Reporter’s Notebook: Soldiers carry good luck along for rides into Iraq
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery at Camp Navistar, Kuwait, safeguard each security convoy escort mission into Iraq with a mix of superstition and religion. In one case, literally.
On one mission into Iraq, Spc. Kevin Campbell’s convoy was targeted by both a roadside bomb and formed penetrator charge.
“It scared the heck out of all of us but it didn’t even touch us. That day we were carrying the chaplain. I said, ‘You’re good luck, sir.’”
Just in case, Campbell, 26, of Sussex, Wis., has three other lucky charms at his side: A St. Kevin’s medal from his mother, a rosary from his wife, and a set of wings belonging to his uncle from World War II.
Spc. Jon Gess, 24, of Fort Atkinson, Wis., carries a Wiccan pentagram in his pocket.
Spc. Glenn Ondayog, 46, from Oahu, Hawaii, can’t fit his lucky charm in his pocket. His is a Hawaiian warrior helmet made of a hollowed coconut. He rubs the back of the coconut head for good luck. “It goes with me all the time,” he said.
Sgt. Raymond Boze of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, deployed since last October from Fort Sill, Okla., can’t decide if he’s lucky. While driving Heavy Equipment Transporter trucks carrying supplies into Iraq this past year, Boze has found three roadside bombs “the hard way.” He drove over the first one. The other two, “as far as I could tell, came out of the median.” The second two attacks destroyed his truck, but Boze was unscathed, at least physically.
Ask Boze if he thinks he’s lucky and he’ll tell you that’s “a trick question. Some people think I’m lucky, some people think I’m a jinx. Our convoy usually had a prayer before we left, but that’s about it. It didn’t work.”
New AC system cools down HumveesSoldiers at Camp Navistar are testing out an experimental air-conditioning system for Humvees.
Summertime cab temperatures usually reach about 150 degrees Fahrenheit without air-conditioning, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dean Koenig, maintenance officer for 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery. The regular AC reduces ambient temperature by 20 degrees, while the new “Phase II” system cools the cab by 40 degrees, he said. “The soldiers that have those five vehicles don’t want to get out of them,” he said.
Stress comes in many formsThe Air Force’s Expeditionary Medical Clinic in Kuwait has staff specializing in combat stress.
Bullets or not, “stress is stress is stress,” says Capt. Peter Johnson, a combat stress officer for the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group. “Being shot at, having rockets hurled at you at all hours of the day and night is a significant event,” he said. “But for the person who has a family back home, they miss them, their wife is calling saying, ‘You know, this sucks, and I really hate you for being gone,’ that’s as much as a significant event for them as someone who’s taking fire.”
Stress also can be triggered by the sound of mortars — even if it’s just an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team blowing stuff up. Recently, at a mini-tent city in Kuwait, where troops and contractors heading to Iraq bunk, the thunder-clap of four bombs shook the quiet morning. Turns out EOD had scheduled a “controlled detonation” that not everyone knew about; some theorized that EOD just liked to see the civilians jump.