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Improvisation is the word

Editor's Note: This is a series of blogs that will appear regularly between now and May 28. For the introductory entry in this series, click here. A Journal-World special report on the 1st Infantry Division's time in the desert will debut June 6.

No Internet connection means that these blog entries are being written by dictation.

Troops I followed on Monday had to make quick decisions to encounter and defend against possible insurgents. That included two who set and tried to detonate improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

And Sunday night my tent almost blew over.

As 1st Lt. Jared Hall told me, nights like Sunday make for good practice, when the skills you accidentally gain under pressure help achieve a goal in real life.

What living on Forward Operating Base Denver has taught me is that you can never be too careful about having a tent tied down.

Gusting winds blowing across the Mojave Desert pelted the 20-by-20-foot tent with stones and pebbles. It sounded as if hail was pounding the FOB.

As I drifted to sleep, I thought of the tornadoes that hit near Kansas City early this month, but there wasn't much I could do about it.

Still, all night the stones shot at the sides of my tent. Plastic flaps gave me some opportunity to further secure my tent together. I piled my briefcase, loaded with a computer and a box of granola bars, a backpack full of video equipment, a huge rucksack, as well as a Kevlar helmet and body armor on plastic flaps, hoping to keep the place intact. The armor and tent are courtesy of the U.S. Army.

I settled down on my cot, in the middle of the tent, and fell asleep.

Soon, however, I was awakened by howling winds and immediately sensed my little haven was falling apart. My bags had blown asunder, and the sides of the tent had lifted to the point where they were whipping away 10 feet from my head.

I leaped out of my sleeping bag groggy and startled and hurried to push the bags back in place while securing any Velcro flaps I could. Finally, in a last desperate attempt at a little shuteye, I lifted my cot and put it on the inner flaps in one corner of the tent, hoping that would keep it secure.

The wind whistled all night and the pebbles never stopped. But the tent survived. The improvisation served me well until 6:45 in the morning when a pair of Apache helicopters landed a few yards from my tent.

May 28, 2008

Notes from the desert

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