Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dust in the Wind...

Dust shrouds an armored security vehicle during a March 5 windstorm at the Besimaya Range Complex. Soldiers from A Co., 1/115th FA, 867th CSB were caught by surprise as the powder-fine sand found its way into everything.
Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Conner
15th SB, Public Affairs

Besimaya Range, Iraq – In the stillness, it’s as fine as talcum powder; clouding at the ankles with each foot-fall. Churned and driven by the wind, it becomes legion; stripping exposed skin of moisture and seamlessly working it way into everything: eyes, noses, clothing, weapons; anything in its path.

In a landscape almost void of trees or plants, here at Besimaya Range Complex, dust is king. Troops from Alpha Company, 1/115th Field Artillery, 867th Corps Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade got a taste, literally, of what nature has to offer.

Providing gun truck security to convoys delivering supplies and equipment to the desert outpost the night before, the Soldiers’ spent the night next to their vehicles.

“When we went to sleep around 5 a.m., it was nice and clear”, said Spc. David Geisman, a gunner from A, 1/115th. “By 8 a.m., everything was brown.”

With winds blowing around 20 miles per hour, and gusts closer to 30, visibility at times was limited to just inches. Waking up and finding everything he left out covered in a thick layer wasn’t exactly the best way to start the day.

“It’s your attitude that determines a lot; whether you’re going to deal with it”, mused the Hattiesburg, Miss. native while shaking out his uniform. “You just keep telling yourself you’ll get a shower in a few days.”

Apart from the discomfort of the sandblasting, the dust storm caused additional concern for the men. Their mission called for them to escort the same combat logistics patrol later that evening. Vehicles, weapons and electronics needed to be stripped down and cleaned before departing.

“Nothing's gonna go untouched by this”, said Spc. Brandon Melber, an armored security vehicle gunner from Clarkville, Tenn. “Still, it’s not as bad as 2003”; referring to the massive three day dust storm that halted coalition forces on the march to Baghdad.

With other unit members starting the futile task of shaking out embedded layers of earth while the wind still howled, Geisman maintained his positive attitude of mind over matter.

“You can’t let it drag you down. You gotta find other things to think about. I just remember that I’m not the only one; I’ve got all my friends around me …going through the same thing,” he said.

As the Soldiers passed around wet wipes to dig the dust out of eyes, noses and ears, Giesman said that at least the situation was a learning experience. With the high probability of visiting Besimaya in the future, troops will definitely be wrapping up and tying gear down a little better.

“Next time, I’m sleeping in a truck!” he grinned.

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