My name is Sam Larry. I first went into the military in 1970 and I stayed until 1972 in the army. I went back to the Army Reserves in 1980. I’m still in the Army Reserves today.
I went to boot camp in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. There was pretty rough training back then, not like the training the troops go through today. I recently read an article that said a lot of the young troops are having a difficult time doing the psychical training.
There were people from all over the United States at boot camp. Basically, I was trained in infantry. I was also a communication specialist; I was sent to Vietnam as a radio operator and was assigned to the 101st airborne of the 6th infantry.
I went into the Reserves in 1980. As time went on, I knew the Army was calling on the Reserves more and more. I figured that by 1988 we would be called on to go to the Persian Gulf. It was December 1990 when I notified that I would be going to the Persian Gulf. After I was notified, I got called up at the first of January in 1991. We spent a week around Bluefield at the Reserves Center there. Then, we were sent to Fort AP Hill Virginia in which we worked in preparing for chemical warfare and the handling of prisoners. I was obligated to go to the Persian Gulf; I had made a commitment. When the time came to go, I felt obligated to the troops; I knew I had to go over. My family wasn’t too happy about it, but they knew I had obligations. I think they handled it the best that they could. It was very upsetting.
I left AP Hill right after they bombed Baghdad. We flew by military aircraft until we split up into two planes. One plane had a layover in Spain; our plane had a layover in Germany. It was about a four or fiver hour layover. After that, we flew over Dahl Heron, Saudi Arabia. We were kind of packed line sardines on the flight over because we had all of our field gear with us, like rifles and rucksacks. The plane that I was on had an air leak and it got cold in the bulk of the airplane. But, everybody was basically quiet and kept their thoughts to themselves. There were little bits of conversation every now and then, but we usually avoided the subjects.
When we got off of the plane, we were told to prepare for a scud attack. They had had a scud attack before, so we were prepared for the worst with our rucksacks. We had our chemical suits handy so we could go ahead and put them on if we needed to. But, right before we got off the plane, they said it was clear. I know the first thing some of us did was to look for water; it was hot. When we were at the airport, there were planes constantly flying out for air attacks; it made the air smell like diesel.
Once we got there, the Saudis picked us up in trucks and buses that had the steering wheels all decorated and everything. They took us to Cobart Towers. We were taken to those buildings and housed there. We united with the other personnel while we were there.
The Saudis were never around us that much. They would take us down to eat and they utilized the parking building where we would go down and receive our meals. The Saudis basically didn’t live in those buildings. They didn’t enjoy living on top of each other, so they banned that project, even though it probably cost them a fortune. They had their homes in the towns around Dahl Heron; a lot of them had their homes out in open areas. The Saudis weren’t big on eating pork; they ate a lot of lamb, goat, chicken, and fish. All of the Saudis were Muslims. There were two different types, the Sunnis and the Shiites. They weren’t really that different that we could tell. They all had their prayer times, five or six times a day. They would give the prayers over the intercoms in the prayer buildings and they would all take breaks and pray.
Our job, as Americans, was to operate a squad of military policemen. We were to escort prisoners to and from different army units and then to take the prisoners back to the prison camp in Saudi Arabia. We lived in tents; we had little tent cities out from the UPW camps. Once we set up there, we usually had a hot meal every day, but it did take a while. At first, we had to live off MRE’s. They had something like a wolf burger stand set up on the roads where we could stop and eat hot dogs or hamburgers. But, basically, when we weren’t out on missions, we got at least one hot meal a day.
I considered all of the people in my squad my friends. Since I was their sergeant, I hand picked most of my people; mostly the younger ones, since I probably could look over them better. The commander was a man who lives in Bland County, Brent Starns; the platoon sergeant was Sergeant Dodson.
The weather was really hot, but you didn’t perspire. It was a different heat from Vietnam or over here. You were better off keeping your sleeves down; in fact, they preferred you to keep your sleeves down. Perspiration would evaporate as soon as it left the body. It was a beautiful sight to see looking out over the desert. The sky was so clear. You could look up and see shooting stars. There were certain nights there that it was very cold. Lots of people don’t realize that the night we guarded the munitions dump it was very cold; probably one of the coldest nights over there. They had lots of flies over there. You could be out in the desert and park your vehicle and all of a sudden it would be covered with flies. When you ate something outside, you had to fight the flies off. It all would make you a little homesick. But, I received letters from home every couple of days.
I was near troops from other countries like Britain, Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. I trained the Saudis in the National Guard; they would show up for work at 12:00 and then work for a couple of hours. The British were pretty good to deal with. Some of the elite forces thought they were a little better than the rest, but as a whole they were pretty good. The Egyptians liked us; we seemed to get along pretty good with them. Of course, I would have to be partial to the soldiers from the United States. We were well equipped. The Americans were more nourished than most. We were well trained and educated; we had the most equipment. Arabic forces weren’t specifically equipped; they were mentally inclined to have military skill. The British troops were better, but none of them were exactly commandos. As a whole, our country was better.
I was near a scud attack in the Cobart Towers. Lots of people thought it was a show to see and they would run out on the balconies. I was concerned with getting people off of those balconies because the fear of shrapnel was always there. I had my people stay in the room. The only fear that you have in a room like that is a direct hit.
I went to the areas of the ground wars and did a lot of things. We landed in part of Iraq when there was a bad storm. They just dropped us off in the desert; we barely had enough water for ourselves, but we shared it with the Iraqi prisoners. We covered about a thirty eight hour period there. The U.S. troops fought very well because everybody wanted to do their job. The Iraqis didn’t fight well; they just weren’t prepared.
I had to take supplies to a Kuwaiti orphanage. The Kuwaiti people were happy that we liberated them; they wanted our autographs and such. I didn’t feel like we had been fighting for their democracy. I felt that it was the humane thing to do because the Iraqis had tortured them a lot. It felt worthwhile.
I stayed overseas about five months. I was so glad to get back home. We received a much warmer welcome than when we came back from Vietnam. I feel that I gained a lot from my experience. There’s an old saying, “If something doesn’t kill you, it will make you a better person.” I feel very fortunate that I got through. It gave me an opportunity to have a warmer welcome; it was kind of rewarding in a way.
All in all, I think that it helped bring the country back together. It reminded people of Vietnam and not to have another war like it. We may be able to run on the experience of it. I just hope it’s not something that comes back. All we can do now is pray for the individuals who are sick; that’s about it.