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 030
COL Kevin C. Kiley
15th Evacuation Hospital
Interview Conducted 28 February 1991 at Logistical Base CHARLIE, Northern Province, Saudi Arabia
Interviewers: MAJ Robert B. Honec, III, and 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 030
MAJ HONEC: This is a DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interview. My name is MAJ Robert B. Honec. I'm here with SSG LaDona S. Kirkland. We've both in the 116th Military History Detachment. We're here today at Log[istical] Base CHARLIE on the 28th of February 1991, at the 15th Evacuation Hospital, with COL Kiley.
Sir, for the record, could you state your full name, social security number, the unit, your position, and how long you've been in that position, please?
COL KILEY: My name is Kevin Christopher Kiley; Colonel, Medical Corps; ***-**-****. I'm the commander of the 15th Evac Hospital, Operation DESERT STORM, Saudi Arabia.
I was previously the Chief, Department of OB-GYN [Obstetrics and Gynecology] at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. And after a site visit in mid-November, I traveled to Fort Polk, Louisiana (which is the home of this Active Component hospital) [on] 27 November. I assumed command of the 15th Evac on 10 December 1990.
We stayed at Fort Polk, continued training, received all of our PROFIS [Professional Filler System] clinical officers on the 10th of December also, and continued to prepare to deploy. And [we] deployed the personnel on the 7th of January 1991; arrived in country 8 January 1991 at Dhahran. I spent approximately one week at Khobar Village. And on the 15th of January traveled to Log Base VICTOR, which is south of KKMC [King Khalid Military City], with our vehicles--which had been off-loaded from the port and which we had recovered.
The next couple days at Log Base VICTOR we received approximately nine MILVANS [military shipping containers] that we had shipped from CONUS [the Continental United States]. And then we received the first portion of our DEPMEDS push. Do you know what DEPMEDS is?
MAJ HONEC: Could you go on and explain it?
COL KILEY: That's our Deployable Medical System that had been deployed to and was stored in Europe for a European battle. After the MUST hospitals had trouble with the heat earlier in the year, a decision was made to deploy those POMCUS [Prepositioned Materiel Configured in Unit Sets]-stored DEPMEDS hospitals to Saudi Arabia to marry up with active and [Army] Reserve and [Army] National Guard hospitals that were deploying.
So we received our DEPMEDS equipment at Log Base VICTOR. We unpacked it; certified that it was all working, and then repacked it again; and on approximately the 21st, 22d, 23d, and 24th, we began a process of moving ourselves from Log Base VICTOR to Log Base CHARLIE, mostly with our own 5-ton [truck] support and then with a fleet of flatbeds that eventually helped us.
We got to Log Base ... closed on Log Base CHARLIE on the 25th of January. Approximately seven days later on the 31st of January, we became operational with approximately 60 beds. We did our first operative case that day. Over the next two weeks, we became incrementally operational until about the 10th or 7th [of February]. So it was approximately the 7th of February that we were fully operational with 400 beds. We have remained that way to this day.
While we were here, and after we had established GP [General Purpose] tentage, we received the TEMPER tents and exchanged those out. So we essentially we put half the hospital up twice.
Over the last month, we've done approximately 65 operative procedures and have had approximately 500 patients admitted to the hospital. You know, we have the full spectrum of surgical care and all the different surgical specialties in the hospital. And we've had a couple small incidents--tent fires and ... . We've had some interesting cases come in. Our second case that came in, the second day we were operational, was a very bad self-inflicted ... accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg. The soldier almost died. We learned a lot from that case. He survived, did well. But we got a lot of the bugs out of the system taking care of him. So there was more casualties that came in later in the month. We were much more prepared for that.
We did a fair number of elective-type operations and admitted a fair number of elective patients over the month in anticipation of the ground war and receiving casualties. We did that again for practice to get the bugs out of the system, to get an idea of what kind of a drain on supplies we would have. And we did ... we did a good job of that.
So then about three or four days ago when the ground war started [24 February 1991], we started receiving a few Americans, but mostly Iraqi EPW [Enemy Prisoner of War] casualties. We've got 30 or 40 of them now and operated on about 16 of them. And we're just continuing to take those now and wait and see what happens.
