Thursday, September 14, 2017

So there I was, knee deep in Albania...

So there I was, knee deep in mud in Albania in the spring of '99 in support of the Kosovo war. (Others may have not even noticed it happening.) My team go a call to go out in support of another unit, leaving in 30 minutes. It was an overnight outing, out and back to the base area. We were honestly looking forward to spending some time out of the mud.

Interesting side note - the Tirana airport is built on flat land between the mountains and the sea, where two rivers meet. The area has been used as sheep pasture for all of recorded history, and probably long before that. Guess what happens here in the spring, when the rains come and the snow melts? Now, guess what it smells like. And how deep it is when thousands of troops walk on it for weeks on end, not to mention vehicles. This is where I learned the real reason for tracked vehicles. Over 90% of the deployed troops developed foot infections and injuries. MY boss and I personally saved one young woman's life one night near the port-a johns. Which, incidentally, didn't get emptied for three weeks, because the honey trucks couldn't drive through the mud. You couldn't dig latrines in it, either.

Anyways, we threw our rucks in the truck, along with a couple boxes of MREs and jerry cans of fuel and water, and spent the next twenty minutes getting the truck moving. (You know the mud is bad when you have to dig down so you can open the doors of a HMMWV.) We eventually got moving, and found the unit before it moved out the gate. The convoy was about an hour late, because the planners aren't the ones who have to dig the vehicles out of the mud. So, off we went into the evening light, looking to our overnight excursion.

We came back 40 days later. We hadn't packed up any cots, so we slept sitting up in the seats. (The driver got to sleep on the hood.) The body armor and helmets really helped to keep us warm at night, because we couldn't use the sleeping bags while sitting up in those cramped seats. I did mention that it was spring, right? Forty degrees and rainy.

Lessons learned - Shared misery builds strong teams. You learn to make do, or do without. What you need is really a small fraction of what you want. Bring everything every time, because you never know. Food, water, fuel, ponchos, and dry socks are necessities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I reserve the right to remove egregiously profane or abusive comments, spam, and anything else that really annoys me. Feel free to agree or disagree, but let's keep this reasonably civil.