Training Before Dawn, By The Light of the Moon With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
FORT STEWART, Ga. (AP) _ The waning moon is still the brightest object in the morning sky as the men from the 265th Quartermaster Detachment turn into the homestretch of their daily run.
The rest of this huge Army post just now is shrugging awake. Diesels crank over at the motor pool. Shouts of other groups doing calisthenics come from different directions.
But the 265th, a South Carolina National Guard unit training for the Mideast, is finishing its hour of PT - physicial training. The men have chanted cadence about whiskey, women and dying in the drop zone. Now something else is needed to get them back to the barracks.
″TWO-SIX-FIVE,″ calls the captain leading the heavy breathing troop.
″TWO-SIX-FIVE,″ they answer in unison.
The pace picks up; the barracks is a quarter mile away. But the captain orders a turn and, with a chorus of groans, the group doubles around to pick up stragglers.
″More PT,″ some of the men gasp. ″Please sir, more PT 3/8″
Like many facets of military training, the 6 a.m. run has multiple purposes. It conditions civilian bodies and minds. It acclimates men for the desert. And it reinforces the idea of unity.
The 265th is a tiny National Guard unit from Allendale, S.C., that specializes in water purification. Yet over 11 days, the group has trained for everything but that.
The men, whose civilian jobs range from prison guard to college student, have drilled over and over on radio communications, weapons, chemical warfare and field operations.
″These guys are probably going to be far back behind the lines, but water is one of the most important things over there,″ said Capt. Robert Appiah, the regular Army officer supervising the 265th’s training.
″That makes them a target and we have to prepare them for that,″ he said.
But the constant training and the debilitating heat and humidity of southern Georgia have taken a toll in the group, which has an average age of 35. Several of the men hobble around with bad knees and pulled muscles. One went to sick call suffering from mild dehydration.
Sgt. Earnest Deloach was excused from PT for two weeks to give a damaged hamstring time to heal. But he was out on the road the next morning trying to keep up. When he began to fall behind, he was ordered to drop out.
″I’ll finish it, Sarge,″ he called. He did finish, limping into the barracks area as the other men were finishing their showers.
Deloach, who has spent 18 of his 38 years in the Guard, is a big, jolly man whose tight-fitting helmet looks like it was screwed onto his head. When he laughs, which is often, his big body shakes with mirth. When he gets excited or angry, his voice climbs several octaves.
Now a supervisor at the Allendale Correctional Institution, Deloach used to travel the country as a lineman, stringing wire for power and cable systems.
″I quit because I was away from home too much. I got tired of all that traveling,″ he said. ″Now look at me, here I go again, 10,000 miles.″
Like the other men, Deloach tries to balance his duty with the problems it causes his personal life, like missing his son’s 16th birthday last week.
During a briefing about conduct for troops in Saudi Arabia, someone asks what they can bring back with them from overseas duty.
″There’s only one damned thing I want to bring home,″ Deloach said with annoyance. ″That’s the head of Saddam Hussein.″