MAJ HONEC: Are you ... for the next question, are you being routed these Iraqi casualties because of positional [location] or are they being cross-leveled across all the Evacs?
COL KILEY: No. Right now they are being cross-leveled across all the Evacs. I think the command and control of evacuation is, at times, hit and miss only in that we don't have as good a control as we'd like coming out of the area of operation back to the Evacs. But that has not been a problem yet.
With the 109th [Evacuation Hospital] right next to us, as they come inbound, as they are inbound, if we're already busy, if we're overloaded (and we really have been at the point where we've been overloaded), but if we've gotten busy, we've deflected some of the casualties over to the 109th. And now it's almost one to the 109th, one to the 15th; one to the 15th, and one to the 109th. So, although I don't know the numbers, I know they've gotten some casualties and gotten some business since we started taking them. I'm not sure that they've gotten as many as ... I think they had 30 in the last 24 hours, while we had 40, for example, so they haven't quite got as many as we have.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Going back to the deployment, you were obviously activated separate from the unit to come over and take over the unit. What sort of command issues struck you right off ... taking over the 15th Evac at Fort Polk, working with your staff? Could you eliminate some that ... a new commander coming on ... ?
COL KILEY: A couple things. The 15th Evac had moved from Fort Belvoir, [Virginia] to Fort Polk in 1988. As a combat service support unit on a divisional installation there are often many demands placed on that unit that are not in direct support of the unit's mission. For example, the unit would always ... as the 15th, we'll have a big requirement to provide medical support for the MEDAC [installation Medical Department Activity], medical support to the division on the ranges--everything from providing medical support to Boy Scout camps to trying to train and prepare for its real-world mission. And it's a unit that does not have those clinical officers, particularly the physicians, assigned to them. So the 15th Evac, along with all the other hospitals, has the PROFIS system, but that's not support.
So when I got there, it was a unit that had only two or three weeks before gone to Camp Shelby, [Mississippi], and had an opportunity to train once with the DEPMEDS and TEMPER equipment. It was a unit that had not had as much interplay and work with the PROFIS officers as we would have liked. And it was a unit that unlike some of the other units that had had awhile to work with people before deploying.
When I got there, it looked like we were deploying right away. As it turned out, our docs and nurses were with us for almost a month, except a little break at Christmas, before we deployed, and that helped. It's very difficult to take a unit and on almost no notice increase it by a third again, which is what the PROFIS represented--another third of the unit, all of whom are officers who are in--you've got a unit that [normally] sees only three or four officers [and] all of a sudden you've got 70 or 80 running around. And to go from a garrison environment like most to a tactical environment, a tactical environment with real world medical care not practice aspects.
The staff was ... although highly motivated, was young and inexperienced by comparison to some other staffs in terms of the S-1, S-2, S-3, S-4 positions. We were trying to draw equipment out of Europe. And communication was difficult there. We'd send an advanced party over to Europe. There was ... that was just a logistically difficult thing to do, to draw equipment from POMCUS, get it into Saudi Arabia, and marry us up at the same time and have that be a reasonable operation.
The other thing is that the commander of the 15th Evac prior to my arrival is now the XO [Executive Officer], COL Collins. And I think he did probably the best job, in our sense, of stepping aside as he did to go from being the commander to being the XO. He's combat support. Evac hospitals at peacetime are commanded by MSC [Medical Service Corps] officers. That's a selection process they go through. It's an enviable and highly desirable position. The guys that get those jobs didn't get them because they were laid back. They are hard working, very competent people, as is COL Collins.
So when the balloon goes up, and it now looks like this hospital is going to start taking casualties, there is a clear disruption of the unit with the arrival of a physician commander, a chief nurse (a new chief nurse), and a whole bevy of positions, a DCCS (a Deputy Commander for Clinical Services). So that adds more turmoil.
COL Collins and his staff had done an exceptional job in settling into their new positions and picking up the ball and running with it. But that kind of personnel shift and change, which all of the hospitals experienced--some experienced them on the CONUS side, some experienced them on the Saudi Arabian side when they started taking patients. Either way that can be a tough thing to handle. And I don't know whether it will remain to be seen whether it's a good thing that it happened on the CONUS side or whether you allow the MSC commander to continue to command the unit, deploy the unit, establish the unit, and then at some later date have the physician take command. Some of that is personality-driven and some of it is experience, etc. It seems like most all the hospitals got in the country and did okay. So it may be that it is less of an issue than it could be. But I took command 10 December in CONUS.
