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Operation Iraqi Freedom: Pictures from Kuwait In 2003

It is hard to believe, but this month it has been 10 years since the start of the Iraq War.  I served during the war and it is an experience that I can remember as if it just happened last year instead of 10 years ago.  It makes me wonder if veterans who served in World War II and other wars remember their experiences the same way as well?  Anyway I figured I would share with people the pictures I took during this time period.  Back then I was not into taking pictures like I am now and only had a very basic digital camera that I owned.  However, since the desert environment was so tough on electronics most of the pictures I took were using disposable cameras.  I wish I had the Canon PowerShot D10 12.1 MP Camera that I own now to take pictures with.  That camera is almost indestructible and takes great pictures.

Regardless I was able to take some pictures though I wish I would have taken more.  The first pictures I took were of Kuwait which was where the vast majority of the US military units involved in the invasion were based out of.  The first picture I took was from the chartered Delta Airlines plane we flew on as it flew over Kuwait City to land at Ali Al Salem Airbase:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

This airbase was located in the desert outside of Kuwait City:


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Since I served with the 4th Infantry Division we got rerouted from our planned invasion route from Turkey to Kuwait due to the Turkish parliament deciding to not allow the US military to use their territory to invade Iraq from.  Because of this decision we had to take our boats that had arrived in Turkey with all of our equipment and move through the Suez Canal to Kuwait.  This caused the 4th ID to be late for the initial start of the invasion.  It also caused the charter plane we were in to land in the middle of a shooting war.  The Iraqis were firing SCUD missiles into Kuwait during the time period of our landing.  So when we landed we wore our chemical suits and masks.  Even the civilian flight attendants wore chemical masks.  As soon as we landed we downloaded our bags as quickly as possible and ran off of the tarmac to a secure location so the plane could take off as quickly as possible.  I have never exited an airplane that fast before.  We must of had everyone off that plane with all the bags in the cargo hold downloaded in less than 20 minutes.  Keep in mind we were clearing the cargo hold in chemical suits in the Kuwaiti heat.  We were absolutely dripping in sweat from the work, but we got the bags out of the hold quickly and the plane back in the air safely.

From there we had to go over to the port to get our equipment downloaded from the boats.  The below pictures shows guys from my unit hanging out at the port behind a berm that is used as protection against SCUD missile attacks:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

After downloading our equipment at the port we drove all of our vehicles and Bradley tanks to Camp New Jersey which was located out in the middle of the desert.  The camp was basically a bunch of circus tents with vehicles parked every where waiting to move over the Iraqi border.  The circus tent my unit was given was barely enough to fit everyone in.  This is how guys slept while in Kuwait:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

Due to how cramped it was in the tents those of us who were assigned to a Bradley decided to go sleep inside the Bradleys in order to free up space for the rest of the unit in the tent.  Here is our Bradleys parked outside the tent:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

During a sandstorm like the one pictured above we would sleep inside the Bradleys, but usually I would just sleep outside on top of the engine in front of the Bradley inside my sleeping bag.  Here is a picture of my crew that manned the Bradley we named the “Camel Tow”:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

For those that do not know the launcher pictured above is what houses the Bradley’s anti-tank TOW missile.  This next picture shows the Patriot missile battery that was located at Camp New Jersey that protected us from SCUD missile attacks:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

During a SCUD attack we would run to one of these bunkers just in case the Patriot battery was not able to shoot down the incoming missile:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

For those not near a bunker they could hide behind one of these barriers that were even labeled to show which side of the barrier to hide on:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

Fortunately for us the Patriot battery never allowed a SCUD to impact on the camp.  This next picture shows the size of the bugs that seemed to be crawling all over the place in the desert:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

I actually woke up one night with one of these bugs crawling on my face.  It was not a pleasant experience.  Here is a picture of how we did our laundry:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

We would take one large plastic bowl that had water and soap in it to clean the clothes with the best we could.  Then we would have another bowl with regular water to rinse the soap off with.  Next we would tie a rope between two Bradleys and let the clothes dry on it.  It was very crude, but it was the best we could do with what we had to work with.  Also the yellow water cooler pictured above, that was our shower.  We would place it on the side of the Bradley and people would stand underneath it to clean themselves.

