EDITOR’S NOTE: These stories are based on pool dispatches
EDITOR’S NOTE: These stories are based on pool dispatches submitted to military security review.
NEAR THE KUWAIT BORDER (AP) _ Pfc. Dawn Schwalm can lift truck tires and heft heavy barrels of chemicals in her job as a chemical decontamination expert. But she still has doubts about what she faces with a front-line unit.
″I just have to watch my back,″ she said. ″I’ve got my weapon. I can call for help. There will always be someone around.″
Schwalm, a 19-year-old from Stow, Ohio, is a member of a chemical unit in this artillery battery. With a population that is 27 percent female, the unit has raised a mild debate about the wisdom of putting women so close to combat.
″I don’t think I should be secluded from anyone else who’s out there,″ said Schwalm. ″I am a soldier.″
But Spec. Patrick Calzada isn’t so sure. The 22-year-old soldier from Victoria, Texas, complains that if a woman soldier wants to go home, she only needs to get pregnant. He also notes women at the front could be taken prisoner, a eventuality that has already happened.
″Personally, I hope they will get a second chance to think it through and take themselves out,″ he said.
Sgt. Brenda Ornellas, 31, of Hilo, Hawaii, the second-ranking non- commissioned officer in the decontamination platoon, believes this battle of the sexes is pointless.
″There are good and bad soldiers, male and female,″ she said. ″We use the same latrines. We dig our own bunkers. We all pull our own weight.″
NEAR THE SAUDI BORDER (AP) - At the 13th Evacuation Hospital, set out in the middle of an empty moonscape, the key word is improvise.
Short on intravenous fluid? Try the 13th’s recipe: a bottle of Saudi distilled water, a few packets of table salt from the daily ration packs, and some antibiotics.
″That’s the closest to sterile that we’re going to get here,″ said Col. Guenther Pohlmann, a Milwaukee surgeon with the National Guard unit.
It will have to do until real IV fluid catches up with the unit.
The hospital is also short on ventilators - machines that force air into a patient’s lungs. Until new ones are found, Pohlmann wants everyone in camp, from mechanics to the minor casualties, to learn to ventilate by hand.
But the 13th’s knack for improvisation doesn’t stop with medical problems. There is, for example, the little flourishes the unit has learned to make the Meals Ready to Eat rations more ... ready to eat.
There’s the 13th’s recipe for MRE chili: combine the ration’s beef slices, the package of ″bean component″ and Tabasco sauce. MRE peanut butter fudge combines ration envelopes of cocoa, coffee creamer, peanut butter and hot water.
Elsewhere around the unit, improvisation is king.
A sand-filled bottle pulley system was devised to automatically pull the latrine door shut. Scrap lumber and sandbags have been combined to make a rough weight sets for those craving exercise.
Cardboard boxes are taped together to make dressers and desks.
Col. Margaret Lee, a cancer surgeon from Hawaii, has turned the heavy plastic bags that hold the MREs into slippers. She is now using the ″fabric″ to stitch together a glossy brown plastic vest.
WITH U.S. FORCES IN SAUDI ARABIA (AP) - Bill Schneck is the mine man.
A civilian who works at the Army’s research and development center at Fort Belvoir, Va., Schneck has come to Saudi Arabia to help combat engineers clear Iraq’s vast minefields.
″I’ll get you through any minefield,″ he said. ″If I’ve got all day, I’ll get you through with no casualties. When you need to get through one quickly, that’s when you start paying a price to a minefield.″
Schneck’s knowledge of mines and the Iraqi’s deployment of them is so detailed that he can’t, for security reasons, tell everything he knows to the soldiers he has come to help.
What he can tell he does through lectures he delivers to line combat engineer units. He even brings some mines with him for display.
Schneck said he is confident coalition forces can handle the threat.
″Iraq has nothing our soldiers can’t deal with,″ he said. ″It’s a question of understanding the threat and applying proper tactics.″
One of the tactics he can discuss is the use of a small grappling hook device, tied to a long rope, that is fired into a minefield by an M-16 rifle. The hook is then pulled back toward the front line, catching trip lines and setting off mines and booby traps.
Schneck declined to talk about reports of Iraqi land mines loaded with poison gas. But he said those mines usually are not effective.
The mine’s blast destroys some of the chemical agent, he said. Whatever is left is more of a psychological threat than a physical danger.
″Chemical mines are easy to make, but in terms of effect, they’re nickel and dime,″ he said.
AT THE KUWAITI BORDER (AP) - Many of the Iraqi deserters who approach the front are carrying leaflets that U.S. forces have dropped on Iraqi positions. Thousands of the leaflets have blown back across the border.
The fliers warn the soldiers that they will be defeated, maybe die, unless they surrender.
It also instructs them how to give up:
“1. Remove the magazine from your weapon.
“2. Sling your weapon over your left shoulder, muzzle down.
“3. Have both arms raised above your head.
“4. Approach the multinational forces’ position slowly, with the lead soldier holding this document above his head.
“5. If you do this, you will not die.”
WITH U.S. FORCES NEAR THE SAUDI BORDER (AP) - An Iraqi defector startled soldiers at a U.S. Army camp on Wednesday when he ran toward the battalion headquarters screaming, “Saddam 3/8 Saddam 3/8”
The young Iraqi soldier had crossed outer perimeter lines and wasn’t spotted until a perimeter guard raised an alert. American artillery troops at the camp immediately went to maximum alert, fearing a surprise attack under the cover of a fake surrender.
Spec. Leonard C. Holifield, 31, of Diamond Bar, Calif., said he tackled the Iraqi. “I looked to see if I could see anybody else,” Holifield said. “When I couldn’t see anybody, I rushed out and subdued him using a judo hold.”
Officers said the Iraqi, who said his name was Ali, had walked two days before he blundered onto the frontline American position.
The thin soldier, who said he was with an Iraqi air defense unit, was fed, held under guard for a time, then sent to the rear.