NORTHERN KUWAIT—Sleeping in a desert camp, with an Army tank unit, requires flexibility.
One night, my bed consisted of two bales of unopened mechanic's rags.
I had stayed up late, struggling to transmit my first story from overseas via a quirky satellite phone. I could have slept on a cot, as many of the soldiers did that night. But it was dark, and I was tired and didn't know where to find a cot.
As I walked out into the center of the camp between the tanks and support vehicles of 1st Battalion, 13th Armor, I saw the Bravo Company commander, Capt. Jason Pape, lying on two big white squares. They came from a mound of rag bales, part of the stacks of supplies the tank unit will take as it heads north to Iraq.
Pape had pulled two bales together. He told me they made a fairly comfortable makeshift bed.
I aligned two bales and placed a cardboard box at the end to rest my dangling feet.
I couldn't get the bales level. But I was exhausted after about 24 hours without sleep, and I told myself: If the captain could endure it, so could I.
The next night, I secured a cot early and positioned it where I wouldn't be struck by a vehicle in the dark. It was a luxurious improvement.
Because it was still very warm outside, I thought I wouldn't need a sleeping bag.
But the desert fooled me.
After a few hours of sleep, I awoke, feeling chilled. The temperature must have been in the 70s, but the wind blew so strongly and continually that it made me feel cold. I put a winter Army jacket over my long-sleeved cotton shirt and pants but still felt cold.
I turned my back to the wind, but it cut through the jacket.
From now on, I'll set up a windbreak before I lie down. In the desert, you have to adapt.
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.