Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Postcards from the Edge of Iraq

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Postcards from the Edge of Iraq

Article excerpt

Women at the front share their experiences before the start of the war

Women have long covered wars, from Rebecca West and Nellie Bly, through Martha Gellhorn and Margaret Bourke-White, to Gloria Emerson in Vietnam. But no war in American history has seen as many women with the troops -- and on the flight decks -- as the current attack on Iraq. Among the hundreds of "embedded" journalists in the war zone are a large number of female reporters and photographers from the U.S. press. Among them are two Associated Press reporters who are with units at the front lines of the invasion. Before the battle began, they filed vignettes of their personal experiences in the desert.

Kimberly Hefling

With the Army's 101st Airborne Division at Camp New Jersey, Kuwait:

Imagine setting up a tent in your backyard sandbox, placing blowing fans on each side of it, and then moving in to live and work in the sea of dust. That's what it's like here in the desert of Kuwait. Only you are not alone. Not ever. And you don't have the luxury to go inside for indoor plumbing or long, hot showers.

I share a tent with 20 field-savvy female soldiers who have taught me tricks of the trade, like don't turn your laundry in at the free laundry-service tent. (I unfortunately didn't follow their advice, and now most of my clothes are missing.)

They've maintained their sense of humor in the Army even after enduring many encounters like the one I had my first morning here after I stayed in the trailer housing the showers a minute past 6:30 a.m. -- the end of the early-morning women's shower hour. "It's 6:30," a male soldier barked at me after banging on the door. I stepped outside carrying my towel and soap to find 20 soldiers in line staring at me with toothbrushes in hand.

After two weeks here, however, things have become rather routine -- you get up when the sun comes up and go to bed when it goes down. I no longer get embarrassed to walk with a roll of toilet paper to the latrine or think twice about grabbing my required gas mask to strap on each time I leave my tent.

We're allowed to shower every three days, and most of the time the water is hot. We also have two hot meals a day, with scrambled eggs and bacon in the morning and an entrEe of chicken and steamed broccoli at night -- not to mention ice-cream bars at every meal. …

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