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 106
G-2 Operations Section, XVIII Airborne Corps
MAJ Jennette Wade
CPT Kristin B. Vlahos
Interview Conducted 6 June 1991 at Building AT-3058, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Interviewer: MAJ Robert B. Honec, III (116th Military History Detachment)
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1990 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 106
MAJ HONEC: This is an Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interview. My name is MAJ Robert B. Honec of the 116th Military History Detachment. I am here today at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Building AT-3058, the DPT [Directorate of Plans and Training] History Office talking about the women in the military, women in combat. Okay. Today is the 6th of June, , in case I didn't say anything about that.
For the record, would you state individually your first name, Social Security ... your full name, Social Security Number, your position, how long you have been positioned at [XVIII Airborne] Corps? Starting with MAJ Wade.
MAJ WADE: I am Jennette Wade, ***-**-****. I am a major. I'm in HHC [Headquarters and Headquarters Company], XVIII Airborne Corps, and I work in G-2 Operations. I have worked in G-2 Operations for almost 3 years.
MAJ HONEC: Good. Good. And CPT Vlahos? Go ahead ...
CPT VLAHOS: Okay. I am Kristin Vlahos. I am a captain. I also work in G-2 Operations at XVIII Airborne Corps, and I have been in that position since the 7th of August, 1990.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. So that would be ... now it was about the ...
CPT VLAHOS: The date the war started.
MAJ HONEC: The day the war started. Okay.
CPT VLAHOS: The day we deployed.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, great; that is perfect. Okay, let's start ... let's talk a little background. You could start off. When you were--or either one--when you were activated or mobilized, deployed, how long did you ... well, how much word did you get that you were going to go over there? How long did it take them to ... ?
MAJ WADE: I had about an hour and a half's notice. I started out as an LNO [liaison officer] to ARCENT [US Army Forces Central Command or Third Army].
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
MAJ WADE: I was told around 7:30 in the evening on the 6th of the August that I would be an LNO to ARCENT and FORSCOM [US Forces Command], and went home and packed and we departed about midnight. And I stayed at week at ARCENT and then deployed with ARCENT to Saudi Arabia.
MAJ HONEC: How much were you allowed to take?
MAJ WADE: I took my rucksack. We were limited by the aircraft we that we went to ARCENT on. I was on the LNO team, so I had a rucksack.
MAJ HONEC: And a carry-on? A rucksack, that is it?
MAJ WADE: A rucksack. So I deployed from ARCENT.
MAJ HONEC: So you went down to Florida?
MAJ WADE: To FORSCOM in Atlanta, [Georgia].
MAJ HONEC: To FORSCOM in Atlanta?
MAJ WADE: To ARCENT. And I deployed with an element of ARCENT on the 12th of August.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. You flew down by a ... ?
MAJ WADE: It was an Army ...
MAJ HONEC: It was a C-141 [Starlifter]?
MAJ WADE: No, it was a five-seat.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, one of the C-12s?
MAJ WADE: Right.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, okay. Great, and CPT Vlahos?
CPT VLAHOS: Well, I was in-processing and got a call and immediately started working in the EOC [Emergency Operations Center] at night. So I worked there for two and a half weeks and deployed with the main body on the 28th of August.
MAJ HONEC: And how much were you allowed to take on the aircraft?
CPT VLAHOS: A rucksack and a duffle bag.
MAJ HONEC: And you flew a 747 or a C-141 over?
CPT VLAHOS: We flew a CRAF [Civil Reserve Air Fleet] aircraft. I am not sure what type, but it was civilian.
MAJ HONEC: It was civilian?
CPT VLAHOS: Yes.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Both of you landed at the Dhahran?
MAJ WADE: I landed in Riyadh.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, in Riyadh.
MAJ WADE: I was in ARCENT and a C-141.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, right, that would have been.
MAJ WADE: And from ... we got there about midnight and we went straight in the Royal Saudi Land Forces building which is where ARCENT linked up with its counterpart, Saudi counterpart. And that is where, then, I operated for about the next five weeks before I joined XVIII Airborne Corps at Dhahran.
MAJ HONEC: What were the living conditions like? You smile.
