Rousted out of bed at 4:30 a.m. with the news that the first U.S. troops were heading home. We were bussed to the nearby air base--myself, Sergei, and reporter Bob Franken. Departing were 100 soldiers from the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division, an advance team sent to prepare the return of their unit. These guys call themselves "First to Fight," and indeed they were first in the desert last August. And they never left it until today. Seven months of sleeping, eating, living in the desert with almost no news, no contact with the outside world.1 The irony is I took along my CNN cap in hopes of trading it for a "chocolate chip" camouflage hat. But these guys had no idea that CNN was now the premiere news network and that such a souvenir was highly coveted. Well, they've got a lot of catching up to do.
Once we got back and I edited the piece, I had some catching up to do. I searched out and packed up supplies for our crews in Kuwait-mainly flashlight batteries. While searching for light filters, I also discovered a light kit that had been soaked in the rain. So that also needed cleaning up.
One interesting diversion was a meeting with Boris Lopez Jara, a producer for Chilean TV. He was scheduled to edit in our facilities, and while he waited for his crew we had lunch together. My Spanish was actually better than his English, and it was fun to practice it in Saudi Arabia. He hopes to intern with CNN some time in the future, so maybe we'll meet again.
After an afternoon nap, I was up again for an evening of more troop departures. Unfortunately, I had just sat down to eat dinner when I was told the bus was about to leave and we had to run. Amid the confusion I ended up carrying two sets of audio gear. It was a repeat of the earlier shoot, only in the dark. I probably could have done it in my sleep, which wouldn't have been such a bad idea.
And tomorrow at 7 a.m. we leave for Jubail, to do the same story again, this time with the marines. This is really getting to be monotonous. New producer arrived today to replace Terry, our supervising producer. I've made it clear I am anxious to head north, but so far all I've got is nebulous promises. As much as we bitch and joke about the military system of confusion and delay, or the Saudi attitude of unreliability, it's starting to look like CNN's not much different.
Well, I'd better get what rest I can. One thing about being so reliable and dependable--they tend to rely and depend on you, at all hours of the day and night.
1Editor's note, 2011: The soldiers of twenty years ago did not go into battle carrying smart phones, laptop computers, and GPS tracking devices, since these hadn't been invented yet. Cell phones were rare, and cell towers were few and far between. Mail was still delivered by snails back then.