Special Guest Opinion

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Reflections from a local soldier in Kuwait

Jean Myrtue, a dedicated teacher at the Albert City-Truesdale School resource room for 11 years, also a member of the National Guard Unit 1088 of Camp Dodge, was deployed to Kuwait last January after a month of training. She shared the following information, reflecting on a year of duty. She is the daughter of Shirley and Soren Myrtue, Schaller, and a single mother of two grown children - Laura Terry and Shawn Terry.

We do not know when we are going home, but it will be sometime in January. When we do get back to the states we have to demobilize out of Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin. I have been in Kuwait since 31 January 2004. I have been activated since 01 December 2003 and I had to report to Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa near Des Moines. We spent six weeks training in the cold woods of Wisconsin and then got sent to the desert.

The first three weeks in Kuwait I was at Camp Udairi and then our detachment was split-up and I was sent to Camp Virginia, Kuwait. We have very primitive living conditions and deep sand in our small camp. Camp Virginia is also the coalition camp for theater. All of the coalition troops come through our camp. They are on six-month rotations, as are the U.S. Navy and Marines. The most impressive co-alition troops I saw were the 44 Royal Tonganese Marines from the island nation of Tonga. They have already gone to Iraq and come back through here on their way home.

Several celebrities have made visits to Kuwait. The celebrities I have been able to see so far have been Toby Keith, Ted Nugent, John Elway and Robin Williams. Of course there have been other celebrities here, but I have had to work.

We live in tents here and work in tents. We have portapots and shower trailers. I can't wait to be back home and have a bathroom indoors!

The weather right now is about 65 degrees in the daytime and about 40 at night. We are not having daily sandstorms yet, but the time will soon be here. During the summer it is about 140 degrees or more and at night around 100. It is miserable! We have air conditioning here, but it can't keep up cooling the tents and the generators are always going down, especially during the day. Generators are used to power everything here.

I have been to every Army camp in Kuwait, but never to Iraq. We do not get to go out and joy ride by any means; traveling is always mission essential. I have been to Arifjan twice to visit guys I used to drill with in Sioux City and Storm Lake. Kuwait is a very small country. You can go to the Doha PX and see people you know there from Iowa or your own camp. I have seen people in our Chowhall that I knew from 15 years ago and they are on their way north (Iraq). When Iowa units come through Kuwait we try to go visit them; there is a special bond between Iowa soldiers.

The job we were doing before our replacements took over included personnel actions, swiping soldiers into theater and demobilizing them out. We also had camp detail which included tower guard out on the perimeter. I never felt unsafe at Camp Virginia.

My Albert City-Truesdale 7-12 special ed. students are now going to Sioux Central, so I am being put as an aide in an elementary room at AC-T. The government guarantees that a soldier gets a job back at the place they worked before activation. I will probably be terminated at the end of the school year, so I am having stress in the job situation.

I got to go home for R and R July 24-August 9, 2004. I spent everyday visiting friends and family. I also got acquainted with my new grandaughter Jorden Jade Degner born May 24, 2004. I also got to attend my son's college graduation in Sioux City. It was hard to come back to Kuwait after being home.

I joined the Iowa Army National Guard on Aug. 18, 1986. I was 32 when I went to basic training. I joined the guard to get money toward my college education. I drilled for 10 years with the 2nd Mech in Sioux City and I have spent the other eight years drilling at Det 1, 1-194th FA in Storm Lake. I was deployed with the 1088th PSD out of Camp Dodge. I knew a few of the people in that unit before I got activated.

I have received awesome care packages and mail from friends, students and family while I have been here. That makes you feel loved and appreciated!