Moving Out: To Bragg and Beyond
Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia—After standing around outside the plane for about half an hour, the group walked over to a school bus driven by a young Arab, complete with traditional head covering. It was clear, the 432nd was now “in Country.” A short drive was followed by a long wait for the arrival of the last contingent from Bragg. The wait provided one more preview of what being “in country” would come to mean: about five or six F-16s took off with loud roars and brilliant flame trailing their fighters as they shot northwards into the darkhess.
When the last batch of unit members landed and pushed themselves into the bus, the convoy of two buses and a dozen or so trucks also moved off into the darkness, without the speed or glamor of the F-16s we had seen earlier. Soon however, bright yellow street lignts marked the entrance to a freeway and gave the troops their first larger view of Saudi Arabia. Lots of concrete, like Spain; but unlike Spain, lots of powdery sand and street signs which, aside from English “subtitles,” were totally undecipherable.
The freeway took the convoy into what was apparently a massive apartment building complex known as Khobar Towers, where the 432nd, along with thousands of other troops would be temporarily housed.
By the time the unit was dropped off at its building and members got their equipment into their rooms, it was time for breakfast. Eating “in country” took on a totally different meaning than eating at Ft. Bragg. The unit’s mess hall was a converted underground parking pavillion, the food service people were obviously local labor, and no one yelled out, “How would you like your eggs today sir?” The eggs, like the rest of the menu, were cold, the uniform required weapon, helmet, gas mask; and the atmosphere was strikingly close to that of a war zone.
If there were any doubts about the atmosphere, it was promptly clarified by the commander at the unit’s first formation in Saudi. LTC Christopherson pointed out that this was the first time in the history of the 432nd in which the unit was being deployed in a war zone. The words were spoken simply enough, and the evidence was undeniable; but somehow, a new awareness was reached that the unit had crossed a line, entering a new phase of its long history.
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