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United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates - June 2001

Captain Edward Caricato


[Editor's Note:  Capt. Caricato wrote the following letter during a six month deployment aboard the USS Boxer (similar to a miniature aircraft carrier).  He was the Executive Officer for a Marine field artillery battery.  Prior to the United Arab Emirates, they had been to Kuwait.]

Once again I am writing you from the Persian Gulf. We took about a week to steam from the Red Sea, through the Indian Ocean around the Arabian Peninsula and back into the gulf. We enjoyed ourselves so much last time that it made all the sense in the world to return. Despite all the excitement during our departure from Jordan last month, we haven't heard anything else from "Uncle Osama" (Bin Laden). As a result we were able to pull back into Jebel Ali, U.A.E. again.

Our second stay in Jebel Ali lasted about 4 days but we were unable to take any liberty away from the pier. Fortunately, the port has a recreation area nicknamed the "sandbox". It is a big covered courtyard surrounded by little gift and food shops. The ship also provided music and cheap beer. Is there any other kind????? Despite all these amenities the oppressing temperatures sometimes got in the way of relaxation.

The water in the harbor was about 90 degrees and too hot to cool off the ship's boilers which power our air conditioning. As you can imagine it does not take very long for spaces inside a metal box floating in 90-degree water, surrounded by 110-degree air to start cooking. It was hot so it left us with no other options than to accept profuse sweating as a fact of life and enjoy our Heinekens on ice. All things considered it was good to spend some time off the ship especially considering the last time I did that was in May.

We are just about at the 4-month point and people are beginning to really count the days. I normally try to avoid doing this because I think it makes time go by slower but we broke the 10 week mark last week and 9 weeks is no time at all in my book. It is very strange because days seem to take forever but weeks really melt away. It helps that I try to keep the mood as light as possible. That is pretty important when you have about 100 19-22 year old guys who have been locked up for over a month doing nothing but workout and wish they were home. I can't remember if I already mentioned this but I have adopted a new "mantra" that helps out; "I am on a cruise, they are on deployment". Allow me to give you an example:

While in Jebel Ali we had to wash down all our vehicles down in the well-deck which is like a big open parking lot that opens up to the water and can be flooded so boats can pull into the back of the ship. Most of the other units that had to do this were a little disappointed (even though they do not have half the amount of vehicles we do) because they would rather be out in the sandbox. I guess my mantra has permeated my Marines because they show up in the well deck with cut-offs, surf-trunks and flip-flops. You would have thought it was a day at the beach. To them it really was. Unfortunately, the MEU Commander and Sergeant Major stopped by to see how things were going and did not share my opinion. Luckily we were finishing up so it was no real big deal (at least to me).

My Marines are really doing incredible. They have only had a total of 5 days of liberty since leaving in March and they continue to do whatever it takes to get the job done right. It would not surprise me at all if discipline problems became an issue in this environment and it has for some units. However1 my guys are hanging in there. The ironic thing is that we have Marines that I considered problem children back in California; that 10% that we spent 90% of our time on. Out here those guys have tended to be the stellar performers. I just hope they keep it up once we get back.

Well, our plans for the intermediate future are still very unclear. For the time being we are just floating around out here. Things are looking up though because at least now, the bow of the ship is pointed towards San Diego.

[Continued:  Click on Countries - Saudi Arabia]

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