarian assistance to the Kurds, who had fled north to mountainous areas in southeastern Turkey and western Iran. Kurds who survived the guns of Hussein seemed destined to die in the freezing mountains, where nearly 2000 were dying daily.
- Turkey, being a fairly westernized country, had plenty of beer and liquor. After months in alcohol-free Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, it was a pleasant change of pace. When we were stationed in Zakho, Iraq, we made frequent beer runs across the border to Turkey, returning with a Humvee packed full of cases. Everyone had a stash of beer or booze. I had three cases under my cot; some people dug cooling pits in the ground.
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