Army Maj. Gen. James W. Wurman may have spotted some familiar faces on network television news, as Kuwaiti freedom fighters re-entered their country last week: His drill instructors at Fort Dix, N.J., trained many of them.
Wurman, commanding general of the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Dix, was at the defense depot near Ogden's 12th Street Saturday to meet with new soldiers who recently enlisted in the Army's Delayed Entry Program. More than 200 new soldiers and their guests were present.Wurman's command at Fort Dix was responsible for the training of about 600 volunteers for the Kuwaiti military. They ranged in age from 21 to 45, and most were students attending universities in the United States. But there also were doctors, lawyers and businessmen, and some lived in Egypt or England before the war.
The volunteers had only 10 days' training at most. Some got only three. The first group left Fort Dix for the front on Jan. 16, just before Desert Storm broke. The second group left Feb. 26, probably too late to get in on much fighting.
Asked how the volunteers did, he responded, "Dynamite. They're being used as interpreters and translators."
He described a Kuwaiti soldier as "about 220 volts, and you couldn't find the plug to plug anything in - that's how motivated they were. Extremely motivated . . . All of them had a reason to be there."
They knew about the atrocities. One of them had a sister who was a nurse, seven months pregnant. She was "raped by the Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait City."
Contrary to most young men starting out in the U.S. Army, the first thing the Kuwaitis wanted was a short haircut. They wanted to look like American soldiers.
The second, and last, group had nine women. They were "the first women in the Kuwaiti army . . . They wanted to go, and Kuwait is probably a little more advanced in the Western ways than some of the Arab countries."
The young women were excited about getting to do things that Arab women rarely experience, such as firing their M-16 rifles.
Many Kuwaitis demanded the chance to return and fight for their country, but the screening was tough, and not everybody was allowed to join. Those who were were trained by regular American drill sergeants at Fort Dix.
The main effort of the one-shot training program was to help the Kuwaiti volunteers defend themselves. The program was accelerated, touching only the basics. "We swore them in one day, and the next day they were being trained at Fort Dix. None of them had been in the army before," Wurman said.
He gave a special instruction to the sergeants: "not to holler at them."
The young men and women were so pumped-up with enthusiasm that they were great students. When they went into the booths where gas masks were tested, they knew why.
Wurman was touched "to see the bonds, the friendships, that developed between my grizzled drill sergeants (and) these young soldiers," he said. One event that doesn't usually happen when American soldiers graduate from basic training was the Muslim custom of hugging and brushing cheeks. "There was a lot of that going on after 10 days, with drill sergeants," he said.
Did these tough old drill sergeants ever doubt the Kuwaitis' ability to perform? "No, never. Not one question," he said.
The Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, Saud Nasir al-Sabah, called Wurman several times about the young troops' progress. Also, Wurman said, "I shook hands with every soldier as he got on the airplane . . .
"They said, `General, don't worry about anything. We're ready and we'll do it.' "