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 069
489th Civil Affairs Company
LTC James T. LaRue (Commander)
MAJ William T. Whittaker (Linguist Team Chief)
MAJ Rogelio L. Carrera (Public Health Officer)
Interview Conducted 12 March 1991 at the 101st Airborne Division Rear Command Post, 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 069
MAJ HONEC: This is an Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interview. My name is MAJ Robert B. Honec. I'm here today with SSG LaDona S. Kirkland. We're both of the 116th Military History Detachment. [We're] at the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in [the Northern Province of] Saudi Arabia. Would you please state your full name, social security number, your position, and how long you've been in that position.
LTC LaRUE: My name is LTC James T. LaRue, ***-**-****. I'm the commander of the 489th Civil Affairs [Company] from Knoxville, Tennessee, which is CAPSTONEd to the 101st, and I've been commander for a little over two and a half years.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, sir, thank you. And you are?
MAJ WHITTAKER: MAJ William Thomas Whittaker, ***-**-****. I'm the Linguist Team Chief, and we've had the linguist for a little ... about a month and a half now.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, thank you. Okay, starting with your unit, would you please describe the structure of your unit and the teams that we've already discussed--for the record.
LTC LaRUE: For the record, the 489th is organized with 125 people--75 enlisted, 50 officers--formed into direct support teams for the three maneuver brigades of a division, a headquarters element and a command and control element, a logistics element, and a general support section for rear area activity.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Could you describe in a little nut shell, each of the sections, what did they do?
LTC LaRUE: Well, the maneuver brigades' deployed with the brigades they were assigned to, 1st, 2d, and 3d of the 101st, and they went forward when DESERT STORM started. The general support section had completed an area survey, background logistics work, and was prepared to accomplish their mission of rear area support to the DISCOM [division support command], DIVARTY [division artillery], or aviation brigade areas. They also had an auxiliary displaced civilian [DC] mission for people who were sent to the rear.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, did they have an opportunity to exercise that mission?
LTC LaRUE: Displaced civilian activity is on-going, still going on at this time. We have pulled elements of the 2d brigade and redeployed them to Dhahran to prepare for our leaving, but elements for the 1st and 3d Brigade are still forward and still having displaced civilian activity. The general support DC team is down at the EPW [enemy prisoner of war] cage down at Rafha running a DC camp right now.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. What is the overall mission of your unit, sir?
LTC LaRUE: Conduct civil-military operations for the division.
MAJ HONEC: For the 101st, okay. Going to deployment, actually to alert to deployment, would you please describe how that went, any problems that you faced, any ... we'll go into other issues after that, but for the most part, bring it from deployment ... from alert to deployment to actual arrival in country.
LTC LaRUE: The alert order came on the 11th of December , and we were mobilized on the 27th of December. It wasn't much of a surprise to us because we had tried to keep our finger on the pulse of everything. We had been in contact with the division which was already in Saudi Arabia while we were at home station. So we had pretty well made our plans and established what we needed to do as far as the mission goes.
Then we mobilized in Knoxville, convoyed to Fort Bragg, [North Carolina], where we married up with our command element, the United States Army Civil Affairs/PSYOPS [Psychological Operations] Command [USACAPOC], where the entire unit, minus non-deployable, when through a rather stringent special operations force validation. Once completing that with our equipment prepared and packed, we received our available load date and deployed to Saudi Arabia via Torrejon, Spain, Once arriving in Saudi Arabia, we stayed in the wonderful accommodations of Cement City for about three days, and then we deployed to our present location, which is east of Rafha to conduct civil-military operations with 101st.
MAJ HONEC: Did you have all your equipment when you came over or did you have to be augmented with new equipment or change over to any special ... special things for desert operations?
LTC LaRUE: The only thing we received was our KY-57 (com[munications]sec[urity] material) for our radios so we could have secure communications, which was really the only major TO&E [Table of Organization and Equipment] item we did not have. This unit has deployed with the division and with other divisions so much in the past that we pretty much had everything that we needed, with the exception of fixing up some cots and some very minor equipment-type things that made it more comfortable. But we've been Panama. We've been to Grenada. We've been now to Saudi Arabia. So other elements of our unit were well-versed in what it took to get along in the field. So we came fairly well prepared.
MAJ HONEC: What does your unit have in the way of vehicles or equipment? Could you kind of enumerate them?
LTC LaRUE: I have 26 vehicles: three duce-and-a-halfs [2.5-ton trucks], five CUCVs [M-1008-series Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicles], and the remainder are pick-up trucks.