MAJ HONEC: How was deployment?
COL KILEY: Extracting ourselves from an installation. Fort Polk's 5th I[nfantry] D[ivision] was not going. I don't know whether that's good or bad. You can argue both ways. It was good in that the resources of the installation were focused on 15th Evac deploying and on the 588th [? Transportation Detachment] deploying. Rather than these key small nondivisional units having to queue on the line and elbow their way to resources that might otherwise have been taken by the division deploying them. Do you understand what I'm saying? In other words, if the 5th had been coming over here at the same time we were trying to get over here, we might have been last in line. On the other hand, without the 5th deploying, the sense of urgency for the installation people, in some respects, was actually not there.
Oh, you're a small nondivisional unit. We'll get to you when we can. So it took the general, BG Crouch's personal interest in our deployment and his direction, along with COL Parker who was the brigade level... nondivisional brigade level commander. It took their personal interest to keep the system rolling so that the resources continued to be made available.
We were in a big shuffle because while we were trying to get out of town, Louisiana National Guard activated their roundout brigade for the 5th and brought [it] in to Fort Polk. So there was a lot of movement during that time. It was a hectic time. But again, I was kind of interested in watching that, because the division was trying to train itself up in case it got called; receive the National Guard unit; and at the same time push us out the door to Saudi Arabia.
And we made that happen. That worked okay. But it was something we had to kind of keep an eye on.
MAJ HONEC: Before we go on, could I get the general's name and the colonel's?
COL KILEY: BG Crouch, C-r-o-u-c-h. He's the commander of the 5th Infantry Division, Fort Polk. It was COL Craiger Parker, C-r-a-i-g-e-r P-a-r-k-e-r. He is the commander of what's called the Devil Troop Brigade. That's the nondivisional brigade element that's got a brigade headquarters. It's got all the other units with them. So those were two key people to get the 15th Evac out of Fort Polk. They really made it happen. When we ran into roadblocks, they would unroadblock those ... particularly with FORSCOM [US Army Forces Command].
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Go ahead with any other problems.
COL KILEY: The other big things are preparing the families for the deployment. We had at least one family ... good family support meeting. 15th Evac had been on again/off again in terms of its deployment. They had been alerted in early August and stood down and then activated again. So there have been a couple things of family support.
One was, I think, a significant problem. That was the family support and family care plans for female soldiers, particularly the single female soldiers. During the time [between when] they first got alerted in August and I got there, there must have been 8, 10, 12 women who were chapter eliminated for not having a family support plan--plans that were on paper but were really not a viable plan for the children when they were honest-to-God faced with deployment for an unknown period of time. When I got there, it continued to a point where I had to court martial one soldier, at least requested court martial, because she just did not want to participate in getting the family ready, the children ready, making arrangements for them, and they began to stay out of her hair and decided she would go. So we had to kind of bring her back. I had left Fort Polk with a request for court martial. As it turned out, it wasn't.
But it was a problem for this unit to honest-to-God face the fact that they were deploying to Saudi Arabia. And it was somewhat of a problem for their dependents to face that too, but we had some strong key players on the family support side. You know, the wives, particularly CSM Smith's wife and the TO&E [Table of Organization and Equipment; i.e., the peacetime assigned] Chief Nurse's wife who really tried to ... who really had to come to the front, grab this operation, and created a chain of concern and support groups within the hospital. So from that respect, that got done pretty well. We tried to make whatever resources we could at the hospital available to them. So that was kind of a situation ... the kind of things you kind of watched with one eye as you were going out the door to make sure it was in place. I think it was, particularly since the rest of the division was there. We left behind a very strong and very dedicated NCO [noncommissioned officer] who has done a very good job of liaising with them.
MAJ HONEC: Do you want to identify him?
COL KILEY: Yes. That's SFC Stewart, David Stewart. He's done a magnificent job of handling problems with the families, making sure everything is okay ... take concern, you know, if the stove goes out, if the heater goes out, kind of stuff. He's done it all. That is really kind of a, I think, unaddressed ... not unaddressed, but it's one of those traditional things. You need to leave behind a strong rear detachment commander or NCO. And yet, I have had no problem with my soldiers coming to me, at least that I'm aware of, and saying I've been made aware of my family having a problem at Fort Polk, or I've been made aware of this. What can I do to get this fixed? Stewart is taking care of all of that.