MAJ WADE: We were in a hotel. As soon as we got there, we moved into the Marriott Hotel for about four days and then we moved to the parking garage at Royal Saudi Land Forces. And then over the next three days, arrangements were made to build latrines, build shower facilities and all the food--our mess facilities--was brought in. So went from the parking garage up to the various floors to work and we basically stayed in the complex unless we were going to another military installation to function.
MAJ HONEC: Interface with the Saudi military: what was that like in the beginning?
MAJ WADE: Most of the ... my experience is, as a female, we were the first four women in the Royal Saudi building. The more senior officers, say the G-3 (who was a one star), the G-2 (one or two star) would talk to me. Otherwise you were basically ignored from this point. And I, you know, I think in a way it was better. As ... the longer we were there, the more interaction you got with the more senior officers. But ...
MAJ HONEC: Would you say colonels and above; majors and above?
MAJ WADE: Just about colonels and above. Lieutenant colonels would at least talk to you and acknowledge the fact that you had a position and, you know, were not just there doing nothing. But the other four women were also officers, and were involved with signal officers, so to me we had positions that had more limited contact.
MAJ HONEC: What was your mission in the very beginning?
MAJ WADE: I was the Corps intel[ligence] LNO to ARCENT. So while we were talking, what I would do was tell ARCENT where in the deployment the Corps was, what types of systems and people, who was in-country or scheduled to come in-country. And then pass from anything that ARCENT was getting from the Ministry of Defense and the CENTCOM [US Central Command] elements already in the country, trying to pass it back to the Corps at Dhahran.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Great. We can pick up, too, with CPT Vlahos. What ... when you got in-country, where did you stay? How did you come in, at [Ad Dammam]--I mean, Dhahran International [Airport; actually, the military end of the airfield, King Abdul Aziz Royal Saudi Air Base.]?
CPT VLAHOS: Right, we went from Dhahran to Dragon City, which was the location for the Corps outside of the city.
MAJ HONEC: It was set up already?
CPT VLAHOS: Right.
MAJ HONEC: I mean, it had ... they had moved into the complex?
CPT VLAHOS: It was just moved into. However, it was at those initial stages where we first moved in. There wasn't much running water. The food was really sort of unrecognizable because they had the foreigners cooking. And they had tents and some rooms because it was an old air defense school. And from there, you know, things kept improving and it was steadily built up. So it became ... it went from austere to a fairly good place to stay.
MAJ HONEC: What were your living conditions like when you first started?
CPT VLAHOS: Well, I started in a room. And we had twelve bunks, almost side by side. And they were all hot cot, which you means you had twelve people there during the day and twelve people sleeping in the same cots at night, and it was really unbearable. So I moved out to a tent shortly after I got there.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, you could do that?
CPT VLAHOS: Well, I had to wait until somebody moved out of another tent, and I ended up ... I stayed in the four-man tents for most of my stay there.
MAJ HONEC: I see, and that was located out in back of the compound, in back of the main buildings there, where the billets out?
CPT VLAHOS: Yes, just out in ...
MAJ HONEC: In the area, open area?
CPT VLAHOS: Right.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. That ... were those those large tents beside the basketball court?
CPT VLAHOS: No, not the large tents. Initially ... those were put up later. These were four-man, small green tents by the laundromat.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, I see. Yes, yes, yes. Okay. And what was your mission?
CPT VLAHOS: My mission in G-2 op[eration]s?
MAJ HONEC: Yes, what did you do?
CPT VLAHOS: I initially started as a desk officer, which I means I coordinated in anything dealing with intelligence with our subordinate units (the divisions), and helped them get information and equipment. And also coordinated with higher to try and get whatever we needed for the Corps and the divisions. And then later I was moved into a job for briefing the command group [on] what was going on with the war, a daily briefing.
MAJ HONEC: I see. Was--either one of you--did you notice any difference, being that you are women, the treatment, other than the fact that were obviously separate physical facilities that were necessary, separate showers and stuff like that? But you did already allude to the senior officers and the Saudis. Did you have any interaction, CPT, Vlahos, with senior officers who were in other--nationals?
