The Lived Experience of Chief Nurses in Military Operations Other Than War -- M. Turner
The activities of daily living had their own peculiar influence on the daily routine. Living, all by itself, took time. The most basic elements of life, water, food, transportation and the natural environment became significant to the troops and previously ignored activities or those taken for granted became a central focus of the unfolding story.
I want you to know that at 12 o'clock every noon time, you have a torrential down pour, o.k.? The skies open and you are drenched. Now, factor that in.
We deployed up to a place out in the middle of nowhere. It... It was the darkest place I've ever been to in my entire life at night. There was not a light anywhere. It was out in the middle of the desert.
I saw the big iguanas. They would just be walking around. And the navy was so serious about not injuring those things or not hurting them. I guess they're endangered. And there's $10,000 fine if you hurt one of them or killed one of them ... And they'd just walk in our tents. You'd just be sitting there and then here one would come in, we would give it an apple or something, and it just kind of walked out. No snakes there so we never had to worry about that but ah... those other little rodent things, those banana rats, which really weren't rats but they looked like they were kind of rodents...... hundreds of them. You could just see them all over the place at night and just about dark.
And it was very warm there. Very warm... And very sweaty because we were on the water. Salty water. Not nice fresh water. And when I got there, they still had barbed wire around the area.
It made sense to have the hardened facility especially because of their rain. They have lots and lots of rain, and also typhoons. ... it turned out, we did have a typhoon that came through and we had to take down the whole ATH.
The only thing that was real annoying right before I left, probably because it was right before I left, was, the electricity would go out because the heat was getting so hot and then the water, the bathrooms wouldn't work, and that got real annoying very quickly. When you couldn't wash your hands because ... you'd have to use the bottled drinking water to wash your hands .... Some places, depending on where you were on base, you had to use the portalets and had to go find water because, of course, they didn't have water so you had to go find water to wash your hands with. So, I mean, it was just an adjustment type thing. You had to go back to the basics and remind people to take showers every once in a while.
But we had minimal support. We did not have running water in our hospital until December when some air force folks saw our situation, were thankful for the care they received during the riots and put in a couple sinks for us. The O.R. didn't have running water&emdash;5 gallon buckets and hand washing stations. But we didn't have any infections either.
The only shower facilities that females had during this deployment was the shower point. There was 1/2 hour we got it in the morning and 1 1/2 hours at night. That's all we had for sinks, showers, for everything for 44 females. So, Showers became very important. And in the evening time, you know after you'd sweated all day... When it was the shower hour for the females, we'd practically drag the males out of the shower stalls when it was... When they were in there past their time. And we got real nasty with them, to get the heck out of the shower because we were... It was our time!!!. But it was just... I mean, just the basics. You know, Maslov's hierarchy needs.
My shirts.... they look like tie-dyed 'cuz there was no cold water, they only had warm water, 'cuz the water was kept in the bladders outside and it would be so hot... In fact, you couldn't shower in the middle of the day, you could only shower first thing in the morning or in the evening because it would be too... You'd get scalded if you showered in the middle of the day because it would be too hot just from the sun, not even from the water being heated up.
Eating in an army chow hall that they served ham and two other unidentifiable meats for lunch. I ate ham for three months straight for lunch 'cuz that's the only meat I could identify. uh... We were really into basics. Their breakfast recipe always started with a glob of lard. And you drank bug juice, you know koolaid, that was what you got to drink but... You were so thirsty, you would drink anything. You even drank tap water out of a stinky old canteen because you were so desperately thirsty.
We like milk. There was nothing for milk. So, it wasn't even the first week that they immediately went out and got a contract for food. And they bought coffee pots and made us coffee, they got whole big things for milk and cereal and some of the things we eat instead of the beans and sausage - I mean we couldn't live on that kind of stuff for breakfast. So once they got that really good contract, the morale went up... I mean, little things. You know, even orange juice, fruit - we wanted fresh fruit, you know we demand a lot of things. So, they did a bang up job. Essentially, I only ate once per day because where I was living we didn't have any kind of facility. We had a stove in our little house there. ... all they did was take an empty government house and hand it to us. So I just heated hot water and cocoa or something for breakfast. Then lunch, we had MRE's [meals ready to eat]. Then supper, we ate our main meal. And it was a great time and a morale builder to eat a real nice meal down there in the dining hall.
A prison tray...You know, it's kind of like a metal T.V. dinner tray. And that's where they put the food, directly on the prison tray. That was a shock the very first time. And then new people would come in and they'd be like "Huh!" and it would be funny because you'd realize "Oh a couple of weeks ago that shocked me too".
We got a lot of things that we wouldn't automatically get from the different services. They had MRE's. The French had the best MRE's in the world, it was like having a gourmet meal or something. So we would get their MRE's and everybody shared. Whatever you got, you shared with everybody else. So we had everything.
The big problem for us was transportation. Because all the things that were going on the island, catching the transportation... We were doing long shifts, we had to get there before the beginning of the report started. So we would put in... It was not unusual to put in 14 hour days just trying to catch the transportation back and forth. It was probably 30 miles. So,.. That was a big issue. The administrator ended up getting his own vehicle. The commander had his own vehicle. They would offer me rides, but I felt like I needed to go on the bus. I needed to feel how people were doing and be a part of the group. In very, very rare situations I would use the truck. When the administrator was off, he would give me the truck to use so that I could run around and check on people on the compound.
The commander had a car, a staff car, and there were two vans. And we all just took turns using those or walking. I hitch hiked to work a lot and rode in the back of a truck... Or you could take the shuttle but that took a long time.
Then I got a bike handed down about the last month I was there so I rode my bike a little bit but it was pretty hot for riding a bike.
I thought that was a little bit of an adjustment. I think especially because in that climate the temperature averaged 110 degrees every day. Yes, by 11 o'clock, it was just unbelievably hot, you couldn't even sit in the tent if the air conditioning went out, you just couldn't do it and so you would go find an air conditioned tent.. or shade.