MAJ HONEC: Along with these, GP [general purpose] tents. And you've got trailers.
LTC LaRUE: Two trailers; tents; normal complement of stuff to get us out of the rain, all the camouflage systems that go with it, all the logistics that it takes to support that, water buffaloes, things like that.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Back at Fort Bragg where you mobilized at, did you encounter ... was it a smooth transition to active duty?
LTC LaRUE: I'd say it was a smooth transition. Some of the physical conditioning we experienced at Fort Bragg was more than we had expected to experience. In fact, our command, USACAPOC, required us to do PT everyday which is probably not in accordance with any regulation ... but we experienced some bad feet and things like that simply from the abuse of doing that on an accelerated schedule.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, that was ... did you get the full ... did your people get the full complement of uniforms, the basics to prepare them for the desert existence?
LTC LaRUE: That is not true. We got absolutely nothing to prepare us for the desert. Everybody in the 489th you see wearing desert uniforms bought them at home station prior to deployment. We were suppose to get DCUs [desert camouflage uniforms], but to this date, I'm not aware of any issues other than some that were turned in by this division which were second-hand and came ... filtered down through the channels to us.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Did you have to paint your vehicles for the desert?
LTC LaRUE: We painted all our ... we painted our vehicles at the mobilization station at Fort Bragg. We did do that ... painted them sand and completed our maintenance and operational check there.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Any other things about deployment that ... issues about deployment that you as a commander had faced that perhaps you wanted to put on the record?
LTC LaRUE: No, other than the fact that it was apparent by the folks that got ready first to come over here, which unit had come into the mobilization process better prepared. I think we were the first civil affairs company ready to load and completed all the special op[eration]s validation procedures prior to any other company or brigade headquarters that was at Fort Bragg when I was there. So we were, I think, ready ... more ready to go than anybody else in our command.
MAJ HONEC: Did the closeness to the holidays pose any problems to your personnel in morale or anything of that nature?
LTC LaRUE: I had been informing them for about 60 days to get prepared, that I felt like a call was inevitable for us. Of course, [for] about 12 of us it happened again at Christmas. We had spent the previous Christmas in Panama. So we had some experience in being ready during the holidays, and that experience bled over into the rest of the unit, so they were all very well packed up and ready to deploy.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, good. Now from Cement City to your deployment here, that was ... you had to convoy up to this area. Well, did you do it serially or did you do it with 101st?
LTC LaRUE: We came independent. We moved independently because 101st had previously deployed here, and then we had to ... we shipped approximately 50 people on a C-130 [Hercules] as pax [passengers], and then the remainder came in our convoy move.
MAJ HONEC: Where did you come? What route did you take to get here?
LTC LaRUE: We came the southern route through--or around--Riyadh and then up by KKMC [King Khalid Military City] until we hit Tapline [Trans-Arabian Pipeline] Road, and we turned in and found our present location.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Did you encounter any problems on the convoy up with maintenance problems or any traffic problems?
LTC LaRUE: Well, maintenance problems. It seemed like the further we came, the worse things got.
MAJ HONEC: Please expand upon that.
LTC LaRUE: The convoy support centers were excellent when we started, with fuel and hot food. And the farther we came, it became a fill-your-own-truck-up deal to there's some MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat] if you want them. The other people, we had no idea where we were going to end up in this desert. No signs were on the road. Nobody from the division was here to meet us. I came with our camp ... convoy. The passengers who came by C-130 were dumped off at Rafha airfield, and after a lot of driving around at night in almost freezing weather in the back of an open truck with nothing but a rucksack on, they were dumped in a wadi out here and told "no cover, no facility, no nothing, just bunk up until the rest of them get here." Of course, they didn't know where we were, and while this was going on, I was frantically running up and down Tapline Road trying to find anybody who knew anything about any unit up here and was unsuccessful in so doing.
Consequently, those folks on the 130 that had been dumped in the desert woke up with a light frost on their poncho liners that morning, and I'm not sure I'll ever get over the way they were treated. Nor will I probably never get over the way I had to treat the folks in the convoy because I had to pull them off and bed them down on the road because it simply became futile to attempt to search around when no soldier I could find knew anything about where anybody was in this area.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, this was in January then.
LTC LaRUE: Yes.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. When did the 101st finally ... did you finally find where you are presently. here? How did that come about? Please expand upon ... .
