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Notes from military stationed near Iraq

ABOARD THE USS HARRY S. TRUMAN—While this aircraft carrier is one of the biggest ships in the Navy, it can't carry enough supplies to keep its crew of 5,500 fed for more than a few weeks.

So once every week to 10 days or so, it gets some more. The supply ship Spica drew up with 160 tons of food, parts and other supplies for the carrier this weekend.

A helicopter lifted off from the stern of the Spica, hooked onto a cargo net full of pallets and lifted them to the flight deck of the Truman. A hook on a taut cable strung between the two ships ferried more pallets one deck below on the carrier.

The Truman's crew gulps down 2,500 gallons of milk a week and eats 2,500 pounds of hamburger and 3,000 pounds of chicken. It costs about $51,000 a day to feed them.

"If we run out of food, we're in trouble," said Master Chief David Graef, 42, of Norfolk, Va. The ship's top officers get a daily accounting of how much food is on board.

When the loading was complete, the crews reversed course and unloaded trash, recycling materials and hundreds of aircraft wheels, which will be retreated, from the Truman to the Spica.

Two hours after the process began, the Spica pulled away and the Truman's sound system blared the "The Lone Ranger" theme song: To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump.

Sandy Bauers, The Philadelphia Inquirer


CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait—Things have gotten so bad at the Army's Camp Virginia near the Iraqi border that soldiers here, 80 miles farther south, are making "care packages" to send up.

"We've got it really good here. They've got it bad there. So we're trying to help out," said Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Davis, a supply tracker at Arifjan.

Davis went shopping at Arifjan's PX Saturday morning—after he worked out at the fitness center, showered and shaved in a sparkling white trailer and dropped by the donut shop for glazed donuts and coffee.

Camp Virginia was built for 6,000 soldiers who are part of the Army's V Corps combat support team. But for several weeks it's been home to 9,000. Shortages of food, water and contract-cleaning teams last week led to a run on snacks and hygiene products.

While things at the camp are improving—soldiers cleaned latrines and huge water tankers arrived—the PX is still practically empty.

After Davis bought the supplies, he walked past Burger King, Subway, Baskin-Robbins, the laundry, the tailor and the barber shop to his office, where he boxed the items to be sent to Camp Virginia.

Meg Laughlin, The Miami Herald


CAMP BETIO, Kuwait—By mid-January, Sgt. Danny Young had his future in order.

He'd finish courses for his business degree from the University of Oregon on March 21. He'd just agreed to a job with Cintas, a nationwide company, for a management training position that he was excited about. His Marine Corp reserve status had even helped him to save a little money, enough to buy a car or set up a house for his new life.

Then, he was called to duty. He left classes and the green of Oregon for daily drills and the light brown sands of Kuwait, to join with the 7th Engineering Support Battalion. Instead of looking forward to graduation, he's wondering if he'll be part of a war.

"Hey, you can't sign up for the Marines and expect to spend all your time drilling in the reserves," he says. "I'm proud to do my duty, so no regrets. But I was a month away."

He hopes to be back in school next autumn and to some day work for Cintas. But these days, he's just dreaming about getting home.

"If I get back soon enough, this summer, I'm going to take a motorcycle trip with my Dad," he says. "In my dream, my brother gets enough time off to go with us, and Mom and my little sister follow in a car, and we see the country, from coast to coast."

Matthew Schofield, The Kansas City Star


ASH SHUBAIYA PORT, Kuwait—Think of it as an Army of everyone for himself.

Ship after mammoth ship steams into port here, stuffed from weather deck to bowels with trucks and guns and helicopters. When the goods are brought off, harried liaison officers go to work.

In the rush, vehicles that should be driven off ships are dragged or pushed instead. Once in a while gear arrives but soldiers are late to pick it up. And that's when the shopping begins.

"See how this guy's brush guard is down?" asks Army Lt. Jeff Souter, pointing to a forlorn-looking Humvee with its grill tilted forward. "Probably means somebody got into the engine."

Mighty trucks roll through the shipyard, rims digging into their flattened tires. Whole acres of vehicles sit abandoned, stripped of more parts each day while they wait for units to pick them up.

In two days recently, 6,000 pieces, ranging from tanks to shipping containers, were yanked off ships and parked nearby. Only when the units that need them could get trucks, drivers and escorts would they move to the desert encampments spread across Kuwait.

And what about the people who turn up and find their trucks cannibalized by some unit that happened by first? "I tell them you should have come down here sooner," said Capt. Ruth Solivan-Ortiz, a reservist overseeing a fleet of trucks that helps move supplies.

Scott Canon, The Kansas City Star


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTO (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ+NOTES