We were ready to get in the game after so much training. We went through training courses that emphasized individual marksmanship; nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) protection; minefield and obstacle breaching operations; desert survival and navigation; and orientation lectures on Southwest Asia and Iraqi army organization and equipment. It was time to leave and put this training into action.
Sometime prior to leaving Camp Lejeune, there was a special ceremony. Elements of the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, 2nd Force Service Support Group, and 2nd SRIG, all commanded by Lieutenant General Carl E. Mundy, Jr., commanding general of II MEF, formed up on W.P.T. Hill Field. More than 24,000 Marines and sailors, active-duty regulars and mobilized Reservists, stood in formation for the largest review in memory at Camp Lejeune. After an address and review by General Alfred M. Gray, Jr., the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Mundy ordered the assembled commanders to "deploy your Marines to Southwest Asia." Many Marines in that formation marched off the field and onto waiting transportation which carried them to Cherry Point for their flight to Saudi Arabia. Among them was a young marine I came to be friends with, Lance Corporal Lang. He was attached to Company B of the 4th Light Armored Infantry Battalion. I'll be talking more about him when we make our way into Kuwait City. Meanwhile, the rest of us began to take our place as part of I MEF on the 27th.
I honestly don't think we even tried getting any sleep Wednesday night since our buses were due to arrive late that night. Besides, who could sleep? Based on the time that I'm writing letters on the plane, I would say it had to be around 12 AM EST if not earlier that we left on the buses. From there we said goodbye to Camp Lejeune and went to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, which was about an hour drive. I'm estimating this arrival to be around 1 AM putting us wheels up around 2 AM after loading our luggage and getting on board.
From Cherry Point we flew to Newark, New Jersey, another two hours. It's not easy getting sleep on an airplane, but I managed to sleep for most of the flight. We would have landed at Newark around 4 AM if my calculations are correct. We couldn't get off the plane but we could get up and walk around to stretch our legs a bit. We had a two hour layover for refueling and restocking supplies and it seemed to take forever. This really stunk too because we were about to spend the next seven hours on this plane for the flight to London. Without getting off, that was a total 11 hours on the same plane from Cherry point to London when including the layover time. We would have taken off right around 6 AM to head to London.
We landed in London where there would be another layover. I don't know which airport but we would have landed around 1 PM, possibly earlier. Based on the letters I wrote home, we had to have taken off for Saudi Arabia some time around 2 PM. In a letter I wrote at "4 PM Dallas time" as I put it in the letters, the pilot announced we were about to fly over Egypt, which would have been about 5 PM on my watch. It was during this last flight to Saudi Arabia that I began writing these letters, notating the time and date as I typically did with all of the others. Looking back, I am very glad I did that as it would have otherwise been very difficult for me to put everything in a proper timeline. I don't have all of those letters but I have two, one written at "3:45 Dallas time" and the other 4 PM, or 4:45 PM and 5 PM EST.
In both of the letters I wrote, I mentioned the different stops. At London, we were allowed to get off the plane, but not very far at all. In fact, we were kept from going past the airport police that were in the passenger boarding bridge that extends from the terminal to the plane. Here I took a picture of two London Airport Police Officers. I mentioned in one of the letters, "They all talk funny." I went on to say, "I was wishing I had my tape recorder with me so I could record a conversation with them."
The layover in London was only one hour I believe so we would have been back on the plane and wheels up by 2 PM EST, I started writing letters, one after another. I mentioned seeing numerous on board movies, but didn't mention the name of any. I wrote, "We're watching a movie right now. I can't remember the name of it. It's our fourth one and there's one more to go."
I mentioned the weather being stormy outside. At some point I mentioned that the captain announced we were about to fly over Egypt. I had a seat in the middle aisle so I couldn't see anything. I eventually got up to stretch my legs as did several guys throughout the flight. I went to the front of the plane to try to catch a glimpse of the cockpit. To my surprise, they asked me if I wanted to see the inside of it. Not only did I see the inside, but one of them, a navigator maybe, let me sit in his seat with his headphones on while he took a picture of me.
It was a cool experience. I'm sure they were wanting to do everything they could to make us happy knowing that we were leaving our home land and our families. I actually enjoy flying. However, this was an extremely long time to be on a single airplane. I believe we landed in Saudi Arabia about 8 PM EST since I mentioned in a letter that the trip from London to Saudi was 6 hours. With the time change, it would have been about 4 AM there. One letter I wrote said it was 3:30 am and another said 4:30 am. So we'll just say about 4 am. They are 8 hours ahead of the eastern coast. It would now be Friday, December 28, 1990. I don't know what airport or base we flew into, but I was about to spend my first day in a country that was very, very different from my own. We're a long ways from home now.
“Lord, I feel so small sometimes in this great big old world. Yeah, I know there are more important things. But don't forget to remember me.”