LTC LaRUE: I went to several different headquarters which were on and off Tapline Road and finally found a man in the engineers who said I know where the division Main [Command Post] is, and normally we quarter with the division Main, so I subsequently went there, but they did not know anything about any of my people, nor did they have communications with any other element of their division. So what had started out to be a morning filled with confidence soon degraded to another feeling of despair, at which time I managed to stumble upon somebody who knew where the division Rear [Command Post] was, and then I found my folks sitting in this wadi that we're sitting in right now.
MAJ HONEC: Very good, sir. Thank you very much. Okay, any other things that perhaps I haven't covered about the final ... your final destination, if you will, any points ... ?
LTC LaRUE: No, once we got into here and got married up, we became a unit again, and in that unit integrity, we managed to establish our operations. And once we were accepted and absorbed into the 101st structure, we have had continuing operations without much incident.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, good. Now, operations start. Could you talk about the operations that you had, from link up with the unit, forward to your DESERT SHIELD at first, I believe, and then STORM? Talk a little bit about the operations that the unit has experienced.
LTC LaRUE: We just ... we worked several different missions while we were here in the rear area doing OPLAN [operations plan] analysis and map reconnaissance to try to forecast where the civil-military operations problems would occur. We tried to give our direct support teams the knowledge, prior to going into an area, of road systems and crush points where they might experience problems with civilians. And make some in-depth planning in displaced civilian control measures through the use of the linguists and PSYOPS.
And these people in the rear--my executive officer--noticed several issues in the area of OPLANs which were not ... had not been addressed. For instance, we were intending to occupy an area in Iraq that had been heavily bombed and bombarded, and we noticed there was no provision in there for collateral civilian dead, which we may find when we got in there. So he developed, and we had staffed through the division, a procedure by which we could dispose of dead civilians. The OPLAN covered Iraqis and Islamic coalition force dead and, of course, American casualties, but there was no mention of civilians in the area. And we felt like that it was an area that needed to be addressed, an area of humanitarian considerations and sanitation also. So we developed that procedure and got all that passed out as far as other SOPs [Standing Operating Procedures] that were pertinent to those operations for displaced ... or our direct support team.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. What was the procedure? Could you go into that a little bit? That sounds like something that is very interesting.
LTC LaRUE: Our chaplain here is a cultural affairs officers before he's a chaplain. He conducted research into what it took to bury an Islamic person, and then we made coordination with the graves registration [personnel] to determine the availability of burial equipment and what all we would be needed in that area. And through those contacts, his research and advice, we developed the culturally acceptable method of burying someone ... Islamic person, which needed to face Mecca. And we developed a method to photograph, establish the coordinates, and secure that information which would be sent up the chain to eventually be passed back to those host nation authorities so that they could identify and locate the graves of those people.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Any other facets of this operation in SHIELD and STORM ... I guess, you're talking pretty much the aftermath ... STORM and the aftermath of DESERT STORM. Any other things that you've done here that you perhaps could expound upon?
LTC LaRUE: Well, we've established and run a displaced civilian [DC] camp down at Rafha, where we are currently processing and moving over 150 DCs. And those operations are still on going. So I can't shed much light on how successful or what problems have been encountered in that because those teams are still deployed, and I've not been able to debrief them.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, sir, great. Any other things that you might want to add to the record?
LTC LaRUE: It would be premature, I guess, if I added anything about [re]deployment. I think probably the most pertinent thing I could say about that is that lack of information about [re]deployment is somewhat distressing because right now all we hear is: "we're not going to take tents," or "we're going to leave all our vehicles here," or "no, we're not, we've got to clean them up." And there's some rather strange regulations regarding that, but nobody seems to have any factual information on where any of the clean-up points are. We're pretty much just out on our own trying to find those areas right now without any direction, and I feel like a lot of effort is being wasted. Whereas, if somebody would give us some direction as to what was required at points located where we could accomplish that clean up, points of contact with the Department of Agriculture and the support commands that will support us getting out of this country. None of that has been forthcoming, so we're pretty much operating in the dark.
MAJ HONEC: Good, sir. All right. Do you see any TO&E changes ... well, before we go into personnel, do you see any TO&E changes at operations at DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM has uncovered?
LTC LaRUE: No, the task organization that we're operating under is a battalion, well, actually a company, that had petitioned in September to task organize to a pending L-series TO&E that is proposed. We went ahead and did that, and the employment of our assets with this division has been complementary. We don't have any problems task organization-wise with our assets, the way this division is operating at this time.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Personnel wise? Do you have the full complement that you need to accomplish your mission?
LTC LaRUE: We were short several people due to non-deployable status of some individuals, but it has not affected our mission. Rather, I think, we could have probably accomplished our mission with less people than we had. But full unit mobilization was an asset to this company because it allowed us to purge non-deployables which we couldn't otherwise get rid of, and it's the first time we have had to operate as a unit since 1987 because we have supported different operations--Panama, [Field Training Exercise] OCEAN VENTURE, and several brigade-type operations--as sections rather than unit training missions. So it enabled us to reestablish unit integrity.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. What are the hours here for your people? How long do they work? What kind of shifts do you have?
LTC LaRUE: Twenty-four hours. We work just 24 hours.
MAJ HONEC: Twelve on, twelve off?
LTC LaRUE: Twelve on and twelve off is our normal shift.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, sir. In the morale arena, what do you have for the troops to do in the ... their time off? Recreation-wise?
LTC LaRUE: We fill sandbags, and then we tear sandbags down. Wait a minute. We brought no recreational activity with us. This has not turned out to be what we thought it would, so we brought no recreational activity with us. The 101st is rather stringent in their concept of how to operate in the field, and I don't feel like any recreational activity or equipment would have been welcomed in this environment, with the exception of some horseshoes. That's the only recreational device that I have seen that we could have used. A lot of us whittle, and we chew a lot of tobacco.
MAJ HONEC: Yes, sir, okay. How about the mail? Could you describe what the mail has been like since your coming over here? Is it on a regular basis or is it irregular?
LTC LaRUE: Once we got here, I think the mail has been good. I'm not certain there's anything that could be said about the mail that can improve it. For instance, we would get a letter that would be mailed the 25th of January, and then the next day we'd get a letter that was mailed the 5th of January, but I think those mail people have done all that they could do with what they've had to work with. We supplemented the postal detachment here with a detail to help them out, recognizing the back load and being somewhat unemployed at times, we sent details down there. They tell me that they're doing the best that they can.
MAJ HONEC: Any other sources of news? Do you have radio access or armed forces network?
LTC LaRUE: Yes, we do up here now. Originally, we did not. They put a five-watt transmitter right here in the division rear area. So we're able to pick it up, and that's our main source of news outside of some newspapers that we pick up occasionally.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Any other, perhaps, things that may have come to mind about the operation here that you'd like to read into the record?
LTC LaRUE: Oh, nothing. We have just accomplished each mission as it has come up. We've been, I think, well prepared for it in the fact that we had a high level of expertise in the unit that was able to quickly identify problem areas and set about solving them, and my feedback from the division is that they are absolutely delighted with the work that we've done.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, this is the 12 March of 91. I neglected to say that on the header of this tape. We're going to move now to MAJ William T. Whittaker. I spell W-H-I-T-T-A-K-E-R, the Linguist Team Chief, and we're going to talk to him about his team and what their mission is and some of the aspects of working here at DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. Talk about your team. What is it composed of?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Okay, well, the linguists are [a] Corps asset. They probably have a total in the [XVIII Airborne] Corps of maybe 25 to 30 of them. They've been parceled out, generally in groups of four and five. They're composed of the Kuwaitis who were either forced out of their country or who were out of the country at the time and who felt some sense of obligation, some sense that they had to play a part in this. Most of them have no background with the military or such, and so they were looking for some way that they could use them. They're employed simply to translate, to interpret, to make things easier.
The four that we have, each of them has their own background, but they vary in ages from 18 to 28. The 18-year-old was a high school student in his last year in August of last year when this broke. He fled the country. We have one who was in a trade school and one who worked in his father's business, and the oldest one is 28. He had studied in the states. He has a degree in engineering and had just come back to his country looking for work when he fled.
We've had real good luck with them. We've used them. We've ... every sort of activity that we've been involved in, they've been there. They've been with the teams forward and as close to a combat environment as this unit has seen. Here in the rear, they've done the same sorts of things that we've all done, identifying and locating host nation [support]. They've helped to interpret with local officials and such. We've had real good luck with them. They're out there now at the DC Camp 3, and one of them is still forward. They serve to interpret, to make us aware of the different things that we need to keep an eye on in terms of their culture, and they, like the rest of us, are now waiting for their chance to go home.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Have they ... when they were deployed to work with the local officials, especially ... can you highlight perhaps some of the instances that they have helped you, you know, expand upon what they did, anything special they were particularly helpful in?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Well, in the environment that we're in here, it's very difficult to get much done without some sort of governmental intervention of some sort, and we're perhaps not always keen to the way that the Arab world does business. So they would kind of brief us a head of time as to ... these are the protocols, and these are the things that we should focus on, not focus on. The element of time doesn't mean as much to these folks. So we'll stay, and we'll drink tea, and we'll do those sort of things.
