Public affairs personnel for the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, based in the Middle East, have filed a string of articles about daily life at the air base, which is in an as-yet unidentified country.
Pilots from Hill's 4th and 421st Tactical Fighter Squadrons, part of the 388th TFW, have been pounding targets in Iraq and Kuwait since the war started. They fly the Air Force's most advanced jets, the F-16 Fighting Falcons.First Lt. Jennifer L. Fay, the wing's chief of public affairs, and Sgt. Gary L. Kunich wrote reports of the daily activity of the men and women from Hill who are fighting the war. All of the stories are datelined, "An air base in the Middle East." They were forwarded by the public affairs office of the 388th back at Hill.
Among the articles are stories about the use of civil engineering in the war against Iraq, a pair of cousins who found each other through a mixup in fax messages, the use of guard dogs with "an attitude," the men and women who do the laundry at the base, and the base's Survival Recovery Center and Wing Operations Center.
- Civil engineering. At the base where the squadrons from Hill are stationed, a crew of more than 150 civil engineers from seven different bases has been responsible for construction projects. They range from the jogging track and tent city to latrines with American-style toilets.
"The only time some people think of CE (civil engineering) is when something breaks down and they see us fixing it, but the bottom line is that without us, a lot of this base wouldn't be here," said Sgt. Garry Bowman, in charge of civil engineering.
"Not only have we put up tents, we've done a lot of projects to maintain a high quality of life and other projects to ensure the mission could continue."
They have put up more than 235 tents and assembled hundreds of bunk beds. Each tent has to be equipped with electricity and air conditioning before anyone moves in.
- The cousins. The AT&T Desert Fax service is a popular way for the people at home to keep in touch with the men and women of Operation Desert Shield. But a recent mixup in faxes allowed Air Force Technical Sgt. Jeff Dutcher of the 388th Equipment Maintenance Squadron to get in touch with his cousin, Sgt. Rob Dutcher in the Army's 82nd Airborne Supply.
The sergeants grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., and were the best of friends. But in the past nine years or so, they lost touch - until their grandmother sent both of them a Desert Fax. But through some technical glitch, the Army's Dutcher got both faxes at his station near the Saudi Arabia and Kuwait border.
He and an Air Force captain stationed with him were able to track down the 388th Dutcher and get a phone number for him. "After getting permission from his commander to take a two-day pass to come here," Kunich wrote, the cousins were reunited. The Army's Dutcher traveled 11 hours to visit his cousin at the air base.
- Desert dogs. Ringo, Herzog, Castar, Jackie, Ben and Duke, and their handlers are some of the newest arrivals at the base. They arrived from Minot and Grand Forks Air Force bases in North Dakota, and they provide ground defense.
The dogs patrol the entire base, along with their handlers, Staff Sgt. William McAdoo, Sgt. Timothy Lord, Senior Airmen Richard Stivers and Jeffrey Sursely, and Airmen 1st Class Charlene Walsh and Tammy Laird.
"All of our dogs are trained to go for the arm, but if need be, they'll attack any part of the body, and they can easily knock a grown person to the ground," said McAdoo. "They'll attack on our command or if they sense we're in danger."
- Laundry. A handful of American servicemen and women had to wash, dry and fold clothes for an average of 260 people a day shortly after the deployment. Since the beginning of September, that has amounted to 50,000 pounds.
Business has quieted a bit, said Staff Sgt. Jerry Huskinson, in charge of the laundry. Now that washing machines and dryers have been installed in the living areas, the workload has decreased for the laundry crew. They're down to 40 customers a day, plus all the base's laundry.
Huskinson added, "War might be hell, but without us, it would smell, too."
- The centers. In the building that houses the Survival Recovery Center and Wing Operations Center at the base, work goes on all night. These are "the nerve centers of the entire base," said Maj. Jenny Artery, the Survival Recovery Center's director.
"Together, we're the command and control center for all flying and combat support operations. Every agency we need to keep the wing flying is represented here."
The centers have different missions but work together because their jobs interact. "The main job of the SRC is to make sure this base can still operate and generate sorties before, during and after an attack," Artery said.
Lt. Col. Bruce Allen, director of the Wing Operations Center, said his outfit relays the orders from headquarters and allocates blocks of missions to each squadron.
Allen said his outfit's main mission is to make sure that the base's missions continue without glitches. But he added, "If there were an attack against our base, we'd work closely with the SRC to know the first moment we could begin launching combat sorties.
"That way we could keep so much fire power on the bad guy that the hospital has no more business than they have now."