DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview
DSIT AE 028
CSM Danny L. Garrett
Command Sergeant Major
62d Medical Group
Interview Conducted 27 February 1991 at Logistical Base CHARLIE, Northern Province, Saudi Arabia
Interviewer: SSG LaDona S. Kirkland (116th Military History Detachment)
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1990 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 028
SSG KIRKLAND: This is SSG LaDona S. Kirkland of the 116th Military History Detachment. This is a tape dedicated to Operation DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. Today's date is the 27th of February, 1991, and today I'm talking with the Command Sergeant Major of the 62d Medical Group, Danny L. Garrett. That's CSM; first name is Danny D-A-N-N-Y; middle initial is L; and the last name is Garrett G-A-R-R-E-T-T. Okay. Sergeant Major, can you tell me when you first came here to Saudi Arabia?
CSM GARRETT: 18 November 90.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Is that when the entire unit came, the 62d Medical Group?
CSM GARRETT: That's when the last of our unit came.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. That was November 19th again?
CSM GARRETT: 18.
SSG KIRKLAND: 18 November.
CSM GARRETT: Was when the last of our headquarters got here.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. And Sergeant Major, when did the first of your headquarters get here?
CSM GARRETT: The first of our units left I would say around 15 September.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sergeant Major, are you out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina?
CSM GARRETT: No, we're at Fort Lewis, Washington.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sergeant Major, was there any problems in your deployment coming over here to Saudi Arabia?
CSM GARRETT: Well, we had a lot of problems. The first was in finding out if we was going to be able to come or not. I think the biggest problem for us in the command group was sending all of the soldiers off and not sure if the headquarters was going to come at all. Our first unit coming over was the 47th Combat Support Hospital. It got assigned to the 1st [Medical] Group of the 44th Med[ical] Brigade. It's really tough watching those people leave and not knowing if we were going to be coming over. And then all of our units left, small detachments one after the other. It was quite spread out, about two months.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sergeant Major, was this an active duty unit or a Reserve ... [National] Guard.
CSM GARRETT: It is an active duty unit.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. Now, when you arrived in Saudi Arabia, where did you go, Dhahran?
CSM GARRETT: We went into Dhahran. We lived in a hospital that wasn't quite complete in the Dammam area. They called it the white hospital.
SSG KIRKLAND: This is by the port of Dammam.
CSM GARRETT: Right. King Khalid Hospital. From there we went up to KKMC,1 and about the first of this month, of course, we moved here to Log[istical] Base CHARLIE.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. When you were in the white hospital around the Dammam area did you work with any Saudi nationals?
CSM GARRETT: We had Saudi nationals that were cooks and, of course, we had contract workers still working on the building that we were living in. But as far as working with them, no.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. Medical supplies. Is there any shortages?
CSM GARRETT: There has been continuous shortages of medical supplies. We have five evacuation hospitals and because of transportation being so short ... what I'm saying is that in the last eight to ten years in the Army, the Army medical Department has been I would guesstimate 50 percent of our vehicles, our vehicle support. In coming here we have to beg for S&Ps to move hospitals and hospital equipment. The big thing was that we put these evac[uation] hospitals together one at a time. Our S-4 section has been continuously busy sometimes up to 18 hours a day going to get ventilators, going to get X-ray machines, going to get different types of gases and oxygen, ventilators, trying to put together these hospitals one at a time, the last of which was the 109th. The 109th Evac became operational on the night of the 23d.
SSG KIRKLAND: Of January?
CSM GARRETT: Of February.
SSG KIRKLAND: Of February.
CSM GARRETT: So, you can see that it has been a continuous hassle. We have gone from, I would say, the first part of December until 24 February to put these five evac hospitals where they're supposed to be, where they need to be, and get their equipment moved in and get them set up. DEPMEDS2 has been a new wrinkle for us. That's a new type of tentage and equipment; a new concept, if you will, in medical care, of which I would say 90 percent of our personnel is not familiar with. And the DEPMEDS fielding team has came in to help train the people and to get the equipment put in and in place.
There has been significant problems with that. Some of the equipment that we've had in POMCUS3 in Germany and as the equipment came to us simple things like a stethoscope ... we would have an entire hospital set up, all the tentage, all the equipment put in, and not have a single stethoscope in the hospital. So, yes it's been a nightmare of problems--one after another.