CPT VLAHOS: Not really. I had some dealings with our Saudi LNO who was always very ... he liked ... females were sort of an oddity, I think. When you had to go and deal with them, of course, you had to go through the whole ritual of sitting there and drinking tea, and he'd ask you ... . I didn't really deal with the population, I guess, regular soldiers on a day-to-day basis like MAJ Wade did.
MAJ HONEC: But that is interesting. You had to go through a certain protocol. Were you briefed ahead of time as to the do's and don'ts in-country?
CPT VLAHOS: I was.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Was it ... did you find everything in your briefings, both of you, did you find anything lacking in the type of briefings that you needed to be briefed on.
MAJ WADE: I was not briefed.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, okay. MAJ Wade was not briefed.
MAJ WADE: No, we flew in ... I guess we were the second set from ARCENT that went into Riyadh. I guess being an older group, because it was mainly between lieutenant colonels and colonels, and the presumption was that we would know how to act. [LAUGHTER]
But I think we was more of a shock for the Saudis than it was probably, you know, for American soldiers. I think for the most part, at least the women that I know, by the time you have been in the Army more than a few weeks, you are already beginning to deal with how to change clothes in a group with no privacy. I mean, those things you just pick up. And if you haven't picked them up in school, then you pretty quickly have to learn how to create your own privacy.
MAJ HONEC: I see.
MAJ WADE: But I think for the most part, I was ... as long as you come across very professional, the other nations treated you professionally. And ... .
MAJ HONEC: Did you have to do an extra effort trying to look professional, trying to look professional? Actually, did you have to ... you had to watch yourself, obviously ...
MAJ WADE: No, all I did ... in the obvious thing in the location we were in, once we got there we were briefed very basically on the things that were offensive to the religious people, for example, exposed elbows and things like that. Until I left Riyadh I kept my--the only obvious thing was I kept my sleeves down. Otherwise, I never had to be escorted any place or anything like that. But it like anything, you would be in an elevator and certain ... sometimes the elevator would open, people would either get out or not get on because you were on there. So then you just alter what you are doing like using the steps instead of using the elevator.
MAJ HONEC: That is what I am interested in, documenting the structure too.
MAJ WADE: That was really the biggest change probably, and for the most part, with the speed of the elevators, it was ...
MAJ HONEC: More advantageous to take the steps?
MAJ WADE: Yes. You could get there faster. [LAUGHTER] But I think the Saudis went to a lot of trouble to try to keep any incidents down.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, did they?
MAJ WADE: Yes. The senior officers and the G-3 of the Royal Saudi Land Forces, I mean, he wanted to know any type of adverse thing that happened to any of the Americans and correct it on the spot. And, of course, if you didn't names or anything it was difficult. But I never personally had any problems. As the build-up continued there, there were a few confrontations and things, but I think they were handled fairly; fairly rapidly; and, you know, again, there may have been people creating less of a professional attitude.
MAJ HONEC: Did you venture out?
MAJ WADE: We weren't allowed to.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, you weren't?
MAJ WADE: No. And ...
MAJ HONEC: But did you have to? Did you see that ...
MAJ WADE: You mean the drivers ... ?
MAJ HONEC: ... perhaps you would have had to?
MAJ WADE: No, females ... in Riyadh, women could not drive. So that one was ... if I wanted to go further than I could walk, I had to have a driver.
MAJ HONEC: Really?
MAJ WADE: Yes. That was ...
MAJ HONEC: That was a ARCENT ruling?
MAJ WADE: Yes, it was a little higher. I am not sure. It came down that way. So I don't know where it started. But I think the further you ... and then eventually when we went to Dhahran, I mean, the further you were from the Riyadh, I think some of those types of restrictions were relaxed. And of course, my sleeves went up as soon as I left Riyadh.
MAJ HONEC: Did you have to wear, cover your head?
MAJ WADE: No, I didn't because I was always in uniform.
MAJ HONEC: Always in uniform.
MAJ WADE: We were not authorized to go out shopping or anything. You were either at work or you were going to a place of business. So you were always in uniform.
MAJ HONEC: What I was interested there was to see if there is any specific areas outside the building, outside the inside of the office, that you were allowed to ... . No? Not at all? That was ... I mean ...
MAJ WADE: No.
MAJ HONEC: CPT Vlahos? Did you venture out, drive out, had any opportunities to drive on Saudi roads?
