Jaber, we were told, is where we would catch our C-130 to Balad, Iraq. Like good soldiers, we arrived early and signed in with the operations’ desk. Then we took advantage of the fabled mess hall on the base. It was great. These air-force guys even had Häagen-Dazs ice-cream bars. With our bellies full to bursting, we took a walk to the bombed-out fighter bunkers.
Prior to the 1990 Iraqi invasion, the Kuwaitis had contracted with a French firm to construct these heavily reinforced concrete bunkers in, which they could park their fighter aircraft. When Iraq captured Jaber, they parked their own inside of them. At the onset of the U.S.-led liberation, our Air Force placed a single laser-guided smart bomb neatly through the top of each, devastating everything inside. Rumor has it that, after the war, the government of Kuwait attempted to sue the French contractor since their super-bunkers were basically worthless. Apparently, the French warranty didn’t cover U.S. weaponry.
We worked our way back to the operations tent and rested uneasily on the floor until an airman announced the cancellation of all flights into Iraq. Either he didn’t know the reason or wasn’t disposed to say. Immediately, we began discussing ideas for alternative transportation. Another officer overheard us and asked if she could go with us since she was trying to get back to her unit at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). So, the six of us loaded into our vehicle and drove to another base in Kuwait, from where we knew that a CH-47 Chinook unit operated frequent cargo lifts into Iraq. Somehow, we talked our way onto the next flight—destination Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq.