Submitted by Eric Daniel
"I gotta tell you boys, the next reporter who asks me how hot it was over here, I'm going to bust him right in the mouth."
These were the parting words MG Ronald H. Griffith, CDR 1st Armored Division, had for us as we departed Saudi Arabia following the conclusion of the 91 Gulf War, and I couldn't have agreed more.
We arrived in December of 1990 and as soon as we hit the ground it started to rain. Everything, our gear, our equipment, and our weapons, got soaked. Moreover, it never quit raining. It rained so much that our clothes started to rot. We began to think the presence of so many BDU wearing soldiers (we hadn't been issued DCUs and would not receive any till the night before we flew home) had confused the clouds and fooled them into thinking that we were a bunch of wayward shrubberies in need of a little irrigating.
When it wasn't raining, it was bitterly cold, and dry, and windy, and it was this that proved more destructive than all that water. Now, as a 3-year veteran of Germany I'd been exposed to a whole lot of wet and mud, and I'd been Bavaria cold, but I'd never experienced an honest to God high desert cold, like you get out at NTC or up in Yakima (where I lived for 3 miserable years) so this was something new. The cold dry wind literally desiccated my exposed skin; my lips chapped, and the skin in my finger joints cracked and bled.
The only thing I could think of doing was to rub some GAA (Grease, Automotive and Artillery) into my hands and put my nomex gloves on. I don't think the GAA helped my hands heal but it did do a fair job of keeping sand and grit out of the cracks and eventually I recovered.
Thanks to that Gulf War experience, I learned the value of hand cream. Moreover, the stuff I've come to swear by, thanks to an ex-wife with a horse addiction, was Bag Balm, a lanolin (wool wax) based product originally developed for the dairy cattle industry. It's just the thing for treating cracked skin, irritations, minor cuts, or rashes, and it is easily absorbed by the skin.
It's available in a small "person sized" tin, a larger "cow sized" tin, and a "dairy farm" sized tub. My recommendation is get the "cow" tin, but get it from a feed store or from an on-line vet supply store, don't buy it in the cosmetic section of your local store (where you'll find it 3x as expensive.) Also, as an additional lesson learned, this stuff can become quite fluid when it warms up (think Baghdad/Barstow/Badger Gap warm) so either keep it in a Ziploc bag in your CVC bag or put some into a squeeze tube for use on the road during the summer.