Magazine article Newsweek

The Sand and the Fury: With the 3-7 Infantry Batallion

Magazine article Newsweek

The Sand and the Fury: With the 3-7 Infantry Batallion

Article excerpt

Byline: Arian Campo-Flores

Last Wednesday at around 3 p.m., in a patch of Iraqi desert where the 3-7 Infantry Battalion is camped, the wind whipped into a frenzy and the air began to glow a seemingly radioactive red. Tents strained against their poles, and any loose object fired away like a projectile. Minutes later the sky turned dark and we were fully enveloped in dust. Then thunder cracked the sky and it began to rain mud, as moisture in the air gathered particles on its way to earth. It was the worst sandstorm I've yet experienced here--a three-day tour de force that battered the soldiers' morale as much as their equipment.

Despite the conditions, our unit had to embark on a mission to clear a militia compound that night. Before leaving, soldiers lined up for a hot meal--their first since the war started--and ended up eating ham and rice suffused with sand. Others scrambled to tie down equipment and shroud electronics tightly in plastic. For some, simply walking 100 feet to an adjacent squad required using a Global Positioning System. Those attempting to defecate in the field had to contend with dust surging at their backsides-- and toilet paper being yanked from their hands by the howling wind.

When our Bradley fighting vehicle set off, visibility was practically zero. Through his night sight, Pfc. Giovanni Garcia, the driver, could only see a fuzzy, swirling mass and two lonely dots: the taillights of the vehicle in front of him, his only navigational reference along precarious terrain. A Bradley he trailed behind at one point threw him into a panic; only one of its taillights was working and Garcia couldn't tell if it was the right or left one. The difference mattered: drivers ride in each other's tracks to avoid potential mines and other hazards (one Bradley last week plunged into a deep crevice, killing one soldier and injuring another). …

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