Biography of Michael Tidd
E-4, 475th QM GP, USAR
"Only By The Grace of God"
I, Michael Tidd, am a verteran of Operations Desert Shield and Storm. I served as a Chaplain Assistant with the 475th QM GP as an Activated Reservist. We were called to Active Duty on 30 September 1990 and in theater on 10 October. We were in theater for eight months until returning to CONUS on 25 May 1991.
I was a senior in college when we were activated and mobilized preparing to graduate. (After returing I finished college, worked for a year, then got married and started seminary.)
Our deployment to some was an extended Annual Training until our orders exteneding us for up to two years. The war then became personal. I spent my 23rd birthday in Camp Jack which was a holding facility just off the Dharahn AFB until further arrangements could be made to secure our movement north. We were there from 10 October until Thanksgiving Day. Then we moved slightly north to Camp Aujan which was close to Dharahn.
My mission was to support the troops by religious services, counseling, and other areas as needed. I also was the weapon and the driver for our Chaplain (LTC) Barry M. Walker and other assistant SGT Shawn Burton.We travelled extensively all over the western, eastern, and orthern areas of Saudi Arabia essentually living out of our truck and visiting troops and other Unit Ministry Teams (UMTs). We also provided connections with the Red Cross and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR), and First Aid Stations or Hospitals.
During the months preceeding the war. I was detailed out to work with the Secret Service in preparing the visit of President George Bush. I workedout of King faud's reswith my own car to drive VIP's areound the area and on long trips also providing security for them. This lasted about 6 weeks. I was then reassigned to my unit.
Those of us in theater would gear up for war several times, yet it never cam till after the first of the year. This gearing up and being let down several times left us more drained then not going to war at all.
The Holidays came and went. I spent Christmas Eve on Guard duty. Actrually I volunteered for it. I wanted other troops to being able to celebrate christmas as best as they could; I already knew what Christmas was about. The best Christmas present was thetape I got of my fiancee and our favorite songs which I played and replayed.
That year New Year's Eve brought the anticipated into treality. Our unit being a transportation and petroleum headquarters unit we knew where things were going to happen. I remember hearing we were at war on the radio.
As a minister in the military, most of my work was helping soldiers with personal issues of doubt, death, family issues "in the world", and survivor's guilt (anticipated). The threat of mass casualties was evident withthe ranks. We saw this as the attendence of our worship services steadily climbed the closer the war got. We were averaging about five of six services a week with at times hundreds of soldiers that at times. At one point we had about 25-30 soldiers lined up to talk to the chaplain and myself about issues after a worship service. We also tried to promote Bible studies and prayer groups which were done but very informally.
We also had the responsibility some times to deliver the mail to units so far out that they couldn't get in th get it. I remember delivering several different letter so soldiers who shared them with. One was a birth of a child. Another was the excitement of planning a wedding. Others were not so good. Unfortunately, I was the bearer of bad noews with Red Cross mesages and "Dear John" letters. One was a video letter. A wife sent a video letter and the soldier invited others to watch it with him and it was awful. It was worse than a "Dear John" letter because not only did she tell that their marriage was over, she had sex with her boyfriend on the tape. Typically counseling sessions revolved around the mail and the news it brought.
The mission of my unit was to coordinate and direct the transportation of water and petroleum to forward units. Our unit was scattered all over the desert. we had a few people ot each othere log bases. and we would rotate and visit them on a regular basis. The closest log abses was three hours away. Typically to visit all the bases and to visit with soldiers and commanders tool about 10-12 days a piece. The only autorized northern road was "Tap Line Road" which was the life- line of logistics. Also "MSR Dodge" helped with some transpostation,but not much. Hundreds of convoys of trucks and individual trucks woud travel the road at record speeds-some only to end up off the road in a mine field. Many of the allied casualties happened driving on this road.
The actual war brought out the good and the bad in people as it always does. The greatist acts of heroism and self-sacrifice happened in the midst of total horror and carnage. They saw the first thing lost in war is innocence. For many of the younger soldiers this was the first they were out of the country and certainly the first act of war for them. Many adapted to the stress of war and reparing for war, but many more could not handle the effects of (war either things they did or saw).
I distinctly remember flying the last few hours over the desert and seeing out the C-141 window the very large oil tanks which held much of the world's wealth. I wondered the "real" motives for our being in the Middle East. But none the less I was there to do my very best at ministering to the needs of soldiers and units as we accomplished our mission whatever it was.