On the 23d when we finally got the last one finished--I might add we thought an impossibility three weeks ago--we were extremely happy. It's like we had overcome a hurdle that was impossible to reach.
SSG KIRKLAND: By completing that one?
CSM GARRETT: By getting everything where it's supposed to be, set up and operational.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
CSM GARRETT: Both personnel and equipment.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. So, would you say you're at 100 percent right now?
CSM GARRETT: No.
SSG KIRKLAND: Could you give me an estimate of what your percentage might be then?
CSM GARRETT: I can give you an estimate just looking at one. The 93d Evacuation Hospital up at Rafha right now has only six of 11 lab[oratory] technicians and we're not going to get any more. The system is closed off. There's not going to be any more replacements. This thing is winding down and by the time that we got those people here from the mainland, it will probably be over. So, they're operating with what they have. And we have shortages like that across the board. The 91Cs, the licensed practical nurse if you will of the Army, has been of significant shortage across the board. Operating room technicians, the 91D, has also been extremely short coming into country and hard to fill. Our personnel system has worked quite hard. And we have it to a point right now that we can operate. We're not completely full, so we don't have the numbers of people that we need in each of the hospitals. However, we have more than enough to be operational, more than enough to do our job. It's just that we can't set up shifts in some clinics in some areas.
SSG KIRKLAND: Did you receive a lot of wounded last night? That's the rumor that I heard.
CSM GARRETT: Last night I would say about 60 percent of the people coming in wounded were all Iraqis, not Americans. We had ... and I'm not sure of the number. I would say four or five Americans coming in that were wounded.
SSG KIRKLAND: Americans.
CSM GARRETT: Had a helicopter crash last night. I'm not sure if it was shot down or if it just crashed.4 We don't know the circumstances. But, we got four patients from that that were not wounded in action and that's not counted in the number that I just gave you.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. So, the enemy that we treat here, what type of wounds are they coming in with?
CSM GARRETT: Everything. They're coming in from DOA, dead on arrival, to minor gunshot wounds, minor shrap metal5 wounds. We also have a platoon at Rafha at the prisoner of war camp that is screening all of the prisoners as they come in and it's quite a significant number. And what we have is one 91B is going up and down the line to see if he can spot someone who needs immediate medical care and, if so, he's pulled out and put in the front of the line and taken on in to see the doctors. The others are all seeing a doctor one at a time. We're worried quite a bit about lice, scabies.
As these prisoners are coming in, for the most part they're dehydrated, starved to death. The first two prisoners that we got in to the 15th Evac[uation Hospital] was eating everything they could get their hands on for like a 24-hour period. The first morning one of the prisoners had four MRE6 meals and ate all of them, everything that was in them.
SSG KIRKLAND: And each MRE meal has approximately about 3,200 calories?
CSM GARRETT: At least. I don't know exactly, but that's a good guesstimate.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. And he ate all of these in one morning?
CSM GARRETT: In one morning.
SSG KIRKLAND: So, how often are we feeding them MREs? Whenever they're hungry?
CSM GARRETT: Whenever they're hungry. And it's not only MREs. We have some Saudi food that they're being fed also.
SSG KIRKLAND: Do you know what types of Saudi food that they're feeding them?
CSM GARRETT: I don't know. It's mostly canned, but it's things that is usually in their diet.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
CSM GARRETT: The prisoners that I saw at ...
SSG KIRKLAND: Rafha?
CSM GARRETT: No. I can't think of the name of the little town right now. But, another prisoner of war camp about 150 miles down the road ...
SSG KIRKLAND: Hafar al Batin is ...
CSM GARRETT: Hafar al Batin.7
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
CSM GARRETT: The prisoners that was coming in there at first had not been fed well at all either and they were the same way. Poorly clothed, poorly fed, water supplies running out. They was having problems there also with the same thing. But one thing that I wanted to add and make sure you got with this, is that if you look there, they had all different types of soft drinks, things that we don't have. And the prisoners were being fed even better then we were.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. Now what about clothing? Do we provide them with clothing too?
CSM GARRETT: Yes. They have some BDUs.8 But all of our protective suits--the charcoal suits that are for chemicals--we were giving to the prisoners also to help keep them warm and provide some level of protection for them from chemicals.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Now, were these straight out of the bag or were these used chemical protectors?
CSM GARRETT: No, they were used. They were used. I don't think we would have had enough in-country to give them new ones.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. How often do the doctors see the prisoners, once a week?
