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y reserve Battalion (3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines) was activated for the Gulf War. After a month's stay at Camp LeJeune, we shipped to Saudi Arabia on Christmas Day 1990. After a two week stay in Camp 15 to marry up with our equipment, we moved out toward the Kuwait Border with our new Regiment (8th Marines). Our first location in the desert was at a place derisively called the "Rock Quarry" due to a nearby quarry. As the Executive Officer of Weapons Company, I was on the Battalion advance party to choose a site for our bivouac and defense in the area. We initially chose a site upon a huge slag heap of sand, dirt, and crushed rock from the quarry. It had a commanding height (30-50 feet) of the surrounding flat desert; steep sides and a single roadway to the top for excellent defensive possibilities against a ground attack. While we were making our plans for the Battalion layout, the Regimental advance party arrives and commences to kick us off the hill claiming it for the Rgt HQ.
Resigned, we located a slight bowl shaped depression just east of the slag heap.İRegiment immediately sets up camp, smack on top of that slag pile, and the next day we move out from Camp 15 to our new positions. Of course, as any Reservist will tell you, when in the field "if it ain't rainin', we ain't trainin!" On cue as we reach our new positions, it starts to rain. In the desert. With the wind blowing 20-30 mph. With the temperature hovering at 40 degrees. It rains for three days. Hard. Heaviest rain in Saudi Arabia in 75 years. Now I must tell you, that my Battalion is made up of Marines from Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama and us southern boys were downright cold, wet and miserable. We were supposed to be fighting a war in a desert -- no one told us about bringing rain and cold weather gear!
Within all this misery, though, was a soul warming sight (and a silent gratitude from all of us on the Bn. Advance Party). That slag heap that Regiment camped on was composed of 25 years of dust, dirt, sand and had never really been wet. Now it was wet. And muddy! A grey, clay like, cloying mud. It literally could not support man, vehicles, or tents. Pallets oozed into the mud after a couple of hours on the ground. Anyone moving across ground sank to the crotch. The road was impassable. Officers and enlisted alike had to try to scale the sides of the hill to reach the top, practically doing a breast stroke to make it up the side without sliding back! It was a distinctive badge of grey smear and surly attitude that all Regimental HQ members wore for the next week or so.
While all of us were from the south, and most of us were country boys, to some extent, we still had some naive Marines among us. One of these was our Dragon Platoon Commander, whom I had talked into joining the Reserve Infantry after he left active duty.İOn active duty, however, Captain Tom was an Aircraft Maintenance Officer. He had grown up in a medium size Louisiana Cajun town, but was a typical college fraternity type who joined the Marine Corps to be a pilot, but was forced into another MOS due to a small deficit in his eyesight. Oh, and he was quite fastidious about his hygiene (i.e. didn't like to get dirty!) One of the things that used to be great about the Reserves, was that we didn't care what your MOS was, if you could fit into a job, you could earn the new MOS (and Tom turned out to be a good grunt officer)!
Anyway, one day while at the Rock Quarry a number of Platoon Commanders and I were standing around in conversation when Captain Tom walks up with a number of objects in his hands. "Hey, look ya'll," he says, "some kind of nuts! They grow on the ground and are all over the place!"
"Uh, Tommy, those aren't nuts." I replied.
"Yeah they are, hickory nuts or sumthin."
The other Platoon Commanders are rolling their eyes and laughing uproariously by now. Tom is incredulous and stunned at their reaction.
"Tom, that's camel dung."
"No, it's NOT! It's a nut of some kind."
"Tom, you ever seen rabbit pellets?"
"Look, I'll prove it. I'll open one up!" (One Plt. Cmdr. has fallen to the ground laughing so hard.)
"Don't do that..." To which a couple break open... with the recent rains, and that it was probably fairly fresh dung, it got all over his hands and was quite pungent to boot. The horrified look on Tom's face had all of us at this time in tears and most of us on our knees from laughing. We neared exhaustion for being unable to catch our breath!
Tom became a quick learner in field craft. He even learned to ignore our snickers when, after we'd run out of MOGAS for our pack stoves, we'd gather camel dung to burn and boil our coffee (Communty Coffee...we are from Louisiana after all)!