For the majority of the troops, the day begins with a 6:30 a.m. wake-up, with the temperature a cool 80-85 degrees. If you’re on a convoy duty that day, your wake-up call fluctuates from 3:30 - 4:15.
At 7:15 the leadership meets at our expensive, government-issue conference table, which also doubles as a wooden packing crate. I put out the info I received from the Battalion meeting the night before. When I finish, 1st Sgt. Michael Vey meets with the NCOs to get all work details and special assignments made. While all this is going on, the troops go to breakfast. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been getting a hot breakfast and dinner. Just when we were tired of the canned eggs, the Army started sending fresh eggs. They’re such nice hosts; I think they want us to stay.
The work details are always interesting depending on who gets the luck of the draw. Recycling is not an issue here (no curbside service); we collect trash and take it to the dump, which is across the street from us and continually burns. We supply two guards from 6 a.m. to noon. We’re not sure exactly what they guard, but no one has stolen any trash yet so I guess that’s good.
The Duty Driver has been voted as the worst detail. The Duty Driver reports to the Command Post at 6:30 a.m. and sometimes finishes as late as 9 p.m. Since there are no busses, the Duty Driver takes folks wherever they need to go. We now have a PX (three-four hour wait), a shower point if you don’t want to use one of ours (half an hour wait for a seven minute shower), a legal office, and a recreation center with basketball, volleyball, and a field to play softball.
Last but not certainly not least, we have the proverbial “(deleted) detail.” We burn all human waste daily. The procedure is simple, put four inches of diesel fuel into an oil drum that has been cut in half, light it up, and it will burn. When finished, the residue gets buried and four inches of fuel is added to keep the flies off of the current day’s deposits.
By 2 p.m., the temperature has broken 120+ and most everyone but the maintenance troops are kicked back in their tents.
We normally receive the next day’s convoy mission requirements by 9 a.m. The drivers will check the loads, pull some maintenance, eat an MRE, stow all personal baggage for the trip, and prepare to move out. A typical trip is five to six hours. At their destination, they’ll unload, maybe pick another load for the return trip, eat a hot dinner, and relax for the evening. Most people sleep on or near their truck. The next morning they depart by 8 a.m. to come home.
As the day drags on, a lot of personal time is consumed doing laundry. There is a laundry unit here, but the turnaround is every 13 days. Doing your own laundry by hand is the norm - there is a laundry service but it takes too long. If you’ve ever wondered how hot 120 degrees is, the laundry is a good example. You can place a set of Desert Camo Uniforms (DCUs) on the clothesline-soaking wet, and they’ll be bone dry in less than one hour. If there aren't any sandstorms, the clothes will generally be cleaner than before they were washed - generally.
Dinner is served from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Like breakfast, the food has recently improved to fresh prepared meals. The cooks hear fewer complaints, and are relieved to finally practice their trade.
While everyone is eating, the first sergeant and I go to the Battle Update Brief. Since there is no battle going on, most of the time it is a test of staying awake and alert for an hour. By the time the torture is over, it has cooled down to 90 degrees and it is actually starting to feel comfortable. Unfortunately when the temperature dips below 80, the sand fleas come to feed on us. They stay from one hour to all night depending on how much it cools down at day's end. The most beautiful sunset you will ever see is witnessed every night around 8:30. It’s the brightest most incandescent orange.
Showers are available every night. Nothing sophisticated, just an Army Bucket with a shower-head attached. It’s enough to wet down, soap up, and finish with a good rinse. Some nights you get to take a shower in the dark under the stars, it’s really beautiful. Another day done, another day closer to our return.
The Wednesday Club
Sgt. Michael Spallina, 253rd Transportation Company and member of the Wednesday Club, frying eggplant for dinner. The Wednesday Club is a group of 253rd soldiers that prepare, every Wednesday, an extraordinary dinner uding ordinary Army supplies. After two weeks of experimenting, the first meal was served on June 26 and featured fresh salad, gnocchi, sauce, fried and grilled eggplant. Their success is due in part to they're making friends with an Iraqi who sells them fresh produce.