A Camp Udairi special: Pfc. Sidney Dyson, 22, of the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, digs into his customized morning sandwich, consisting of scrambled eggs, a few slices of bacon, some potatoes and a slice of cheese.

A Camp Udairi special: Pfc. Sidney Dyson, 22, of the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, digs into his customized morning sandwich, consisting of scrambled eggs, a few slices of bacon, some potatoes and a slice of cheese. (Steve Liewer / S&S)

Around Camp Udairi, the Army helicopter hub in Kuwait, there’s a lot of handshaking and backslapping going on. Almost everyone is connected with the extended family of Army aviation.

Pilots especially are running into old friends everywhere, buddies they haven’t seen in years.

This is a flight-school reunion.

Besides the Germany-based units — the sister squadrons 2-6 Cavalry and 6-6 Cavalry from Illesheim, and the 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment from Giebelstadt — two large Apache units are here: 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment from Fort Stewart, Ga., and 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment from Fort Hood, Texas.

Col. William Wolf, commander of Task Force 11th Aviation, especially has been in demand. He is personable and popular with his soldiers, and he is the former commander of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment.

Recently, a 1-3 Aviation sergeant rushed up as Wolf stood outside, saluted smartly, then embraced him in a bear hug.

“This is about the biggest attack reunion I’ve seen. I’m seeing guys I haven’t seen in 15 years,” said Chief Warrant Officer Chris Smith, 44, a 227th Aviation pilot.

That made things all the harder when friends are lost — like last week, when a UH-60 Black Hawk from the 5-158 Aviation crashed and killed two pilots, Chief Warrant Officers Timothy W. Moehling, 35, and John D. Smith, 32, along with a crew chief and door gunner.

“It doesn’t matter if you know them or not,” said Chief Warrant Officer Mike Wade, 38, of the 2-6 Cavalry. “It’s a brotherhood.”

Counting their chickens

When the Marines set up camp in Kuwait, they brought in 200 chickens to act as the “canaries in the coal mine” against a biological or chemical weapons attack.

A few weeks later, all were dead. So they bought 200 more; now, all of those chickens are dead. Nobody really knows why, but nobody suspects fowl play.

Curiously, a few days after the second group of chickens died, the chow hall menus at nearby Camp Virginia featured several poultry dishes. Coincidence?

Camp Virginia has its own feathered squatters. A pair of turkeys has been roaming the base for weeks. They go from living area to living area, getting fattened up by soldiers tossing them parts of Meals, Ready to Eat or dining hall leftovers.

The turkeys weren’t served at Christmas dinner, so the safe bet is that they’ll last a bit longer.

Supersize that sandwich

Soldiers in the field will make a sandwich out of anything.

Tootsie Rolls, spaghetti, bananas, syrup, hot sauce — almost anything thicker than water is likely to turn up between two slices of bread.

At chow one morning at Camp Udairi, Pfc. Sidney Dyson, 22, of the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment out of Illesheim, Germany, whipped up a whopper of a breakfast sandwich.

He snagged two slices of white bread, loaded them up with his scrambled eggs, a few slices of bacon, some potatoes, a slice of cheese and, voila! Just like the drive through at McDonald’s.

It’s part of his strategy for dealing with runny eggs (which he doesn’t like). Plus, it speeds things up.

“It’s faster,” said Dyson, in a drawl as thick as sweet potato pie from his native Alabama. “I guess it’s just the way I was raised up.”

Pressed for service

As units move from relatively comfortable base camps to Spartan tactical camps in the remote desert, they are losing the little niceties that make life bearable.

Drop-off laundry service is being curtailed at several living areas within camps. Soldiers are now back to buckets and line-drying, which doesn’t work so well in the middle of what seem to be perpetual sandstorms.

Some soldiers haven’t been able to take advantage of laundry services for weeks.

“When I wake up in the morning, my uniform is already up at attention, waiting for me,” joked Spc. Charlie Rivers, of the 130th Engineers.

Joe to the rescue

In the field, Tactical Operations Centers, known as TOCs, run on coffee the way a truck runs on diesel: People who don’t touch the stuff back home drink it like water.

The TOC — a honeycomb of interconnected tents that serves as a unit command post — is bustling, even tense, fueled by a perpetual caffeine buzz.

That’s why there was great anxiety when a box carrying the 11th Aviation Regiment headquarters company’s industrial-sized coffee pot was crushed beyond repair, apparently run over by a truck.

Deep in the Kuwaiti desert, there’s no running out to Wal-Mart to pick up a spare. But the homefront came through.

Lt. Col. Glenn Barr, the regiment’s deputy commander, dashed off an urgent message to his wife, Janet, back in Illesheim. She stopped by the post exchange and bought four new pots, which have arrived safely.

The coffee is flowing. Now, Task Force 11th Aviation is ready to fight.

Reporters Joseph Giordono and Steve Liewer contributed to this report.

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