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A little green, but full of spit and vinegar!

Posted by Fork , 20 October 2006 · 178 views

In 1988 I was deployed with over 500 Airborne and Special Service Force (my unit) into Iraq during the end of the Iran/Iraq war with the United Nations UNIIMOG force. It was apparent that the past two decades of Liberal government had neglected the army and the equipment we were using.

How did we get there? Had to borrow a ride on American C-5 Galaxies and C-141 Starlifters because Canada no longer had heavy lift aircraft. The American pilot of the Galaxy I rode on was standing outside when we got off. He was in his 40's and was a Vietnam vet. He mentioned that we looked identical to the soldiers he used to off loaded back in the 60's. Cept they were fighting in Vietnam at the time. It seems that our government let us rot for 30 years. His comment was that we looked like a pajama army - out for a short party but nothing serious. I was embarrassed to wear my uniform that day. But it didn't mean we did a bad job. On the contrary, we did a great job with the poor equipment we had.

We had JUST received the new C-7 (M-16), but all we had for our feet were the regular black army issue boots, old tin helmets surplussed from the US, old Vietnam surplus flack jackets (the ones that weight around 40 lbs), and ALL our equipment from tents, trucks, cots, sleeping bags, knives, every individual piece of kit was old. I was deployed at the age of 18 just having completed my TQ1 schooling as a walking radio backpack/target (combat signaler). We used old HF radios that had a whip antenna that if you touched while you TX'ed, it would fry your neck - had to take it off to talk. VHF were ineffective out in the desert. They couldn't do simple 20 mile radio shots - we ended up using HF radio's from war-stock. (1950's) Our crypto gear was brand new and top notch, but we were still using teletypes and Morse code in our comms centres.

As I walked off the tarmac into the main terminal (it was 54 Celsius), it was as if I had opened my mom's oven to see what was inside - the blast of hot air hurt your eyes and face. We had to clear through Iraqi customs inside - even though we all had diplomatic passports. The UN forced us to do this because they didn't want to cause any trouble. The IRAQI's also forced us to open up our comms trucks and equipment to video tape everything we were bringing in. Of course, when they saw our old stuff, they laughed. I stepped in line with a loaded C-7, 5 magazines, desert goggles around my neck, the 40lb flack jacket, tin helmet, backpack, and my duffel back in the other hand.

While an Iraqi officer was robbing my skin mags, also pocketing my AA batteries, aspirine, gravol, and other medical supplies from my first aid kit, to my left was a big press event. Saddam was there with the international press greeting a UN envoy. After the mugging from customs, we walked out into the main section of the gate where SADDAM was shaking our hands! I actually got a chance to shake his hand for a brief second while he said "Thank-you, welcome." to around 20 of us for the press and then took off. He was an impressive man who smelled like rich arabic spices, standing just a little bit shorter than I in a neatly pressed grey suit. I then walked over to the side with my buddies commenting that I just shook the big guys hand. I grabbed my hard green barracks box, and put it onto the trolley available, walking outside again into the sweltering heat with the rest of the crew, carefully examining this new country we had just walked into - all minus batteries, essential drugs, and toilet reading material we were mugged from thieving customs officers. It was an omen to the dangers we faced in the next few months.

Next week - setup, bad ammo, comms centre madness, and a deployment! popcornsmilie.gif

Great read Fork! Looking forward to the next entry! Either I forgot or didn't know the United Nations sent in a UNIIMOG force as you put it into Iraq after the Iran/Iraq war.

April 2014

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