Business as usual on bases in Europe
March 20, 2003
Just hours after airstrikes on Iraq began early Thursday morning, it was business as usual for soldiers and Army civilians.
In Bamberg, most soldiers were engaged in their weekly sergeant’s time training. Offices and Army and Air Force Exchange Service facilities were fully staffed.
Delays at the gates in Bamberg, Germany, and Aviano, Italy, remained much the same as they were Tuesday when force protection levels across Europe rose to Charlie.
“We are still at condition Charlie, and it is business as usual,” said Lt. Susan Henson, a Navy spokeswoman at Naples.
At Aviano Air Base, that meant waiting a little longer than normal to get in the gate and handing over more identification to the guards. It also meant showing an identification card at places around the base that normally don’t ask for them.
Although the strikes were expected, some were surprised they came so soon after the deadline for President Bush’s ultimatum passed.
“I figured the strikes would begin over the weekend,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Keith, from the Bamberg Health Clinic. “President Bush is true to his word.”
Keith didn’t hesitate to show his support of the war on Iraq.
“It’s about time,” he said. “I think we should have done it right the first time. I was there [in the Persian Gulf] in ’91, and I don’t think we went far enough then.
“I hope it doesn’t last long.”
Mike Dulan Jr., a former Air Force member and current government employee who is stationed is stationed at Allied Forces Southern Europe in Naples, said he was glad to see the attack begin.
“It is about time. We let Saddam get away with not cooperating for too long. I hope we can get him out as soon as possible,” he said.
His wife, Carmen, is active-duty Air Force.
Still, some were not hesitant to voice concerns.
“I don’t like that we’re doing this,” said Miranda White, a family member from 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery in Bamberg. “I have a lot of German friends that I feel uncomfortable visiting because they oppose this war.”
White said that she didn’t think the strikes would begin.
“I really thought the president was just bluffing,” she said.
Richard Baker’s wife, LaRae, is stationed on the La Salle, the 6th fleet flagship out of Gaeta. The LaSalle has been deployed, and Baker is, naturally, worried about his wife.
“I’m more relieved that things are under way, rather than waiting for a decision.
Keith said he doubted that this will be a quick war, echoing the warning from President Bush’s address to the nation early Thursday that the war could last longer than some people believe.
“In my opinion, it could last months,” Keith said. “I think it will be slow until we can get into Baghdad.”
Nonetheless, he said morale was high in his unit.
Reporters Kent Harris in Aviano, Italy, and Leah Bower in Naples, Italy, contributed to this report.