Wednesday, March 5, 2008

On base in Kuwait: Part I

To ensure the operational security of US forces, I cannot reveal exactly where I am in Kuwait. But any US military member in Kuwait finds him or herself essentially in the same place: the desert. Regardless of what actual base you occupy. The sand that blows around and violates the exterior of all animate and inanimate objects is not the fine sugar found on Florida beaches, but a heavier composite that feels like fine dirt and is light brown in color. And everything that it touches -- concrete, metal, skin -- takes on a brown hue after repeated exposure.

The sand also tastes like dirt, and when the winds whip, as they have been doing the past two days, the air tastes like soil. You can cover your mouth with a scarf or balaclava, but after awhile the sand begins to overwhelm the fabric and you realize that the faint taste of Indiana farmfield lingers on your tongue.

As we are not here long, my group is in temporary housing that consists of groups of 8-10 person tents that resemble a desert tenement slum. Perhaps because they are old, or perhaps because they have been battered by winds and sand for a few years, the tents give the impression that they were erected during a British expedition sometime in the late 1800s. I know they are slightly more contemporary as they boast concrete floors, fluorescent lights and air conditioners (although we have not used them as the temperature is pleasant now in Kuwait).

The tents are stocked with bunks and lockers rumored to have been obtained from the hold of a charred delivery truck found burning on the "Highway of Death" shortly after the first Gulf War began: the bunks have varied frames and mattress sizes and most of our lockers are missing doors.

One of the most appealing features of this base is the food. Kellog, Brown and Root, now known as KBR Services and a subsidiary of Halliburton, provides our meals, and the variety and quality is very good. The reported daily price to the US taxpayer for an individual's meals is $71. Unfortunately, I find that I am only able to eat approximately $50 worth of food most days, thus preserving KBR's profit margin.

I wanted to take photographs of the dining facility, but was told such actions could somehow breach base security. Specifically, I wanted a shot of the dessert case. The sign overhanging that section reads "desert," but the offerings include fruit cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, pies, tarts, cookies and brownies at every meal. There's also Baskin Robbins ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, and soft serve ice cream with nuts, whipped cream and fruit toppings available. No Nutty Buddies in the freezer, so Elvis would be upset, but otherwise anything you need frozen or sweet to keep you overweight and happy.


sandra said...

wow! where do I sign up?

carolyn said...

hi ron! no soup dumplings but im glad at least you've got a lot of dessert choices. i was worried about you and the food. xo c

Fat Robbie said...

Ronny, T and I are very glad to know it took you on the order of minutes to locate the dessert case. For the record, T has a photo of that case, with a very happy fellow soldier smiling in front of it. I guess they have come to realize that the greatest asset the US military maintains (for purposes of troop morale, at least) is the chocolate eclair. Stay strong.

Anonymous said...

Ronny...FYI, KBR does not see one penny of what is spent on food. The military order that from their food providers, KBR just cooks it for you and cleans up after you.