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1st ID Gets Taste Of Sandstorms
By Steve Liewer
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

February 17, 2004

CAMP UDAIRI, Kuwait 1st Infantry Division troops fresh from the snows of Germany last week got a taste of something different: the sands of Kuwait.

The long season of the shamal the Arabic name for desert sandstorms began with two storms last week. The first, on Tuesday, and the second, on Friday, each blew with wind gusts of more than 35 mph, said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Prochaska, 32, a meteorologist with Detachment 5 of the Air Force's 7th Weather Squadron, attached to 1st ID.

Many Big Red One soldiers, training in Kuwait for their drive north to Iraq in the next few weeks, donned face masks and their new Wiley-X sun goggles.

"I've never seen anything like that not where I come from," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shirlene Bee, 39, of Twin City, Ga., who serves in the unit's Division Support Command.

"It was unique, kind of exciting. It was nice to experience it here, instead of Iraq."

Soldiers rushed to the base's crowded post exchange to buy brooms and dustpans for their tents. Many of the tents at Camp Udairi have been battered by a year's use, their tattered tent flaps of little use against the onslaught of sand. It covered pillows, sleeping bags and gear, and dirtied weapons.

"I left my goggles in my tent. I learned to keep them close by," said Sgt. John Shingles, 36, of Jacksonville, Fla., who also serves in DISCOM. "I would hate to see it worse."

It does get worse, though much worse. A rare desert fog Friday morning dampened the sand and kept it from blowing too much. Some storms roll unchecked across the dry desert, churning up giant dust clouds and cutting visibility to nil. That can severely hamper military operations.

"The Army has to maintain visibility with the ground, or they can't fly," said Capt. Michael Krch, also with the Air Force's Detachment 5, 7th Weather Squadron. "You can't see the enemy. But they can't see us, either."

Prochaska, 32, of Albuquerque, N.M., said the spring storms are associated with weather fronts and come every three or four days through April. Usually, he said, they die down at sunset. The summer, though, can produce giant storms lasting three to five days. So troops could be in for plenty of misery.

For now, though, most troops thought of the storms as a novelty.

"We had to tie down our tent. It was pretty wild," said Spc. Eric Jordan, 20, of the Louisiana National Guard's 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Battery. "But it was pretty cool to see. A lot of people were taking pictures."

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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