So they kind of get us up to speed before we went out. They would translate whatever sort of requests that we had, any information that we needed in trying to locate DC camps or perhaps find a source of tires or batteries or whatever it may have been. The local official for both the town and for the province is here, and they would have been real good in getting us what we've been looking for. And it's generally been that sort of interface.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Let's go back to ... when did you actually receive your linguists? When did they actually get assigned to you?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Off the top of my head, I'd say February, the first week or so.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, and they came from?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Well, they're a Corps asset. Corps sent them down to the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade and they parceled them out.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, great. SSG Kirkland, do you have any questions?
SSG KIRKLAND: I just want to ask one question. Were these U.S. military?
MAJ WHITTAKER: No, no. These are nationals. They are volunteers. They are paid by their government, but it's ... they're certainly not paid enough to make it worth their while. They're only here because they want to be here, and both this unit and they have known all along that they can quit whenever they wanted to. If they ever got tired of us or the war, they could simply hand over their weapons and their gas mask and walk off, but no, they have no ties with the military.
SSG KIRKLAND: Did they receive any training from their country?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Yes, they did. They started off in Khobar Towers and went to [Ad] Dammam for about a week or so and received the sort of common skills training that most of us have. I was very impressed with them when they first got here. I was going to make the time to make sure that they understood how to don the mask and the suits and such, but they know the task better than we do.
SSG KIRKLAND: So it was a gas mask training. What other types of training was it, sir?
MAJ WHITTAKER: They spent some time with the firearms. They probably fired about 80 rounds through the [M]-16 [rifle] before they came here. They've learned those sort of basic [private] E-1 skills, the same sort of common tasks ... in fact, they have the same old common task book that everybody else has got.
SSG KIRKLAND: Do you ever use them to interact with the local business people or do you use them as interpreters to communicate with EPWs also?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Okay, well, we're not in the prisoner of war business. Now, they've been used forward as we come across the Kuwait nations who are either trying to flee the battle or have somehow got entangled in it. They process those people. They find out who they are, establish that they are indeed who they say they are, and then move them back. So, yes, it's been much more than going out and buying tires and batteries and such. They airdropped [i.e., air assaulted] in with the rest of them up there. The one who is 18 has probably seen as much action as anybody else in the sector here. He's flown in the helicopters and dug holes and the whole bit.
SSG KIRKLAND: Where is he at right now?
MAJ WHITTAKER: He is currently at the camp. His forward team came back about a week or so ago, and he is at the camp now. We currently have only one interpreter that's forward, and we hope ...
SSG KIRKLAND: The camp here?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Yes.
SSG KIRKLAND: One interpreter is forward?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Right.
SSG KIRKLAND: And where is the other?
MAJ WHITTAKER: He's at Khobar now, and as to what he's doing right now, I'm really not sure. I would assume it's the same sorts of things he's been doing since he got there. They're heavily involved in the problems with the nationals coming south. It appears that a number of the nationals that the Iraqis took with them managed to work their way into the sector up there. Now that they've realized the war is over, the best way to get home is to go south. Unfortunately, that's through us.
MAJ HONEC: Good point. Now, just how successful ... how many folks ... how many Iraqi infiltrators have they really actually been able to recognize.
MAJ WHITTAKER: I have no idea.
MAJ HONEC: Wouldn't know that.
MAJ WHITTAKER: No.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Anything else about your operation that you think would be pertinent to putting on the record?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Well, no, except that this is ... of everything that Corps has given us since we got here, this is probably where we got our money's worth.
MAJ HONEC: Very good, okay. Anything else, sir, that might ... LTC LaRue?
LTC LaRUE: One interesting aspect came up with the linguists, is that they were dissatisfied with our latrine facilities, so we constructed a ... how would you describe it, Bill?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Culturally acceptable.
LTC LaRUE: Culturally acceptable latrine for them.
MAJ HONEC: And that consisted of?
LTC LaRUE: I'm not sure. I never went to look at it, but those guys and our unit got along so well that it was give and take. If they needed a culturally acceptable latrine, then we were happy to build it for them, and they were pleased with it, I understand. MAJ Whittaker may shed some light as to what is culturally acceptable.
SSG KIRKLAND: Where did the linguists get their rations from?
MAJ WHITTAKER: The MRE boxes.