CPT VLAHOS: Yes.
MAJ HONEC: Were you stopped by police at any time?
CPT VLAHOS: No, I wasn't. I escorted a group to all of our division sites. And since there wasn't room for another person, I ended up driving them. And just got a lot of looks when we got way into the desert areas, where some of the more traditional Saudis lived.
MAJ HONEC: This is still during DESERT SHIELD, during the August, September ... ?
CPT VLAHOS: Right, DESERT SHIELD. This was in December.
MAJ HONEC: December, okay.
CPT VLAHOS: And just a lot of stares. But no, we did not get stopped by the police.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. But you didn't have to wear any veil or anything like that over your head?
CPT VLAHOS: No. I was in uniform.
MAJ HONEC: Were your sleeves rolled down?
CPT VLAHOS: No. I just kept them up.
MAJ HONEC: Very good. Let's see ... I suppose a little bit more about ... . Okay, what about ... ? Let's see ... moving on to ... . When we incurred our first POWs, women POWs were captured by the Iraqis, what did you--either one of you can start--what did you feel on that sort of thing? What sort of thoughts do you have? CPT Vlahos?
CPT VLAHOS: Well, obviously, as a female POW, there is always that question of rape, you know, and it is pretty much expected, I think if those four had gone and they were more females taken prisoner, they would have been abused. So you automatically assume that they were, and it makes you feel kind of sick because you would hate that to happen to you or anyone you know. It just kind of is a chilling, sort of sick feeling to think about it.
MAJ HONEC: I see. Do you pretty much concur on that?
MAJ WADE: Yes. I think you think about that, because I believe that for the most part you think that that is an abusive action, you know, a terrorizing factor. That yes, men can be raped, but women sort of live with it a little bit more. I think that was a thing to think about. But I think also--I know I sort of--it was a fact--I mean, you sign up and you serve. There have been female POWs in other wars that survived and I think possibly out of this, we should--I know, I have never had survival techniques, if I was ever captured. And I think it is something we need to integrate.
MAJ HONEC: Excellent. Excellent. Any suggestions, please, that you think that the training conditions ...
MAJ WADE: And reading the literature coming out now, since we have been back, it is as though these women are the first female POWs in the history of the service. And, you know, that is not true. But I think that we could have been mentally prepared a little bit better.
I was happy when they came out, and all of our POWs came out. But I think, you know, since I identify with women, but ... that more did not happen. But I think it showed that we have to assume as soldiers that it could happen to us, and to be mentally prepared for that. I don't know if I would have been.
And even though they were captured for such a short time, you know, that initial capture period is probably the most--hardest--to deal with and the most traumatic. And I think our experiences with the POWs in the Korean War show if you are not mentally prepared for it ... . If you are mentally prepared for it, you can handle anything that happens, regardless of what gender you are. If you are unprepared for it, then your chances of survival ...
MAJ HONEC: Well, let's, for theory, suppose you were captured in a group, males and females. And the abuse you would have been taking would cause one of your contemporaries, one of your male contemporaries, to try to ... and get killed. Is ... how would that affect you?
MAJ WADE: I think it is something that anybody that takes and treat prisoners as the Iraqis did ...
MAJ HONEC: Sure, as we thought by the previous reports coming in.
MAJ WADE: Exactly. You know, I think it is a terror mechanism. But I think what we have to get to--and we are slowly getting there--but I think what we have to get to is not saying that I am protecting somebody. I mean, it is another soldier, so it should not matter whether it is a male or female.
MAJ HONEC: Do you think that we have pretty much grown ... have de-sensitized that and now look as individuals ... pretty much at--overall, in general ...
MAJ WADE: No, I don't. I think that the one POW's name that will come out of this is the first female POW that was taken--I think everybody's else's name will ... nobody will remember what ...
MAJ HONEC: The flight surgeon?
MAJ WADE: That is right, possibly. And I think, you know, the same thing with the deaths. I think the female deaths from the [SS-1C] SCUD attack will be remembered, and that is unfortunate. But I think it's something that was brought to reality here. I mean, it can happen and yet we could have terrorist incidents (and fortunately we didn't), but you know, death and capture, and the relationship to where you are on the battlefield, I think, this puts it to rest. It can happen anyplace. Fortunately, there were no terrorist incidents.