We've finally started getting some telephone communications in through our tac[tical] phones. You know, the litany of things that he's done for us has just been a mile long. I have a couple of weeks to go now. I sent, in increments, all of personnel down to make a phone call home right before we went on location.
MAJ HONEC: That's important.
COL KILEY: Yes. They all came back with very positive reports about how things were going. I had nobody asking for emergency leave or compassionate reassignment because this was happening or that was happening. I don't think that that gets a lot of publicity, but I think most commanders will tell you that that plays a significant portion in keeping up the morale, if people know that their wives and kids are okay at home. So that's been a big plus for the hospital.
One of the things [that] they did that affected the hospital, I talked to the soldiers about going into the unknown, not knowing where we will be, how close to the front, how far back from the front. It's a little late when artillery is coming in the battalion'd be in MOPP-4 [Mission-oriented Protective Posture Level 4] to start instilling discipline in the unit. So I relied heavily on the NCOs and had some NCO calls early and then [INAUDIBLE]. We've been a really well-disciplined unit. We stayed in LCE [Load-Carrying Equipment] with protective vests until just two days ago. We took them out of that. The war was kind of over. We had tight operational security, formations, accountability, weapons accountability. Those are things that are not necessarily noted in medical units. They have intrinsic value in a form as far as those military things go, but ... .
That was another issue that I faced as commander, is eliminating the image of the 4077th MASH and TV's "A Tour of Duty"--Hollywood glamorized versions of medical operations and combat. I told them to put those kind of analogies out of their head right away, that I was not interested in that. And then it fell right into things like being airborne capable, [Fort] Bragg makes the calls ...
MAJ HONEC: Can you talk about how you coped with that? During the deployment.
COL KILEY: I did not have a lot of trouble with that [INAUDIBLE].
MAJ HONEC: How did you pack?
COL KILEY: Most of our equipment had already been packed. No questions about it, the thing that we did that helped was that as a MUST hospital, we packed most of the innards of the MUST hosp[ital]--the X-ray processors, all kinds of extra equipment and medical supplies. That goes on to, like I said, nine--actually it turned out to be about 11 MILVANS. We brought them.
When we got our DEPMEDS equipment, we were already plussed up. We had got a lot of our transportation earlier, and that was our real stroke of genius in retrospect. We brought all our vehicles. We did not count on DEPMEDS giving us what we needed but counted on bringing our own hospital and then letting DEPMEDS flesh it out.
The convoy out of [Ad] Dammam was a nut roll and turned out to be serials of five over a whole day. Fortunately, they all made it; very fortunate. The convoy from KKMC up [to here]--again serials of five or six vehicles. We did not have convoy ... could not get convoy clearance. That's a lesson.
And then the bottom ... the final thing is standard of care provided. I don't know why and I don't know where some of the decisions were made on what kind of equipment was destined for the Evac hospitals. But we felt that there were some significant shortfalls. Okay?
And if I can give you a little vignette that will help explain what the problem was. About three days into being open for business, a Dust-off helicopter augured into the ground. They crashed. The pilot was dead. The copilot ... actually the senior IP [instructor pilot] was dead. The kid piloting the aircraft had a severe frontal fracture and an arm fracture and other things. We took him into the operating room and we fixed him up. We put him in our ICU [Intensive Care Unit] and he got sicker in our ICU. We only had a couple patients. It wasn't like ... he developed a difficult ARDS, adult respiratory distress syndrome. Well, we kept ... we put a tube down his throat into his lungs to breath for him. We got the pressure for that ventilation so high we started putting chest tubes in to prevent him from blowing out. And we knew what was wrong with him. What he had was the same thing that a lot of soldiers in Vietnam had had. He had ARDS. They didn't know it as well in Vietnam, but we knew it now. We knew what to do with it. We just didn't have the equipment to do it. That wasn't destined to be put in this hospital.