SSG KIRKLAND: Did you take out the pork?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Oh, sure, sure, yes, we take out the pork, but they eat what we eat, and they drink what we drink, and they live where we live. They're treated exactly the same as anybody else.
SSG KIRKLAND: Were they provided with U.S. military uniforms?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Yes, which we've also had to scrounge.
SSG KIRKLAND: The DCUs?
MAJ WHITTAKER: No, they don't have those, no. They were the woodland BDU [battle dress uniform].
LTC LaRUE: As is most of this unit.
MAJ WHITTAKER: Yes.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, very good point. In levels of support, have you ... I'll address this to the commander as soon as we're finished with the ... could you describe the culturally acceptable latrine for the record?
MAJ WHITTAKER: Sure, if you want to know what it is.
MAJ HONEC: I sure do.
MAJ WHITTAKER: They don't typically go to the bathroom the way that we do. They don't sit, they squat. And we found that with the standard Army one, they would tend to squat on top and not aim well. So what we did was we simply dug a hole in the ground and put the pot in the hole and put a pallet up over it. Cut out enough out of the pallets, enough of the slats from the pallet to make a hole that you could aim through. Now they're able to squat over the pot since we put an enclosure around it.
MAJ HONEC: Great. Getting into class[es of] support, that's something that we didn't. Have you experienced any shortages in any of the [supply] classes: Class I, Class II? Besides Class II (we know about that), but III, IV, IX.
LTC LaRUE: No, none. We have a crew of very experienced sergeants here. We had a ... we have had some problems in identification, whether or not we were a separate unit or we were to be satellited off of HHC [Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 101st Airborne] Division, and it took several days to get that mechanics straightened out. But we have not experienced any shortages because of it ... because sergeant-to-sergeant communication operated so well that I stayed totally out of it because they assured me we'd get our rations, we'd get everything else that we needed. The only shortage that we've had is, of course, in the uniform situation where they simply were not available. Nor were desert boots. That's been the only shortfall, and since we all had uniforms anyway, we were able to continue to operate.
MAJ HONEC: With these due-outs that are obviously on the books, do you have any prospect now with the war over of you getting any of this?
LTC LaRUE: None whatsoever. As a matter of fact, we don't even check on it anymore.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, sir. Okay, this concludes this portion of the DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interviews. I appreciate it, gentlemen, for your candid views.
MAJ HONEC: This is a continuation of the DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM serial interviews. We're here today at 101st Airborne Division, Air Assault, with the 489th Civil Affairs Company ... with MAJ Carrera. For the record, would you please state your full name, social security number, your unit, and your assignment and how long you've been in the assignment.
MAJ CARRERA: MAJ Rogelio Carrera. That's R-O-G-E-L-I-O. Middle initial is L. Last name is C-A-R-R-E-R-A. Social security number is ***-**-****. I'm with the 489th Civil Affairs Company, a Reserve unit out of Knoxville, Tennessee. We've been activated since late December and came in theater early in January of 1991.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. What is your position and/or the positions you've held now since you've been here at DESERT STORM/DESERT SHIELD?
MAJ CARRERA: I'm with ... a Public Health Officer for the unit. I was also attached as a 9th Battalion, 101st [Aviation], battalion surgeon and flight surgeon and participated in the conflict in that role. When the offensive part of the campaign was over, I flew back and came here with 489th, and since then have taken care ... taken part in the care of the displaced civilians that we received.
MAJ HONEC: Would you describe a little bit of the care you gave as a flight surgeon and we'll go into to the displaced civilians later.
MAJ CARRERA: The 9th Battalion is a [UH-60] Blackhawk unit of the 101st and has a four-man crew for a Blackhawk. There's 30 aircraft in the unit. My main job as a flight surgeon was to take care of the health of the flying elements. We also administered a plan called HIFO, which stands for high intensity flight operations, which is a program where we give stimulants and/or hypnotics, which is a sleep medication, as required so we can maximize the pilot's or the aviator's effectiveness. For example, if someone comes back from a mission, it's still very early in their cycadian cycle and the night cycle, but they have only a six hour rest before they go back to flying. So we give them medications to help them sleep so they can get the appropriate rest time and then go on. Of course, a stimulant would simply be to extend their useful period. Also participated in the general care of a battalion with sick call and minor surgery, things of that nature. I participated in a series of air assaults, but luckily didn't have any combat casualties in our battalion.
MAJ HONEC: But if you did, you'd be expected to treat them with the first level of care?
MAJ CARRERA: That's correct. I had an aid kit and had the ability and skill to take care of combat burns and combat wounds and that sort of thing.