MAJ HONEC: I see. That is a good point. How did you mentally prepare, in your own, for terrorist incidents? Were you more aware--you're in a combat zone, so ... obviously, we don't do war everyday and every different country has a different set of terrorists so to speak. What did you both do to prepare for that, to make sure that you didn't get into a situation like that? Do you want to lead off, CPT Vlahos?
CPT VLAHOS: That is just exactly it. You are much more alert of your surroundings and any person who walks up, the maintenance people, you are just sort of--I mean, even though you are in a relatively--if you are on the camp, should be in a safe place--you just are aware more of what people are doing and look for suspicious actions. And there ... just staying out of situations like going down to--if you could go downtown (there was a period when things were lightened up) and going to places where a lot of Americans are going. Those types of things, trying to stay away from those situations.
MAJ WADE: I think we were better prepared. I think we ... again, some of those things were expected, terrorist type of incidents. And it is one of those things, because you expected ... and then the chain of command I think was very good in preparing everybody that it could happen and it was a fact of life. And I think just the physical surroundings that you took, you know, when you started seeing the guard posts and, you know, the guard towers and bunkers going in, and things of that nature, then it got you into a--it was a correct mindset. It was, it could happen any time.
MAJ HONEC: This is real.
MAJ WADE: It is real, this is war, that is right. And I think that probably helped the most. I think people were ready for it. Fortunately it didn't happen. But the reports, you know, the famous speeding light, light vehicles, flicking lights. I mean, soldiers were aware and they would report it and fortunately, it didn't turn out to be.
MAJ HONEC: Up in Rafha during the air war, during the last part of the air war before we started the ground war, or anything. Somewhere within that close proximity, talking about that first female, we got a rumor that wandered around that she had actually been killed, before being, you know, horribly abused. Did you all hear that rumor that was going around?
CPT VLAHOS: Yes, and ... .
MAJ HONEC: How did it make you feel when you heard that?
CPT VLAHOS: Basically, what I described before. We sort of expected that she had been, I mean, so it was just sort of a confirmation about what I had thought happened to her.
MAJ HONEC: I see. Okay. Did ... as we gradually, as the Saudis gradually got used to us and we got used to the Saudis, how did things change, if at all? Did you notice a change in the way they dealt with you in ... ?
MAJ WADE: I didn't. I want not around.
MAJ HONEC: You were not?
CPT VLAHOS: We really weren't.
MAJ WADE: In the situation we were in, we were fairly ...
MAJ HONEC: Fairly closed up in that ...
MAJ WADE: Working. Had very limited contact.
MAJ HONEC: What about in the mess line at the [Dragon City dining facility]? The cooks in the mess line were expatriates, but Moslem I assume. I didn't check their religion. Did you notice any different treatment from when you first got there?
MAJ WADE: Yes, I think as we became friendlier and I think they became friendlier. So I think there was a lot more interaction.
MAJ HONEC: And this would have been in Dhahran at the commercial feeding establishment--as opposed to Rafha where ate MREs almost 100 percent of the time. [LAUGHTER]
MAJ WADE: Right. So I think it was a learning process on each ... on both sides. Realizing that the cultures that were there, different cultures you were interacting with. So I think there was that. But I think there was also the ... . You know, it was interesting, once the SCUD attacks, seeing the other country nationals that were there as workers--and how vulnerable they were. At least you had equipment and felt like you knew how to act and you knew what was happening. They really ...
MAJ HONEC: That is interesting.
MAJ WADE: You know, they were sort of ... they were there working, but when something happened and they heard about it, it was the radio.
MAJ HONEC: Let's document that. I never saw a [third-country] national or a expatriate without a gas mask but that was about it. They didn't have any protective suits that I was aware of.
MAJ WADE: Right. And the protective masks were brought in.
MAJ HONEC: They were?
MAJ WADE: Yes, they were brought in for them, after, I guess the first SCUD firings. And, unfortunately, I don't know if they were given any training--but I think this demonstrates the type of relationships that were developing, because some of them would come to the soldiers, that they had developing some type of talking or friendship type of relationship with and get assistance and, you know ...
MAJ HONEC: Super, great.