At approximately 1630 on 10 October 1990, the plane's cargo door opened and we saw what would prove for some to be the depths of hell and for others the escape of "the world". For still others, it was a learning expereince to distinguish between those who could have the mature nature of our mission and those who couldn't and only time would prove to be the determining factor. It is said that "The first thing lost in war is innocence". If that is the case then many a men and women reached adulthood prematurely. The sheer distance factor was enought for some to begin to crack under pressure compounded with the pressures of communal militaristic living in a foreigh country and culture created many hostile emotions that had to to be curbed at one if the Allied Forces were to remain unified.
We embarked on our desert journey at a holding area called Camp Jack which was right off the flight-line of the Dharahn AFB. This area comprised of wooden latrines and showers and public sinks for shaving a washng. With hundreds if not thousands of people confined to an area to acclimate themselves to the heat and await further orders, like good military personnel, they devised ways to "civilize" the living conditions. In early October, the barracks were nothing more than beduin tents stretched for several hundred people to live under while at the same time the individualized mosquito netting attempted to keep out the flies.
Several things I remember about Camp Jack was the latrines, the cold showers, the flies, the Saudi food, and spending my 23rd birthday on my rack preparing to take my first mission "north".
By the end of the almost two months we were there, cement slab replaced wood flooring, popcorn replaced trading MRE desserts, and movies were being shown to occupy time rather than staring endlessly at a clear night sky. I distinctly remember each moring in formation looking at the moon wondering if my family back "in the world" was looking at it and praying for my and all of our safety "in harm's way". I would find out later that they were.
I rememebr the day that will live in infamy for me. After the war had started, scuds had started flying over our heads and many were destroyed by Patriot missiles. But I know of one that was not. On 25 February 1991 at about 2030, a scud blasted into the barracks I was near. I say near because I was about 150 yards away. It was a semi-cloudy warm night. Although many soldiers had the night off, we were all to be "on guard", but none of us were prepared for the events that would occur that night.
My unit being the 475th QM GP was the headquarters for many transportantion and petroleum units going "north". We would house them until they recieved their mision and supplies then send them off to their part of the war. Camp Aujan was located right behind a shopping center frequented by G.I.'s near the eastern boarder of the Dharahn AFB, and this night in particular housed the 14th QM Detachment fro Greensburg, Pennsylvania. They had only been in country a few days prior to this event. (This unit was part of our down-trace units in Pennsylvania. We were from Farrell, Pennsylvania.)
At about 2035, the Iraqi scud blasted into the barracks hitting the ammo storage area on the back corner of the building. The force of the blast threw me to the ground as I anticipated more "in-coming" rounds. As if in slow motion I yelled as loud as I could "in-coming" not knowing if more would be coming or not. Realizing that for the moment that no more rounds where coming, I heard the screams and cries of the surviving soldiers in the bombed barracks. As I picked myself up off the ground, I looked at the shell of the barracks and attempted to assess the damage and casualties. My first thought and prayer was,"Oh, God help us!"
I was one of the first responders into the barracks. The other Chaplain Assistant when into the opposite end of the barracks and started assessing and administering first aid as needed and counting casualties. Because of the location of our enlisted soldiers and the officers quarters being a few miles away, we acted in the best interest of the wounded soldiers until further help arrived. It was at this point that we saw who could be counted on and who froze during the heat of action.
My first action was to get through the barracks in the rear of the building where many soldiers slept and lived in their own private areas. Knowing the building had been an open-bay area I felt it essentual to get to the soldiers who were fartherest away from help. Attempting to get to soldiers and casualties was difficult with the wreckage of the building, the asbestos, the fires, and the "cooking off" rounds. My first instinct was to remove the wounded and go back for the dead later. My medical instincts took over and I began to assess the critical from the non-critical and the dead soldiers. I administered first aid to those I could, and even performed CPR on a soldier, but he was too far gone.
