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Sustainment Unit Weathers Dust Storm at Iraq Range

By Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Conner, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BESIMAYA RANGE, Iraq, March 9, 2007 – In the stillness, it's as fine as talcum powder, clouding at the ankles with each footfall. Churned and driven by the wind, it strips exposed skin of moisture and seamlessly works its way into everything: eyes, noses, clothing, weapons -- anything in its path.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. David Geisman (left) and Spc. Chad Dunford do their best to shield themselves from blowing sand during a March 5 windstorm at Besimaya Range Complex in Iraq. The soldiers are assigned to both of Company A, 1/115th Field Artillery, 867th Corps Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Conner, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

In a landscape almost void of trees or plants, dust is king here at Besimaya Range Complex. Troops from Company A, 1st Battalion, 115th Field Artillery Regiment, 867th Corps Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, got a taste, literally, of what nature has to offer in the desert on March 5.

After providing gun truck security to convoys delivering supplies and equipment to the desert outpost the night before, the soldiers slept next to their vehicles.

"When we went to sleep around 5 a.m., it was nice and clear," Spec. David Geisman, a gunner with the unit, said. "By 8 a.m., everything was brown."

With winds blowing around 20 mph, and gusts closer to 30, visibility at times was limited to just inches. Waking up and finding everything he left out covered in a thick layer of dust wasn't exactly the best way to start the day, Geisman said.

"It's your attitude that determines a lot, whether you're going to deal with it," the Hattiesburg, Miss., native mused while shaking out his uniform. "You just keep telling yourself you'll get a shower in a few days."

Apart from the discomfort of the sandblasting, the dust storm caused additional concern for the men. Their mission called for them to escort the same combat logistics patrol later that evening. Vehicles, weapons and electronics needed to be stripped down and cleaned before departing.

"Nothing’s gonna go untouched by this," Spc. Brandon Melber, an armored security vehicle gunner from Clarksville, Tenn., said. "Still, it's not as bad as 2003," he added, referring to the massive three-day dust storm that halted coalition forces on the march to Baghdad.

With other unit members starting the futile task of shaking out embedded layers of earth while the wind still howled, Geisman maintained his positive attitude of mind over matter. "You can't let it drag you down. You gotta find other things to think about,” he said. “I just remember that I'm not the only one; I've got all my friends around me ... going through the same thing.”

As the soldiers passed around wet wipes to dig the dust out of eyes, noses and ears, Giesman said that at least the situation was a learning experience. With the high probability of visiting Besimaya in the future, troops will definitely be wrapping up and tying gear down a little better.

"Next time, I'm sleeping in a truck!" Geisman said with a grin.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Conner is assigned to the 15th Sustainment Brigade.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy vehicles await the start of a convoy during a March 5 windstorm at Besimaya Range Complex in Iraq. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Conner, USA  
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