Dust brings the crud

At night in the sleeping tents of Camp Udairi, Kuwait, there is more to hear than the soft snoring of servicemembers.

Cough, cough. Hack, hack.

It’s the sound of what troops call the “Kuwaiti crud” — the mild respiratory distress that comes with breathing in dust 24 hours a day for weeks on end. It’s not much different from the “Korea crud” and the “Kabul crud” that afflicts many stationed in other hard-duty outposts.

Windy March is an especially troublesome month. In the Persian Gulf, March seems to come in like a lion and go out like a raging rhinoceros.

The Kuwaiti crud is like a low-grade cold. It starts with a mild sore throat, often after a bad dust storm such as the two-day gale that raged last week.

The cold is followed by a slightly runny nose and a deep cough from the chest.

It causes little trouble during the day but can be torture at night, when the coughing and hacking can keep troops, and their healthy tentmates, from getting much sleep.

The medics’ treatment of choice has been a green pill called Guaifenesin, a decongestant, and Sudafed. Soldiers say it will whip the crud in a couple of days.

News flash: J-Lo lives

Servicemembers in the boonies are starved for information, but it’s not necessarily news about Iraq or the United Nations they’re after.

At Assembly Area Hammer, where most troops haven’t seen a newspaper in more than 10 days, the persistent rumor floating around was that actress and singer Jennifer Lopez had been killed in a car accident.

When a reporter with a satellite phone finally quashed the rumor, the sighs of relief were audible. As in every other conflict, pin-ups remain popular, and J-Lo, as she’s known, is one of the most ubiquitous.

At least one soldier wasn’t worried about the rumor.

“She can’t be dead,” he said, “because I haven’t gotten a Red Cross message yet.”

Prepping to move?

Every day, a new minor change convinces most soldiers that they are a step closer to crossing the LD — the Line of Demarcation, as the military calls the Iraqi border.

This week, the signs of imminent conflict were a change in uniform to full battle rattle, a noticeable increase in the quality of the one hot meal per day (when it isn’t coated by too much sand) and a move to cut the amount of bottled water being distributed.

Over the next few days, most units at tactical assembly areas will be ditching the bottles in favor of five-gallon water cans, dip buckets and “water buffalos,” the large, rubber bladders that hold thousands of gallons at a time.

How do you open this?

Young sailors aboard U.S. military ships cruising in the Persian Gulf were a bit puzzled by soda cans delivered from the United Arab Emirates.

The problem?

Some had never seen the 1980s-era pop tops with the ring on the tab.

“I looked at a can and was like, ‘What’s up with this?’” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Picklesimer, aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens.

An older chief told him how to open the can.

“I was afraid of busting it and spilling soda,” Picklesimer said sheepishly.

Several sailors younger than 21 on the USS Kitty Hawk also admitted they were thrown off by the cans. On the aircraft carrier, 5,300 cans are sold a day, about one for each person on board.

Cruising toward a video

Sailors usually walk away with a cruise book after a long deployment.

The yearbook-style keepsake features photos of all the crewmembers and snapshots of daily life.

On the USS Cowpens, one sailor decided to document their Persian Gulf cruise in a more modern way: a two-DVD cruise video.

Petty Officer 1st Class John Moss, an electronics technician on the Yokosuka, Japan-based ship, has about 20 hours of footage after 50 days at sea. Shots include underway replenishments, dolphins playing in the guided missile cruiser’s wake and the sunrise as seen from a helicopter.

Then there’s the funny clip tagged “killer tomato,” in which sailors try to toss into the sea a car-sized red inflatable target for training. The killer tomato doesn’t cooperate and blows over their outstretched arms back onto the fantail.

“We have a roster to make sure we get shots of everyone on the ship,” said Moss, who figures it takes five hours of work for every three minutes of final video.

E-mail Steve Liewer at:

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