CSM GARRETT: They are there continuously. We have two doctors on site on a continuous basis that all the prisoner has to say is they want to see a doctor and they're taken care of right away.
SSG KIRKLAND: So there's translators there at the camps?
CSM GARRETT: They do have translators.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. Now, you had mentioned something about ventilators and X-ray machines. Where are you getting those?
CSM GARRETT: Those are coming in through the 32d MEDSOM9 at KKMC in a lot of cases. However, we have a couple of supply sergeants that--they're amazing. They can come up with anything. They have gotten equipment from all different types of units, 28th Combat Support Hospital in 1st Group; they found out that they had some type of gases that we would need in one of our hospitals. Went to that unit, made some kind of deal, came up with them, got enough for us to get the hospital operational. So, not everything is coming through the regular supply system. Our supply sergeants really have to be active and moving in order to accomplish their mission.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Are they procuring a lot of things off the economy here?
CSM GARRETT: A lot of things have been procured off the economy. However, the medical supplies for the most part is coming either through the system or with units coming over here. The lighting and things like this ... a lot of those small things like that have come from locally.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. And what about the morale in this area? What are you doing for morale? TVs, VCRs, anything like this?
CSM GARRETT: Well, the morale is outstanding. I think the more we keep them busy, the better it is on everyone. Yes, we have gotten a TV [and] VCR for each one of our units. Each of them have a rec[reation] tent of some sort set up. We have cards, writing materials, all different types of personal hygiene items, things like this in the rec tents. People can just come by and take what they want. That's working out real well. The big thing for me is the support that the soldiers are giving each other. If one person gets a letter from home that's iffy, he has twenty people trying to reassure him. So, it's really great.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Good. What about the transportation? If you need additional transportation, who do you go to for that service?
CSM GARRETT: My supply sergeant. We had to cut him off because here about four days ago we had more vehicles than we had personnel in this headquarters. Like I said, they come up with whatever we need. Now that 1st Group has moved up into Iraq, they left a lot of vehicles back also and we picked up a lot of those.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. 1st Med Group, are they just now setting up in that area right now or have they ...
CSM GARRETT: They're set up completely. We have two combat support hospitals that are completely set up, two others that are on the move in northern Iraq and setting up very close to the Kuwaiti border.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. What about security of this area? Do you have any problems?
CSM GARRETT: Don't have any good information on that right now. The vehicle support that you were talking about a minute ago, I do want to say that we're talking about HMMWVs and CUCVs,10 not the types of transportation that we would use for moving equipment and I think that's still going to be a big hassle when we move out of here. See, all of the supply and service and transportation assets, the flatbeds and the cranes and things that it would take to move the Iso-shelters, hospital boxes and things like that, we're competing with the people who are hauling bullets and MREs if you will for that same vehicle space. And we're frequently the loser in those. So, it's feast on one side. If we're talking individual transportation, it's more than adequate. And if we're talking the prime movers, we don't have enough by a long shot.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. One question I wanted to ask, you'd mentioned that sometimes you'll get a dead on arrival Iraqi. Why would you get one of those? Do they die in the process of being transported here?
CSM GARRETT: Because when he's loaded on the helicopter he's still breathing.
SSG KIRKLAND: I see.
CSM GARRETT: Then he's shipped to the hospital. And most of the time they don't send just one patient. It will be three, four and if one of them dies, you'll still bring all of them into the hospital, drop them off and the graves registration folks take it from there.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. And do you know where graves registration will transport that body? Back to Iraq maybe?
CSM GARRETT: Well, right now I'm not really sure how that is handled. We have one hospital. Gosh, and I can't think of the number designation of it right now, but we have one hospital that is handling prisoners of war and the final destination for those patients will be at that hospital in most cases, if they're serious. And the DOA, I think, is being handled through the same channels, if you will.
SSG KIRKLAND: Now, how do they keep these prisoners from running off? Do they chain them to the beds or anything like that?
CSM GARRETT: There is an MP guard with each prisoner and I think that's being violated a little bit where you would have two or three prisoners with the same type of wounds or if they would have very incapacitating wounds, they may only have one MP.
SSG KIRKLAND: Has anybody tried to escape from the hospitals?