MAJ HONEC: Now going back to the combat extension of the pilots' capability, was this new to DESERT STORM/DESERT SHIELD or is this a common thing during wartime?
MAJ CARRERA: It is a fairly common thing in the aviation community. I don't know if I can address that from the Army point of view. I've just been in the Army since 86, but I have previous experience as flight surgeon in the Air Force, and they're what we called no go or go pills depending on their function, no go or go, are used commonly even in peacetime during times of high intensity flight operations.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, very good. We have finished the battle, and now you're back, and you have done a ... you've transitioned into another role. Treating displaced civilians is part of your Public Health Officer position here in the Civil Affairs company. Would you go ahead and describe for me this position first and then some of the cases that you have seen.
MAJ CARRERA: Okay. First of all, Public Health Officer is really like the surgeon general for the area. My responsibility is not limited nor is it even in the majority of case patient care. Our role is to organize the health of the area of operations of the division, to prevent epidemics, to monitor epidemiology, to start the civilian health care system back. Again, what I centered on in the last ... in [Operation] JUST CAUSE.
But here we didn't have, thank God, a great number of destruction of the civilian health structure, and our role became centered upon displaced civilians. Specifically, we dealt with Kuwaitis who had been captured by the Iraqis during their take over of the Kingdom of Kuwait and transferred back to Iraq. They had been there for ... incarcerated for ... the majority of them for six, seven months. At that time, they had received fairly brutal care and had been exposed ... I was told by them, what I saw the evidence ... of a fairly random, sporadic, but also at times, well formulated series of torture and general mistreatment. So that when we saw these people, what they had mainly suffered from is mental and physical exhaustion. The severe skin problems which were the result of improper hygiene--they all stated over and over again that they were not allowed to shower for the entire period they were prisoners.
MAJ HONEC: How long was the period?
MAJ CARRERA: About six or seven months.
MAJ HONEC: Six or seven months.
MAJ CARRERA: And so we saw the skin actually breaking down under the layers upon layers of dust, so the skin was not able to be exposed to oxygen. It started breaking down. We saw the victims of the random mistreatment where they were just sitting there and without any purpose. They had no ... they were not even trying to get any information or were not even trying to punish the individual. But just because he was there and they were able to, the guard would take an iron truncheon and break an arm and then not set it. So the individual is left there with a broken arm in tremendous pain and living in this filth and hostile environment with a fractured arm just because of the man inflicted this pain.
To more systematic torture where they were in fact trying to get information. In this case we saw individuals that were hung upside down by their ankles and the soles of their feet were hit. And in one traumatic case, a gentleman had a bottle inserted through his rectum, shoved in his rectum as part of the punishment.
So we saw the remains of this. Now by and by, these were stable already. For example, we saw people who had fractured arms that were without care but had occurred four, five, or six months ago, and therefore, when they came to us, they would need definitive surgery. They need orthopedic repair with pinning or whatever, but for right now, when we saw them in the displaced civilian camp, they simply needed the stabilization of that.
They were all covered with lice, and, you know, in my experience, I think what we need for these kind of facilities more than anything else is hygiene. To be able to give these people a shower and de-lousing, clean clothes, and to return to some degree of self-dignity. The medical problems, of course, are also the chronic medical problems you had. A diabetic hadn't had medication for six or seven months. A hypertensive that didn't have his hypertensive medication for six or seven months. We saw a lot of that.
MAJ HONEC: Did ... you made a suggestion that they be able to have proper shower facilities and what[not]. The displaced camp did not offer that sort of thing?
MAJ CARRERA: The displaced camp was first thought of a way station, from my understanding, that would--you know, we're not suppose to be there a great period of time. I think that in this experience I would imagine that we would definitely, and the first time they made contact with the Americans, that we should be able to provide this facility. For our own health, by the way. I mean we don't want any lice-borne epidemics going through our own people.
MAJ HONEC: How did you deal with the lice on these people? Did you have separate facilities for them? Obviously, you would have to ... they all had lice, so you had to treat them equally. Is that true?
MAJ CARRERA: That's correct. The medication that you use to treat lice has potential harmful side effects, and therefore, you don't want to use it any more than is necessary. Since we were not able to provide the whole treatment of lice infestation, which is not only the application of medication but the eradication of the infestation of clothing and hair. So we're not able to give them clothing, new blankets, new tents, and the whole gamut. Therefore, I like to not to treat these people since all we're doing is killing the ones they have on, irritating their skin, and then having to reapply the treatment. So they slept in their own tents, and whenever we had to do a physical examination or give some treatment or just to search the room, they came into the compound, we donned gloves.
