432nd Civil Affairs Gulf War History – Pg. 7

Moving Out: To Bragg and Beyond

Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia—The compound in which the unit was temporarily stationed could remind someone of the massive apartment buildings constructed in Germany or the Soviet Union to alleviate the critical shortage of living space in those countries¹. There seemed to be about one hundred of these buildings, each built seven stories high, in uniform architectural style, and painted in various shades of rose-gray or green-gray. Unit members were told that the buildings were constructed to give Bedouins (desert nomads) a permanent place to live, but the Bedouins preferred life in the open, a reminder of the US Government’s similarly unsuccessful policy in the late 1800s to encourage American Indians to begin living on reservations in nicely constructed homes.²

Khobar Towers
Khobar Towers

Each apartment in the buildings consisted of spacious two bathroom suites, with four bedrooms, a kitchen and a commons area with a balcony. The design seemed well suited for the extended family so typical of the bedouins. Instead, American forces, less eager than Bedouins for a nomadic existence, found the apartments well suited as temporary billeting areas.

The “American Sector” of the otherwise empty building complex was cordoned off with concertina wire and featured armed guards on building tops and street entrances that bristled with obstacles aimed at preventing the sort of disaster which occurred in Beirut, where a suicidal fanatic drove a bomb-laden truck into a US Marine compound in 1983, killing over two hundred marines.

Life for the 432nd in their building took the shape of a holding pattern that was destined to last until a specific mission could be arranged closer to the needs of Desert Storm.

McMurry’s Notes

  1. Nor were they any better built. Though marble was used in the lobbies, the plumbing was totally inadequate. We were told not to use toilet paper, but rather to use the bidet to clean ourselves (men too). That proved insufficient. Having a choice between orders and a clean ass is not much of a dilemma. It would have really sucked to get an Article 15 for clogging a toilet, so I resorted to flushing after every wipe.
  2. Nineteen U.S. airmen were killed in a terrorist truck bombing at Khobar Towers in June, 1996.

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