I still remember the first dead soldier I came in contact with. He was laying beneath a pile of small beams still in his sleeping bag. I felt his pulse in his throat and there wasn't any pulse. I pronounced him dead and moved on to the next soldier. Then next soldier was alive but barely. By now others were on the scene and with disreguard to rank, I began to order others to "get the wounded out." I then found a soldier who had as they said in Vietnam had "a million dollar wound". Unfortunately, he wouldn't make it . With his chest cavity exposed, his time was very short. Still holding something, he handed it to me and said he wanted me to have it. Not knowing what it was I put it in my pocket and looked at it later. Within minutes, he died. Later that night I looked at what he had given me; it was an 10"x15" American flag (possibly it was the one he had been given). It was stained with his blood and other marks. He wanted me to have it and so I do. I am reminded of his and other veterans who have gave of themselves as the supreme sacrifice for our freedom. (The only other person who gave more than that was Christ on the cross.)
After getting the wounded out, we went back to get out the dead. At this time, I performed Last Rites on deceased soldiers. This night lasted three days. After "evac"ing casualties, I went to the hospital ot remove the asbestos and fiberglass that was all over me. Then we (my chaplain and I) began checking on the soodiers sent to area evac hospitals. All in all 28 soldiers lost their lives and many others were physically and mentally wounded in the event of the scud attack in Dharahn on 25 February 1991.
Prior to our deployment, we received several shots and pills to take to combat the chemical/biological agents. As is the military custom to be re-innocculated after six months in theater, we were "treated" again to the same set of shots as well as being ordered to take the P.B. (little white pills) to protect us from more chemical/biological exposure. On top of these injections into our bodies and our lives, we also had to combat the elements of the desert such as wind storms, garbage lying around from the nationals, the constant smell of petroleum, and the "mushroom clouds" which appeared and dispersed into the wind after a Patriot shot down a SCUD. These on top of the communal living in a combat enviroment produced situations in soldiers that would not be conducive "good working conditions".
Prior to my deployment, I was healthy college male. During and after Desert Storm, my health changed. Prior to my redeployment back to CONUS, I had my eyes evaluated for light sensitivity and focussing problems in my left eye. I was seen by two different opthomologists which concluded that there was "nothing wrong" and that I was "just trying to get home". Meanwhile I still was having trouble seeing.
Other symptoms that I developed "in country" was a reaction to the PB pills. My lower back and legs began having uncontrolable muscle spasms; so I stopped taking the pills on my own. I would not realize other symptoms until I returned to the States and began to live a "normal" life.
Still having eye touble, I developed migrain headaches, joint and muscle pain (spasm-like crippling pain all over my body), concentration and short term memory problems, night sweats, a rise in my over-all body tempature, and a condition called "Hot Sperm". Most of these problems happen daily for me. I have learned to life with it hoping it will not get any worse because the VA has ignored my condition and the conditions of other Persian Gulf veterans.
A constant reminder of this to me is my daughter who was born three months early weighing two pounds and seven ounces and being fifteen inches long. Her constant condition of Cerebal Palsey, cronic respitory problems having been hospitalized four times in three years for lung problems or part of a collapsed lung, fine and gross motor delay, speech delay, and a "bleed" on her brain that has caused some permanent brain damage. She is my hero, because she did not volunteer for this, she merely endures everyday of her life the things she can. It is I who must live with the questions that because of my military service that might have caused her condition.
I became involved in the investigation of the causes and effects of the warfare that was used to know how to deal with my situation and the situation of my family. I began testifying at the request of congressional representatives of West Virginia to inform those studying the Persian Gulf Illness and its effects of my experience and the expereince of my family. At that point I bcame involved with people around the country studying the effects of the War to seek out the Truth by helping veterans and their families. I also began doing some investigating of soldiers who were there and their expereinces with any health concerns of themselves or their family. In investigating I discovered a chemical that can break down men's sperm and can cause birth defects. This was one of the silent killers used in the war by the Iraqi military. (I fear my exposure to this chemical is what caused my daughter's problems.) I also appeared in Buffalo, New York, to testify at the Presidental Advisory Commitee Field Hearings to study the illness and conclude a final report. It is my personal opinion after reading a copy of the preliminary and final reports that the committe did not push hard enought to gather information nor to distribute information to persons living with problems or concerned citizens. To me it seemed inconclusive. Much of the report was either already known or ignored.
As I stated to the PAC, I sincerely hope that we continue to search for the Truth of what actually happened and help those who are suffering because either of their military service to God and Country or to the effected families who constant ly suffere the effects of war daily.
More To Come
"Pro Deum et Patria"
------- Rev. Michael Tidd
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