And we kind of looked around and said we have got medicine that's a little bit more sophisticated than in Vietnam and fancy tents. That's all. I mean, how far have we come in 20 years? Vietnam-era medicine and fancy TEMPER tents, not quite the same but a new generation of antibiotics and vascular grafts and we know more. But we had no pulsoximeters in the hospital. We had no or very few ... in fact we had very few volume ventilators. We had no long-bone external fixators. These were things we felt were critical even for a combat Evac hospital, you know, this far forward. And the fixators finally got here, for the most part. Okay?
MAJ HONEC: Were they within the Army system or did you have to go into the local town to get most of that?
COL KILEY: Well, some officers got them on the local economy, but they were not available for us by the time we got in country.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, sir.
COL KILEY: They were recognized at [XVIII Airborne] Corps and at ARCENT [US Army Central Command], and at CENTCOM [US Central Command] level as key pieces of equipment that should have been part of your standard TO&E and it didn't appear to be. It did not appear to be in the appropriate numbers. I mean, we're looking at a real mal-aligned TOE in retrospect, is what I think. We need to get this, if possible, into a mock window [TO&E review procedure] and plus up some stuff.
There had been some doctrinal decisions that had been made in the early 1980s about the new DEPMEDS/TEMPER system that we're in, that I think we need to relook. Because I think with modern medical equipment, we can deliver even more to the battlefield with no expenditure of significant resources. By that I mean, they make equipment now that's the size of this thing [pocket cassette tape recorder] that, you know, 10 years ago was the size of the desk. And there's no reason why we can't put 10 of these things in every Evac hospital and run central monitoring and some reserve of these other things that I think when people were planning these DEPMEDS hospitals five or six years ago, they were saying "well, no, that's too sophisticated for an Evac. We'll just Evac those sick patients back to England or to CONUS or the fixed facilities in Europe and take care of them there."
So we've got a significant shortfall, in my opinion, there, because they put enough medical assets into country that we could take care of every single injured soldier even with modern casualties. I have not had to triage any soldier or EPW into an expectant category, which is wounded so bad that he ain't going to make it. Everybody we have been able to bring our full resources to bear on. Now, we've done a lot of work here in the last couple of days, but ... I just think that with all of the hospitals we have in the country now, all the medical personnel and stuff, that to have the opportunity to do that and not have the equipment there: to have the resources, the knowledge, the skills, the surgeons and nurses, we have that. We still don't have all our equipment. I think that was kind of an oversight. And I hope we see an improvement.
Other than that, I think that it's pretty remarkable that we got here on the 8th, and by the 31st we were ready to go--after two moves. And that we've seen 500 patients. We've had no screw-ups. We haven't screwed anybody up and made them worse rather than better.
Clearly, the ISOs, and the ISOs are the [isolation] boxes, are a whole order of magnitude of improvement, okay, over the old Evac hospital system. I was the OIC 121[st] Evac [Hospital] in [Exercise] TEAM SPIRIT 1982. It was all in GP mediums and larges with canvas floors we were operating on. This is truly a much more modern facility in that respect. So I have to temper what I say with the fact that some of it is markedly better. Gee, with just a little bit more, we could have been ... .
MAJ HONEC: I appreciate those comments. Would you please identify for the transcriber what the pilot had which developed, which was ARDS?
COL KILEY: That ARDS is Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. That is a recognized condition of the lungs associated with blunt trauma, and it's particularly recognized when you fracture legs. You get what is called fat embolite into the lungs. They used to call it shock lung. They can't breath. They can't get enough oxygen. So you've got to actually put them on a ventilator to force oxygen into their lungs and drive it across the pulmonary membrane. It's well recognized and it's properly ... we were a little concerned that this guy may have gotten this because we didn't have one of those long-bone external fixators, which I mentioned.
MAJ HONEC: Um?
SSG KIRKLAND: Yes, sir. What kind of problems did you run into when you were trying to procure equipment from Europe or trying to just get it from Europe?
COL KILEY: Well, from Europe, practically speaking, I think that at either FORSCOM or The Surgeon General's Office, or wherever they were planning that, they were drawing multiple hospitals' worth of DEPMEDS equipment, okay. There was one plan. There was another plan. I was not in the process of drawing that equipment out of POMCUS.