MAJ WADE: Now this is great, now what do I do with it? And the soldiers were very, I think, forthcoming on showing them how to put it on. And it had a confidence factor. And I can take my hat off to the workers and how comfortable they felt. They weren't gone for long and we started getting more and more of the firings into that area.
MAJ HONEC: The terrorism of the SCUD. What did you feel like during SCUD attacks that we had down in Dhahran? I know when we moved up to Rafha, we were within FROG and artillery range, but that was never our case, it seemed. But down in Dhahran, it seemed like the blasted ... we were too close to the airport.
MAJ WADE: It was interesting. You know, I think it was the first firing, it was a test launch and I think it was the best thing that the Iraqis ever did, because it got down our procedures. I personally was glad. I thought it was great. Until then the fear was always there; the Patriot had proved itself. It is like anything, any training. Once it happens then you start getting confidence in the systems or the equipment, and you felt good. Personally to see people on the desk where the alert came in, which was the desk that we worked, and to see the young soldiers (just PFCs and privates) know what to do, do it very calmly. And it was exhilarating to me. That was the reason they were there, they performed. And they knew why they were there.
MAJ HONEC: I think we need to describe the structure of who you had manning the desk. What was your, you know ... document right now, who did you have ... ?
MAJ WADE: In the Corps G-2 operations section, we had a lieutenant colonel who ran each shift. At least one, possibly two majors. Anywhere from two to three captains. And then one more senior NCO (E-6, E-7 type). And then we had junior people: PFCs, 96 intel analysts, 11Bs (who were infantrymen serving with G-2). And for the most part, they are the ones ... the young soldiers were the ones that during these things, started picking up the phones and plotting the things to see whether we should get serious about it or worry about it.
But the greatest thing is that they just knew, they did the things they were supposed to do. They quickly understood the procedures they needed to go through. They did them and didn't have to be told. When the procedures then got to that we started having to increase our MOPP [mission-oriented protective posture] level, our chemical protective level, due to the direction of the SCUDs and things like this, they just automatically started doing those things. And it was, you know, it was good to see.
MAJ HONEC: Did you observe any desensitization after so many SCUD attacks--of people kind of slowing down putting on their MOPP gear?
CPT VLAHOS: Oh sure, I do. I mean, because the threat there had been--the threat of the use of the chemical SCUDs had been reduced--so people ... . And also people realized that there should be some sort of warning, so people didn't immediately put on everything. And they just sorted of waited to find out if there was a change to the type of launching.
MAJ WADE: I think our procedures got--we started dealing with the--vice the general got very keyed into what, in this particular thing, needs to be done.
MAJ HONEC: I noticed that ... okay, I want to document here, you had 24-hour operations. The shift started ... the shift change was at 7:00.
MAJ WADE: Right, we went 7:00 to 1900 with one shift and then had change of shift briefings and then the next shift came on and basically, continued whatever actions that had to be done. But this, what the Corps G-2 operations section did during this, besides the things that we automatically deployed as part of the Corps. You know, the Corps started at about 60,000 people and we ended up with almost twice that many. And with that came a lot of systems or additional systems or increases in people came. And that was--most of the job on our desk was to document what we needed and then actually get things there.
MAJ HONEC: I see.
MAJ WADE: And continuing that was from the day shift into the night shift, as well as keeping up with the enemy situation and the static situation.
MAJ HONEC: I want to also give a plug: CPT Vlahos was the G-2 briefer and gave a good number of very informative briefings. We always found the room would go silent when she was going to talk because everybody wanted to hear what key items she had pulled out of the INTSUMs [intelligence summaries] to pass on to us. I just wanted to throw a plug in there for you.
If you could have gone down into the, and if you ... you obviously had a busy schedule, worked quite a lot. If you could have, would you have ventured to Khobar and down to Dammam just to see what it was like down there? Explore? Something like that?
CPT VLAHOS: I did get down there.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, you did. Okay.
CPT VLAHOS: And we went with some Saudi women who ... .
MAJ HONEC: Oh, neat.
CPT VLAHOS: Right. They wanted to bring ... sort of bring some of the U.S. women and talk to them about the country and show them ... . And it was ... well, Khobar, that is where a lot of the Westerners are. It is a little bit more progressive than Riyadh, which is much more traditional. So you see quite a few unveiled women, though I had ...