Here is a picture of us downloading our ammo truck to begin uploading the ammunition into our Bradleys:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

This is a picture of the 25 millimeter rounds that are fired from the Bradley’s Bushmaster Cannon:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

Some of the rounds we had were Depleted Uranium or DU rounds.  There was some concern about being around the DU rounds and to show that they were safe one of the senior members of our unit decided to lick the DU to show they would not kill you:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

Here is a picture of the Stinger missiles that we stored inside of our Bradleys as well:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

The guys in my unit that were not Bradley crew members such as mechanics, communications personnel, medics, etc. had to drive Humvees into war.  Back then very few units had armored Humvees and mostly everyone had light skinned vehicles.  So to improvise these soldiers created what became known as “Hillbilly Armor”.  For example this Humvee has a grenade launcher mounted to the vehicle with an adhoc mount that was welded to the floor:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

Then there was a folding chair that the gunner sat on in the back that was welded to the floor.  Then on the side empty ammo cans were mounted and filled with sand to provide some armored protection for the gunner.  Other people also used duffel bags that they filled with sand to hang off the side of the vehicle to protect themselves with.  Looking back it is pretty pathetic what guys had to do back then to protect themselves compared to now where just about everyone rides in an armored vehicle of some kind while deployed.

We spent four days in Kuwait before we had to cross the border into Iraq.  The day before we had to cross into Iraq to officially take part in the war, we decided to blow off some steam by holding the Camp New Jersey Olympics.  We set up different events for soldiers to test their strength in.  For example this is a sprocket for a Bradley that we were using as a shot put to see who could throw it the furthest:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

We used a shackle from the Bradley for the horseshoe competition:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

We even had water bottles set up as bowling pins to be knocked down by rolling a big rock we found:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

The Camp New Jersey Olympics gave everybody a good laugh one last time before things got serious the next day when we had to move into Iraq.  The next morning we began our movement into Iraq by first traveling up Highway 80 which is more infamously known as the “Highway of Death” from the first gulf war:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

This highway would take us right to the Iraqi border.  I just found it amazing how this highway was once used by the Iraqis to invade Kuwait and now here we were using the same highway to invade Iraq.  This next picture shows a flock of sheep hanging out by the highway:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

Most Kuwaitis are super rich, but they like to maintain connections to their Bedouin past and thus some of them have small herds of animals that they pay foreign nationals, usually Pakistanis to graze out in the desert.    This next picture shows an American outpost shortly before we reached the Iraqi border:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

Before reaching the border we then began to cut cross country across the desert to reach the breach point across the border.  As we approached the border one of the vehicles in our convoy reported being shot at.  Those of us in the Bradleys broke off to defend the convoy on each side of the road:

Picture from Kuwait 2003

We ended up spotting a civilian vehicle out in the desert that may have been the people shooting at the convoy.  However, since we could not positively identify if they were the shooters we could not shoot at them.  So they got away unscathed.  To this day I still wonder who those guys were that would be willing to take pot shots at a convoy with a bunch of Bradley tanks in it?  They were either really stupid or really brave.

From there we moved across the border which was designated by a big large sand berm.  Part of the sand berm had been dug out to create a road across the border.  Once we crossed past the berm we had officially entered the war.  Over the next series of postings I will publish pictures from my time in Iraq.  My intent is to show what it is like to be there and not get into the politics of the war which everyone has strong opinions about including myself.  Hopefully everyone reading this can get a better appreciation of what it was like on the ground from my recollections ten years later.  Please feel free to comment if anyone has any questions.

Next Posting: Helicopter Pictures of Southern Iraq

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