But we sent people up there that had a little bit of trouble extracting the equipment and getting in on ship, and getting it shipped down to Saudi Arabia. And then it all got brought into a DEPMEDS area. And we essentially didn't get a complete issue. I mean, part of that DEPMEDS draw is the TEMPER tents. We didn't get a complete TEMPER tent draw.
Then we got a ship-short package which was a pack of equipment that was recognized to not have been in the original DEPMEDS ...
[END OF SIDE ONE]
MAJ HONEC: We're talking about the ship-short package, sir.
COL KILEY: Let me back up and tell you that these DEPMEDS hospitals that they built in CONUS--fabricated, put together and then deposited to Europe, they did incrementally. It was like a five- or eight-year plan to do that. So when they were drawing the DEPMEDS back out of Europe to issue it to Saudi Arabia, different hospitals got different versions of the DEPMEDS package. So our first version was still, like I said, GP tentage instead of TEMPER tentage. And when they first sent the equipment to Europe, there were key pieces of equipment that were not included in there: ventilators, pulsoximeters, EKG [electro-cardiogram] monitors, a whole list of things, really. Those were the kind of big ones that come to mind.
Well, they tried to collect those things up, marry them up, recognize them as off the shortage annex to the hospital, and manage them. Now, they did a heck of a great job marrying that stuff up, but it took, you know, daily monitoring of that. I mean, of all the things that I had to concern myself with as a commander, it was: one, get my DEPMEDS equipment; two, getting it up here; and three, monitoring all those shortages that ship-short came up and we expected to be a Christmas of that. We got some stuff.
We got a lot of extra ophthalmologic operating equipment, etc., etc. But we were still short some of these key items. And ARCENT and CENTCOM had to go out and make special purchases of all this stuff, bring this in off-line. Pulsoximeters, they went and bought about 150 or 300 and made distribution to all the hospitals. That was all crisis management kind of stuff.
So the DEPMEDS were still incomplete. The DEPMEDS, people recognized that. They said look, this is a program that still has another five years to run and you're trying to compress that down into two months and insert it in to Saudi Arabia. As far as I know, all the hospitals are DEPMEDS. In fact, it was a hell of a feat from a senior centralized management perspective that they made us do this. But at the little guy level here, I was sweating bullets until I saw this come in, because I felt like, you know, honest to God, until a couple of days before the corps actually went north, we were the only game in town up on Tapline [Trans-Arabian Pipeline] Road. The 109th wasn't taking anybody. The 93d was shaky for awhile. And we'd already been up and running for a couple of weeks, taking all these terrible automobile accidents and everything else.
And I was thinking as the XVIII Airborne Corps got into the fight up there and if we started getting [CH-47D] Chinook after Chinook of seriously injured U.S. soldiers, I didn't want to be standing here with one or two pieces of equipment. So that was a constant worry for me to extract that. There were so many levels of command that were managing that and distributing it and tracking it and trying to--just the logistics of it. [It was] a classic logistics problem, is what it really turned out to be. But for the soldier lying in bed, that doesn't help him unless that pulsoximeter and ventilator are there.
The bottom line was we certainly got enough, in time, for our mission, so we were good to go. I think the other hospitals were too.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, do you have any surgeons forward?
COL KILEY: No, I don't. My whole operation is right here. I have no extension anywhere else.
SSG KIRKLAND: Just a couple of comments about your deployment. You didn't get desert uniforms?
COL KILEY: No, we did not. Right about the time we were supposed to be issued desert uniforms, they ran out. And they decided that as uniforms were being produced and distributed in CONUS for deploying units, the combat arms, then the combat support would get them, then finally the combat services. We've been in the country two months now; we still haven't gotten them. We have 50 on hand for when somebody comes in and has theirs cut off, we can issue new ones. We did get Woodland green boonie hats issued to us. Of course, we got in the country and the next day had to put helmets on for the rest of the deployment.
MAJ HONEC: But you are color coordinated, then?
COL KILEY: That's correct. So we are in uniform. It's just that it's not the same one. In fact, these are apparently lighter than those [the interviewers' desert uniforms], although the weather hasn't justified the lighter uniform yet.
MAJ HONEC: Did you get a new issue of boots, sir?
