Desert Storm: The hazards of preparing for deployment

One of the challenges for my army unit during the mass build up that would become Desert Storm was that we didn’t know if we were going or not. I’m on a Desert Storm mailing list, and one of the veterans asked when we were notified, and i had to say that no one ever came out and said, “You’re leaving on XX date.” It simply happened, as a natural, logical conclusion on the process.

We would be preparing for deployment for about three months with this not knowing. I’m not sure if it would have been easier if we had a date or leaving it to the unknown. An actual date would have brought in the anticipation as we approached. Yet, as we did get closer, the rumor mill churned out that there was indeed a date. But it was also constantly shifting, so maybe that’s why no one told us anything. I think a shifting date would have been the worst of the three choices because I would have readied myself for that date, and and then it wouldn’t have happened, and I would have had to go through it all over again for the new date.

Every day was spent in some form of preparation. Getting supplies ready, making sure we had wills done, getting shots, and, of course, training. It was constantly wearing on us, almost like a river flowing down stream that eats steadily at the rocks on the shoreline.

The women soldiers couldn’t really have a reaction to this stress. If we had tried to relieve the stress — if that was even possible — in ways that women tend to, the men soldiers would have sneered at us for being weak.

There’s a scene in the most famous of Star Trek episodes, The City on the Edge of Forever, which kind of sums it up. The crew that beamed down to the planet has just found out that Dr. McCoy somehow changed the past and the Enterprise simply no longer exists. They’re effectively stranded unless they can fix the problem.

Uhura has the following line of dialogue: “Captain, I’m afraid.” (Sorry, I couldn’t quite get a clip of her saying this, but occurs right after this scene.)

If we even said anything like this, most of the men would have taken it and exaggerated it to point where we sounded like we were the most incompetent people, as proof women were not competent of doing anything men could do.

The men tended to express their fears one of two ways:

  1. They strutted around with a tough guy facade and proclaimed, “I’m going to kill me some (OMITTED).”
  2. They played soccer and football.

The later was done during physical training in the morning, and the men soldiers got very aggressive during the games. The games were actually pretty violent, and the women learned to stay out of the way. I still had to participate because it was physical training, but I had no desire to be squished flat. I went down to the end of the field to be the goalie, where it was at least somewhat safer because most of the action happened on the middle of the field.

The games got so aggressive that one soldier broke his toes during pool volleyball! Another sprained his ankle on the playing field, and a tackle broke the leg of another, making him non-deployable.

But women had no such stress reliever. We were simply expected to suck it up and drive on and pretend like we weren’t who we actually were. Like I said, the Army had no idea what to do with us.

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