CSM GARRETT: No. We haven't had really any problem at all with the prisoners that I know of at this point. The prisoners seem to be very happy to be taken out of the war, getting their wounds cared for. I heard the story of one prisoner up at Rafha who had shrapnel wounds that were four, five, six days old. A lot of pus, a lot of real tough problems with the wound. And the individual was extremely happy to be in the hands of someone who was providing medical care.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. Now, can you explain what a DEPMED is?
CSM GARRETT: A DEPMED is a type of hospital tentage, hospital equipment. It's an upgrade from the older types of hospitals that we have. It's nothing more than a designation for a type of equipment, a type of tents, a newer type of X-ray, that sort of thing.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. And what does the DEPMED stand for?
CSM GARRETT: You've got me. I'm having brain cramps.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. That's fine. We'll just move on. Okay. I heard you have a PX. It's at the 109th, right?
CSM GARRETT: Right.
SSG KIRKLAND: Do you know the story behind that?
CSM GARRETT: I have a good story behind that.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Tell us the story. [LAUGHTER]
CSM GARRETT: About a week and a half ago I went to my commander, COL Ethrington, and I told him that I wanted to write a check for $750, $1,000, to buy some things that the soldiers would want, maybe some tobacco products, film, lots of different type things that they're not getting through the regular system. Open a little small trailer here and sell it here for what I bought it for, just to provide a service for our soldiers. When I started digging into that I went over to [the 44th Medical] Brigade to see the JAG11 officer to find out if I could get in trouble for doing that.
The JAG officer told me that we could open an account through AFES12 down at KKMC. They would provide us with all of the stuff to sell. We'd open an account, a Class A agent, I think from $1,000 on up, depending on the numbers of personnel that we were talking about. And I was really wanting only to do that for our little headquarters here of less than 50 people. After I started digging into it and saw that the more numbers you have, the more things you can get, the better the facility.
So, I mentioned it to the Brigade Sergeant Major and the Brigade XO13 and told them it would be real nice if they wanted to use total numbers for both groups and set something up for everyone here in Log Base CHARLIE. Well, they came back the very next day with a tasking to the 62d Group telling us that we would open a PX in this area. So, I asked one of the other sergeant majors if he would like to do it and ... everybody kind of backed off of the deal because we were talking a large amount of money. No one really wanted to do it. We have a National Guard hospital here, the 109th, the sergeant major and the commander thought it was a good idea. They went down and opened an account and started providing a small PX service here for us.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. So, did you put out the information to all the sergeant majors, and the sergeant major of the 109th was the one who willingly accepted that responsibility? Is that how it worked?
CSM GARRETT: Yes, you could say that.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. And this National Guard unit, the 109th, what is their full title, the 109th ... ?
CSM GARRETT: You'll have to give me a few minutes with that one.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, fine. We'll just move on then. And you had mentioned COL Ethrington is your commander. Could you give us his full name and a middle initial, if that's possible?
CSM GARRETT: William.
SSG KIRKLAND: William? Okay.
CSM GARRETT: COL William Ethrington.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, do you have a middle initial for him?
CSM GARRETT: I don't have an initial.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, do you have a middle initial?
COL ETHRINGTON: E as in echo.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. That's E as in echo. Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. Okay. S&P, you had mentioned that. Could you tell me what that is? We were talking about transportation.
CSM GARRETT: Supply and transport. It's a flatbed trans-trailer truck that we use to haul Iso-shelters and just the big boxes that you would see a Mack truck pulling minus the wheels. S&Ps are the wheels of a flatbed trailer.
SSG KIRKLAND: All right. Now, this is a hospital and it's an evacuation center also, is that correct?
CSM GARRETT: I'm sorry?
SSG KIRKLAND: This is a hospital here, the 62d?
CSM GARRETT: The 62d is not a hospital. It is a command and control headquarters for a group of hospitals.
SSG KIRKLAND: I see. Okay. And ... go ahead.
CSM GARRETT: We have five evacuation hospitals and two medical battalions, not counting our small different types of detachments, surgical detachments, veterinary attachments, things like that.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. You had mentioned veterinary detachments. What is the purpose of having a veterinary detachment here?
CSM GARRETT: It can be used for food inspectors. There's a lot of different things you can use them for. We have, some units I understand have some type of animal mascots along. Right now there is a danger of anthrax, a type of gas, and we have sheep, camels, things like that in this area. When they die we need someone to tell us what they died of.