COL KILEY: As a matter of fact, see, I did, but my whole unit did not. I did coming out of Fort Bliss. I got the boots, two sets of desert boots. But we did not have all the sizes coming out of Fort Polk. Everyone had a [Kevlar] helmet, [Kevlar] vest, full LCE, protective mask, the whole thing. But uniforms, we just didn't have. So we opted to go as is. We were going to wait and see what happens.
SSG KIRKLAND: Concerning your flag, the stars are facing forward. Do you have people come up to you often and tell you that your flag is backwards?
COL KILEY: They try to.
MAJ HONEC: What do you tell them?
COL KILEY: I tell them that the message that directed us to purchase this says that the flag on the right sleeve is the reverse flag. That either the flag forward or the flag to the right of the stars--either the stars forward or the stars to the right of the flag is correct. So they are actually both correct. Would you like to see the message?
SSG KIRKLAND: No, sir. I have a copy of it. That's the message from the commander of FORSCOM, the one you're talking about?
COL KILEY: I believe so, yes, because we ordered these before we left the states. We ordered them--it had a [stock] number and a description and we ordered them and had 1,300 of them brought into the country.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. That's all the questions I have.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. As you face now ... we're in active hostilities still ... but we're in the waning days. What sort of command issues do you anticipate seeing or dealing with now that we probably will have to do a retrograde operation back to CONUS eventually?
COL KILEY: My biggest problem now is that I've got a highly intelligent, very sophisticated medical unit that will have nothing to do. When people have nothing to do, they get into trouble in a heartbeat. So my problem now is to find meaningful training for them not physical, because they resent busy work more than they resent doing nothing. I have some significant issues if, in fact, we are going to retrograde. Part of my problem right now is I don't know what we're going to do. We were one of the last ones in. We may stay, or we may get to go home with the rest of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The other issue is that most of the Army hospitals in CONUS right now are filled with Reservists, a large number of whom are dying to get back to their practices. So one of my other concerns, that I have to cope with, is that I will have to release my PROFIS clinical officer, my doctors and nurses to return, and leave the soldiers. I'd stay. I wouldn't go back. I'll go back with the unit.
But the enlisted soldiers would stay here without a mission other than cleaning equipment--that's a valid mission--I don't have a problem with cleaning their equipment, functionally packing it, storing it, and then safely transporting it. Those are all reasonable things to do. But if we're told our SP [start point] to go to Dhahran to load our equipment, you know, is 29 March, it's not going to take me a whole month to clean, pack, and load this stuff.
As of 15 May I've got even more of a problem. My two missions when I came over here--and this is personal--was one, take the best care I could of the patients I got, particularly--I was going to say particularly Americans, but I mean we really wanted--if there were American casualties, if we had taken American casualties. Since there hasn't been anything to really amount to anything, we're happy with that. The other thing was to get every one of my soldiers back home safe. So far, I'm doing okay, although we've had a couple of close calls here. We had an S-4 tent burn down. Did you hear all about that, about the 400 rounds of M-16 [ammunition] that cooked off? I had six guys dive into the tent, pull the rest of the ammo and the M-16s out. They probably racked their
[BREAK IN RECORDING CAUSED BY EQUIPMENT FAILURE]
COL KILEY: I don't mind near-beer. It was really pretty good. But I'd say only half the troops took it. The steaks were very good. They were cooked on the grill and it was all nice. That was the night of the 16th of February. Honest to God, I think it was because they thought we were going in in the next couple of days.
One of the first G-Days [date for start of ground offensive operations] was the 18th of February. Then it finally slipped to the 24th of February. They had cold O'Dells [O'Doul's] near beer and steak. We had fresh vegetables, a really good dinner. We had biscuits, I think; corn, pears. It was just a nice, hot dinner. We had been eating MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat] for about four weeks and three days. Beer tasted like beer, believe it or not. I liked it. Our dining facility operations got a real shot in the arm out here from that for the hospital. I think probably the XVIII Airborne Corps had steaks. They were not bad steaks. I know the brigade, all of 44th Med[ical] Brigade. I thought all XVIII Airborne Corps had steaks. They were not bad steaks. They were pretty good.
MAJ HONEC: That's all I have. Do you have anything else?
COL KILEY: No.
MAJ HONEC: I'll close this interview. Thank you very much.
COL KILEY: You're very welcome.
[END OF INTERVIEW]