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The Lost Night in Kuwait: When My Arab Driver Took a Detour Into the Desert

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We keep on driving, and I ask, “Where the fuck are we going?” With a smile and laugh Ali replies, “It’s just up here, buddy.” Being paranoid, I lock and load my M16. I figure worse comes to worse, I’ll smoke him and find my way back.

by Greg Chabot

One thing I liked about the desert was nighttime. There was little light pollution, and you could
see all the stars very clearly. I’d find a quiet spot and lay there for hours staring at the stars in my
thoughts. It was very peaceful and quiet, and it was nice to get away from others.

I drew the lucky card and got picked for guard duty one night. I reported to the main gate with my rifle. The sergeant assigned me to escort water trucks around the camp so they could fill the showers up.
All I had to do was keep the driver from “wandering” into the female latrines. Sadly, we weren’t
allowed to smoke them, just monkey stomp them and call the MPs. The drivers knew where to
go, so I was along for the ride. It was cake duty. When the truck was empty it would stop at the
gate, and I would hop in another truck.

READ MORE from Greg Chabot: Inside the Circle of Death, We Got Hit by an IED, and Garrison Bullshit From ‘Old Stinkeye’

I end up in this Scania tanker truck with a guy I’ll call “Ali.” He was from Afghanistan and
spoke decent English. We chatted about the truck and life in Kuwait as we drove around the
camp filling water tanks. We end up in a part of the camp I’ve never been to as he empties his
truck.

As we are driving, he heads for a different gate, and I ask him what’s up. He explains he tops off just outside the gate and it is a faster turnaround time. Like a complete idiot, I believe him as we are waved through the gate.

We keep on driving, and I ask, “Where the fuck are we going?”

With a smile and laugh he replies, “It’s just up here, buddy.”

Being paranoid, I lock and load my M16. I figure worse comes to worse I’ll smoke him and find my way back.

I noticed some vehicle lights ahead and a small fire burning off the road.

Ali says, “See we fill up and meet my friends.”

I just nod my head as we pull off and park with a bunch of other tankers and cargo trucks. I climb out of the truck and find myself in an impromptu truck stop in the middle of the desert. I see Ali talk to a kid who starts filling his truck with fuel from a jerry can.

I notice there is no water fillup.

Ali says, “We hang here then go to Kuwait City for water.”

I’m fucking livid, knowing I could be in deep shit and haven’t even got to Iraq yet. Hey, I might as
well make the best of the situation, I say to myself.

I stick to Ali like glue as he walks around chatting with other drivers. The smell of oil, diesel
exhaust and cooking permeate the air. I smile and shake hands, accepting a cigarette and sit down
on blankets around the fire.

I’m offered food and chai. Knowing that I will regret this later, I chow down, being careful not to use my left hand as lefties are considered evil in Arab culture.

The meat was goat or lamb and very tasty with whatever spices they used. The rice and veggies
were also scrumptious. We exchanged small talk while eating and I told them about the mountains and lakes of New Hampshire. I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of their families, as they told me how many sons they have. I was still paranoid as fuck and was putting up a good front of being relaxed.

In case you are wondering: yes, I had a plan to kill everyone.

An older Arab breaks out a Hookah. Not wanting to be rude, I partake. It was my first time trying one
and I wasn’t disappointed. The strong pleasant-smelling tobacco gave me a slight buzz after I
hacked up a lung. I end up watching some of the guys play backgammon and bets are being
placed. I get invited to play; I haven’t played since I was a kid.

Ali coaches me after borrowing $20 USD, and I’m getting lucky with my dice rolls. I end up winning a few games and I’m having a good time with a bunch of Arab truckers in the desert that I was prepared to kill if things went south. I wondered if this is how the caravans of ancient times were like.

I lost track of time, as I didn’t have a watch. Ali eventually excuses us from the game, and we say our
goodbyes and we are off to Kuwait City. In the truck he hands me a wad of Kuwaiti Dinars that
were my cut of the backgammon winnings I’m pretty sure he shorted me. The rest of the night
went smoothly with us filling up with water and heading back.

Now the hard part, getting back into camp. Ali rolls up to the VCP (Vehicle Control Point). A
soldier asks if I had been with the vehicle the whole time.

I told him yes, that we had gone around the perimeter to make better time. We are waved through, and I say my goodbyes and report to the sergeant in charge. He gives me an odd look as the guard shift had changed hours ago. I bullshit him about the truck having problems.

He says it’s not a big deal and he asks me to escort the Green Bean Coffee manager to his coffee shack and I’m done. Green Bean coffee was a staple on FOBs, and the line was always long, as it was the central hub for gossip.

I said hi to the manager and hopped into his Land Cruiser.

We get to the shack. Being a nice guy, I help him carry everything inside.

As we are finishing up, I hear, “Chabot! Where have you been? I have people looking for you!” My platoon sergeant asks angrily.

The Green Bean manager tells him I was assigned to escort him. And I gave him the truck shit the bed story and I couldn’t just leave a foreign national alone in the camp.

He nods his understanding and tells me to get some sleep and I’m excused from duty for the day. The
manager hooks us up with a couple of coffees before he opens. I get back to the tent and the guys
are looking at me funny as I clear my weapon. I give them my bullshit story, and rack out for the
day.

In case you are wondering, the local cuisine passed through just fine. I played dysentery roulette and won.

Greg Chabot served in Iraq 2004-2005. He is a freelance writer living in New Hampshire. He frequently contributes to Soldier of Fortune.

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