SSG KIRKLAND: Good point. Great. Okay. Sergeant Major, is there anything that I haven't covered on this interview that you would like to add?
CSM GARRETT: Yes.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
CSM GARRETT: Our family support groups at home have done a tremendous job. I've been extremely proud of all of these ladies, the way they've pulled together helping each other. And since this ... a lot of this will wind up that units of the future will go back and look at it to see what was important to us, I would like to add that I think it is extremely important in times of war that you have a strong family support group. And you can't have one if that is not done in peace time. Units need to involve the families as much as they can with regular activities, organization days, just picnics, if you will. But they need to get to know each other. It's been extremely helpful on all of us. And I think that's one of the things that helps keep the morale high here. We don't have to worry about our families at home.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. A couple more things that just came to my mind. What about communications, any problems?
CSM GARRETT: We have had a shortage of communications equipment since we've been in-country. We can't communicate with each of our units. However, it could be a lot better if our communications equipment was up to par. We're still missing a few key elements. Like we have the 44th Evac Hospital that's down at KKMC--that's 150 miles away. The only way that we can communicate with them is through land line. It's not very good because we should have some way to communicate with them [on] FM14 radio, but that's just an example of what I'm talking about. Our communications has not been that good.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. What about chain of command? Has anybody had any problems with people jumping the chain of command or not using the chain of command correctly? For example, the other units?
CSM GARRETT: The problems that we have with ... the only problems that we have with the chain of command is our brigade headquarters likes to jump two levels below them on a continuous basis. We had ... the brigade commander just had a meeting with every company commander in both of the groups. Have no reason or understanding why he would want to do that or why he would overlook in each case two O-615 level commanders between him and those company commanders. And we've had a lot of that.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. What about the mail? Have you had any problems getting mail or does it take a long time?
CSM GARRETT: It's been good for the most part. We have had short periods of time where our mail was competing for that same transportation that I was telling you about earlier. And the mail units probably should have their own vehicles ... enough of their own vehicles that they could carry the mail without having to try to depend on those same flatbed trucks that I was telling you about.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Now, one last question. When do you plan on moving from Log Base CHARLIE? Do you plan on staying here as your other units move up towards Iraq into the north or do you plan on following right behind them?
CSM GARRETT: Well, right now I would ... personally I would love to get up into the area that things are going on. However, our mission won't allow us to do that. We have five 400-bed hospitals and probably the fastest we could tear down one of those hospitals and put it back up would be somewhere between two to three weeks. If we decided to move one of those units, the war would probably be over a couple of weeks before we got it set up and operational again. We do have two medical battalions. One has a lot of air ambulance assets and ground ambulance assets and they're doing evacuation right now from log bases up to 100 miles inside of Iraq back to these evacuation hospitals now. We're quite high in the hospital chain at this point and no, there's no way that we can move forward. COL Ethrington and I have set up a trip, though. We're going to fly up to the 47th Combat Support Hospital, which is one of our home units, and visit our troops here within the next couple of days.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. And concerning the air ambulance, how many litter patients can an air ambulance handle?
CSM GARRETT: Four.
SSG KIRKLAND: Four litter patients. Okay. Great. What about if they weren't litter patients, how many would they be able to handle then?
CSM GARRETT: Five, six, seven, eight ... probably about ten. You could overcrowd that load, but ten would be a good number.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Before the ground war started how many casualties did the hospitals expect to have per day?
CSM GARRETT: We expected 100 per day for the first two days and 400 per day following--well, three or four days after that ... after they hit the Republican Guard. Our big worry was chemical patients. We have helicopters designated to carry chemical patients; we have ambulances designated to carry chemical patients. We have two decontamination sites set up to decontaminate patients who were coming in. And we would also have to worry about even the remains of American soldiers, decontaminating them and sending them back. I'm pleased to say that it looks like we're not going to be using most of that. But, we had to have everything set up and ready for it. We did expect large numbers of casualties.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. But, you're not getting large numbers of casualties now. About how many are you getting a day?
CSM GARRETT: This morning we had one hospital, I think, that had 24 patients. And I'm happy to say that most of our casualties that we're getting in are Iraqi and not American.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Great. Sergeant Major, anything else that you want to add? Okay. This concludes the interview between SSG LaDona S. Kirkland and CSM Garrett of the 62d Medical Group.
SSG KIRKLAND: The 109th Group16 is the Alabama National Guard.
[END OF INTERVIEW]