MAJ HONEC: With the care that you offered, did it improve their morale?
MAJ CARRERA: I think more than anything else, the fact that anyone tried to help as opposed to try to hurt them was a boost to their morale. We also did a great deal of good to their physical state, just cleaning and dressing the open sores and alleviating some of the pain and trying to take care of their chronic medical problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes. And so, yes, we did actual medical intervention that benefited their medical problems, but I also think that even the slightest band-aid would have been a boost to their morale considering what these gentlemen have suffered.
By the way, these were not other than middle class people. I treated captains of the Kuwaiti Air Force, and they were also in this bad state.
MAJ HONEC: These were all males.
MAJ CARRERA: No, no, we had female personnel, too, and we had children.
MAJ HONEC: I see, okay. SSG Kirkland, do you have anything?
SSG KIRKLAND: Yes.
MAJ CARRERA: Speak up then.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, were these citizens ... were they released through allied personnel by the Iraqis or how did you get these persons?
MAJ CARRERA: They were being held prisoners in Iraqi prison. Iraqi resistance groups blew the doors off the Iraqi prison and simply allowed the prisoners to escape and pointed them to the road going south. They were then ... came in contact with the, I believe it was the 3d Brigade of the 101st, and from there they met our 489th Civil Affairs Company, our forward support teams, who directed them to our company.
SSG KIRKLAND: How many people would you say are in this facility being treated?
MAJ CARRERA: Right now we've ... they've all gone. Our purpose [is] simply as a way station--collecting area--to direct the folks that needed more intensive medical care to the right spot, ad nauseam. So it was never meant for us to be there for a long time. It is my understanding there's none there now. We have seen a total of ... I don't know ... somewhere over 100 including directly into Kuwait.
SSG KIRKLAND: Were they all sent back to Kuwait then?
MAJ CARRERA: No. Kuwaiti government is not quite ready to receive them yet. So they have been passed on to the Saudis and the towns that have taken them in.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, and are they receiving follow-up care from the Saudis?
MAJ CARRERA: Yes, they are, both medical and social care.
SSG KIRKLAND: You mentioned that the medication for lice had long-term side effects. Could you ...
MAJ CARRERA: Not long-term side effects. It has a potential for side effects.
SSG KIRKLAND: All right, what side effects?
MAJ CARRERA: Central nervous system stimulation and ... what it can do is it can damage the central nervous system. Now that's a very, very rare thing, but it is directly proportional to--the possibility of side effects--is directly proportional to the amount of medication used. So therefore, you don't want to use treatment more than warranted or possible.
SSG KIRKLAND: I have no more questions.
MAJ HONEC: Do you have anything perhaps to add about your stay here in Saudi Arabia, about your processing for active duty perhaps, any other ... anything--observations you could talk about as a physician coming on active duty? Was it a smooth transition?
MAJ CARRERA: When I went to active duty, I thought they handled the procedure very well, very quickly. I had the opportunity to serve at Fort Bragg when on active duty. I've got privileges at Womack [Army] Hospital. I work at TMC [Troop Medical Clinic] 9 for the period of time I was at Fort Bragg. So I felt fairly useful in that time frame. I thought we got to the area of operations very quickly, and I think we were very well used. I think it speaks well of the men of arms of the Corps that we didn't have for a long war, and therefore didn't have a lot of [displaced] civilians. And if we were under used, well, it's like having graves registration somewhere. You can use it as a good thing for the campaign.
MAJ HONEC: Very good. Anything else that perhaps you want to add for the record to advise or to help future operations of this type or maybe in Europe or in other countries?
MAJ CARRERA: Yes, I think that the main thing in displaced civilian camp, from a medical point of view, is to have available sanitation facilities in mass. To be able to sort through and destroy contaminated clothing, to provide new clothing, to provide de-lousing equipment for tents and for blankets, things like that, so you can recycle them. As well as to have chronic medications available in the absence of the main things since we can't always transport the patients who are too sick to care for at displaced camp.
The only other important thing I could say in order not to tax the military side of the house, we should have good rapport with the local health care system so we can provide these people, who after all are civilians, and channel it back to the health care system. Which again is one of the jobs of a public health officer for a civil affairs company, which is to know what's available in the community.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, very good. That's all the questions. I appreciate the candid comments. This concludes these portions of the DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interviews.
[END OF INTERVIEW]