MAJ HONEC: Were they expatriates or were they Saudis?
CPT VLAHOS: Some Saudi women.
MAJ HONEC: Really?
CPT VLAHOS: Yes. Of course, they wear everything and would not veil. But the dress still was very conservative. For instance, I had borrowed and had people send various things, so I had a long sleeve shirt and a skirt down to my ankles with shoes and so my ankles were exposed. And a lot of stares at the ankles, sort of a joke when we were out there, because they are still not used to--it is still not very accepted. However, Khobar is a little bit more progressive because of the Western influence with the oil people.
MAJ HONEC: These women were from what sort of families?
CPT VLAHOS: Military wives, and people who worked for-- what was the name?
MAJ HONEC: ARAMCO [Arab-American Oil Company].
CPT VLAHOS: ARAMCO, right.
MAJ HONEC: I see, that is the Arab oil company over there. I see. Oh, interesting. Okay. You obviously went and had something to eat too there, did you not? What sorts of dishes did you have?
CPT VLAHOS: Yes.
MAJ HONEC: What sorts of dishes did you have?
CPT VLAHOS: Traditional Arabic food: lamb, chicken, rice.
MAJ HONEC: No chance, MAJ Wade? [LAUGHTER]
MAJ WADE: They tried. I did want to comment on something before we have to go.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
MAJ WADE: I think for this size operation, I think it is real important that for the most part--I think it is great that women went and I think it is important that everyone know that the conditions were terrible and they were terrible for everybody. And to watch this--this has been my first experience in fourteen years that you got to share exactly the crummy conditions that men did. And I think, from what I saw, that the women did great in that sense.
MAJ HONEC: Great.
CPT VLAHOS: And I would like to add, the big question about whether women are on the front lines or not, and I think we have proven in this war, with SCUDs and stuff that you don't have to be on the front line to get killed. And even in World War II with Rommel, he routinely circled divisions in even Corps-level units. So there isn't a safe place on the battlefield, yet, there still is a lot of discrimination in putting women in jobs that (even they are coded to have), for instance, in the 82d [Airborne Division].
And if we want to have a military organization that is efficient, people are going to have to accept that women are going to die in their jobs serving their country. And as long as they do the job that it shouldn't matter that they are going to be captured. I think attitude-wise, this actually has helped us. But we have a long way to go because people are still hesitant (because the rules are sort of blurred, I think even more now)--what constitutes being in combat.
Because if they are saying, if you are in danger of being killed, then that is not right because there is an awful lot of threat all the way to the rear.
MAJ HONEC: Definitely. That is a very good point, very good point. Quickly document, how did you come back? You left on a 747?
MAJ WADE: Yes, we flew ... we went from Dhahran up to Rafha on a C-130 [Hercules]. Probably the most scared I have ever been, getting on that airplane and then moving that forward was scary to me. We left Rafha on a C-130, no seats or anything, going in and sitting on the floor, flying back to Dhahran. And then came back commercial, 747.
MAJ HONEC: Do you remember whose 747 that was?
MAJ WADE: I really don't know. I don't remember, but it was a great looking plane.
CPT VLAHOS: Northwest.
MAJ WADE: Yes, I think it was Northwest.
MAJ HONEC: Great.
MAJ WADE: Great service. It was very strange to me. We stopped over in New York.
MAJ HONEC: What was the route? You went to London?
MAJ WADE: No. We went to Frankfort, Germany where we had a lay-over and then we had an hour or two lay-over in New York at one of the airports. And getting off--we were able to get off the plane there and stay in. And it was very strange to have people applaud when you got off the plane. That is probably the strangest I have ever felt in my life, you know, to actually see that happening. And then of course, once we returned to home base, where you expect the families to be out and welcoming you, that happened and that was nice, but probably the strangest feeling was New York City.
MAJ HONEC: Really? They came off--they applauded you as you were coming down?
MAJ WADE: Yes.
MAJ HONEC: The U.S. troops.
MAJ WADE: Okay. Right.
MAJ HONEC: Thank you very much. Any other quick comments? This concludes this portion of the DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interviews.
[END OF INTERVIEW]