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Posted on Sep 3, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Letters From Iraq 2: Devils, Dogs, and Dub Dub Lizards

By Russ Vaughn

Everyone,

For those of you that have lived in Western Kansas, Oklahoma, Eastern Colorado, or the Texas Panhandle, you know what a dust devil is. As a kid we used to seek them out and launch our paper airplanes or balsa gliders into them to see how high and far they would go. The dust devils rarely exceed 10ft in diameter. Here I have a new appreciation for them and their size. The average base on one here is over 10ft. I have seen some as large a 50 ft in diameter stretching several hundreds of feet in to the air. Some move across the land slowly. If you are unfortunate enough to get caught in one, you are immersed in fine dust that fills every open space in your uniform, nostrils, ears, eyes, and mouth when you gasp for breath. It is almost like being dunked in a pool. A lot of us have acquired an intermittent hacking cough.

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Hydration is one of the finer skills you learn. Some days balancing water intake and electrolyte loss is a delicate thing. The Army prefers us to drink more Gatorade than water. The rational for this is the high mineral content of our water. Drinking too much water the body fails to process all of the minerals it is receiving. The mineral build up leads to a very unpleasant medical phenomenon; kidney stones! Cool beans, huh.

The wild dogs that live on post are becoming a nuisance. One in particular has been roaming here for two years and has begun to lose her sense of fear. In fact, she trapped two soldiers in one of the towers the other night. The one young female sergeant could not get to the port a potty because the dog would challenge her. The soldiers were armed but not allowed to shoot the dogs with their M-16s. (It’s a range issue). So the Army called us out to the site to shoot them with our 9mm pistols, (safer to use in tight areas). TSGT (Smith) and SRA (Jones) arrived on scene first. The animals had beaten a hasty retreat into the darkness. We have to get permission to shoot them if we see them again. Oh well.

Blast1.jpg

blast5.jpg
These are from a controlled blast we did outside the wire and a few klicks into indian country a few days ago. It was around 400 lbs of explosive, 4 AT4 rockets, and a number of captured weapons.

Continuing with animals and other things that go bump in the night…… I am not sure but I think I told some of you about the dub dub lizard. At the risk of being redundant, here it goes again. We had a call to go out to a point on the perimeter to meet up with the BRF (Base Reaction Force). The mission was to search for an impact crater. SGT Crouch from the BRF and I talked about the area assigned to us. We both had heard the blast and felt that it was off the base and a controlled detonation instead of a rocket or mortar shell explosion. We searched our sector didn’t find a thing. All of a sudden the turret gunner in the BRF vehicle flies out of his turret and runs hell bent for leather away from his truck. I finally notice what he is chasing, a lizard that is more than 3 foot long. The chase continued around an old ammo bunker. A few minutes later a triumphant specialist returns carrying a very hostile trophy. The lizard had a big mouth, long sharp claws, and kept trying to slap the soldier with his long tail. They called it a dub dub lizard. Dub dub is not its real name however and I have yet to learn what they would call it in the zoo. The reason soldiers call them dub dub’s is because of the sound they make when you run over in a HUMMV; “DUB DUB.

Finally saw a camel spider, roughly 8 inches in diameter. Keep in mind this is considered small. Some guy had a smaller one in an ammo can and fed it Ritz crackers. The little fur ball snapped the cracker to pieces in it very long sharp fangs. Very cool.

No scorpions yet. At least not live ones. Lots of foxes and big eyed rodents rule the night here. We catch glimpses of them in the head lights occasionally. It is easier to view them with the night vision goggles. The amount of life around here is amazing.

We have had two days with wisps of clouds. You could count all of the clouds on one hand. The last rain was in April. October is the traditional start of the raining season. Last year it didn’t start until January, the normal height of the rainy season. The area floods a lot with very little rain. The ground does not absorb the moisture and so run off is an issue. The dusty areas be come slime pits that stick vehicles. Strangely the deep dust areas when dry also develop a mud like suction on your boots. Basically we have very blue sky on low wind days or very dirty off white skies during high wind periods.

My Army buddies with the BRF have a garden. The corn is eight foot tall, the water melon looks good, and they have okra. The ground, though hard, is very fertile. Diversion on your time off is a good thing and these guys are very constructive with theirs.

We have duty soon. There is so much more to write about but it will have to wait until later.

Take Care,

Russ

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