Nevada National Guard troops arrive in Kuwait |

Nevada National Guard troops arrive in Kuwait

Sgt. Gary Underhill

Monday, June 8, 2009, 9:15 p.m.:

Barracks Row – Somewhere in Kuwait on the Iraqi Border


Flying into Kuwait City at midnight is a lot like flying into any other large, Western metropolitan city – if that city happens to be Beverly Hills infused with trillions of dollars of oil money.

Kuwait City from the air at midnight makes the Las Vegas Strip look like a public housing project. Downtown Kuwait City and the accompanying developed coastline is absolutely beautiful from the air. Imagine a futuristic Hollywood movie set designed by the world’s best special-effects artists, and you’ll get an idea of what it looks like.

Kuwait City from the air at midnight, however, is about as close as I would ever get to seeing its beauty.

After landing we climbed aboard several large buses that were waiting for us on the tarmac. We quickly boarded and were told to keep the blinds closed for the duration of our ride to where we would be stationed, “somewhere near the Iraqi border.” Sneaking a peek through the blinds I could see that our convoy was accompanied by several unmarked, black SUVs and large up-armored gun trucks outfitted with .50 cal. machine guns and flashing red and blue LED light bars. Even in the relative safety of Kuwait, I was reminded that this is a region at war and that despite our best efforts, we are not popular people.

We arrived at our destination shortly after sun-up. The desert sand and distant horizon blended seamlessly. The morning sky was dust colored and rose skyward like a dirty curtain blocking out the sun and reducing it to nothing more than a weak light bulb.

By 8:30 a.m. it was already nearly 90 degrees. Two hours later, it was 101 degrees and rising. Imagine sticking your head in your oven after removing a freshly cooked pizza and that’s just about what it felt like.

Fortunately, being raised in Arizona had better prepared me than some for the effects of the heat. I was suddenly grateful for those summers during high school in Scottsdale that I spent working as a landscaper for movie money.

As strange as it may sound, the only other relief besides the air-conditioned barracks is a visit to the latrine.

The latrine resembles the “hot box” that Burt Reynolds’ character, Paul Crewe, in the movie “The Longest Yard” was placed into for punishment – a bit larger, but no less smelly.

The latrines aren’t air conditioned so the temperature inside is indescribably intense. After just a few moments you’re almost ready to swear off eating or drinking anything at all just to avoid ever having to go to the bathroom again. Stepping outside again into the desert heat is actually a relief. It feels like stepping from the fiery pits of hell into a cool breeze – if only for a few moments.

Despite this horror, I remember our only amenities in Afghanistan being a single 6-foot-deep by 3-foot-wide by 8-foot-long open trench which one would have to straddle over. War is hell.

Our stay here will only be temporary. Once we acclimate ourselves, finish up last minute training and relieve the current unit who is eager to get home to their families after a year of duty, we’ll take over the mission and get down to the job of escorting convoys, literally from one end of Iraq to the other.

But before we can start to earn our pay, there’s more training and range time to accomplish. The 1864th Gun Truck Company is almost ready to earn our place in history.