CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- Since arriving at Camp Buehring May 15-17 to conduct a live-fire exercise at nearby Udairi Range, Marines and Sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) have had to endure harsh sand storms and extreme temperatures topping out at 110 degrees. But the troops here couldn’t be happier.
Free from the tight confines of ship life, the Marines and Sailors wasted no time setting up the base camp for the exercise that will focus on individual, small-unit and combined arms training ensuring the MEU is refreshed and ready for follow-on missions in the region.
But when not engaged at work, the troops here are finding plenty to stay busy and stay connected to home.
Camp Buehring is a U.S. Army facility set in the Kuwait desert that is packed with morale and recreation facilities that could rival some U.S. bases.
A fully-stocked exchange, several phone centers, an internet café, a coffee house, gym facilities, Burger King and a 24-hour Pizza Inn are just a few of the amenities here topping the Marines’ “favorites list.”
However the one favorite nearly everyone agrees on is the dining facility where meals like steak and lobster are not uncommon.
The chow-hall, as the Marines call it, is one of the largest facilities on the camp and is capable of serving several thousand troops at every meal. Though the line nearly always extends several hundred feet beyond the entrance, six fast-moving food lines ensure the Marines and Sailors never wait to long to eat. “It’s better than the ship, and [MCAS] New River too,” said Cpl. Eric D. Whipple, a 25-year-old administrative clerk for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-162 (Reinforced).
Though this is Whipple’s first deployment, the Sidney, Iowa native seems very aware that life at Camp Buehring offers a bit more than Marines are accustomed too.
“For the field, this is living,” he said. “Plenty of water, A/C in the tents and cots to sleep on. It’s not bad.”
But services at Camp Buehring obviously go well beyond these basics.
Corporal Brian A. Flynn, a tactical communication network specialist with Headquarters and Service Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Bn., 8th Marines said he enjoys the video-chat services offered at the Internet Café. For five dollars an hour, a Marine can get a computer with a high-speed connection, a webcam and headphones and then connect with a friend or loved one at home, providing they have the same capability. “It’s well worth it,” Flynn said.
From one of the several phone centers here, Lance Cpl. David H. Lanham, a maintenance management specialist with MEU Service Support Group 26 has called home three times over the last four days to talk to his wife and 2-year-old son, he said. The Palm City, Fla. native compared this to the five times total he has been able to call from the ship where phones are available, but usually only to those with the time to wait hours for an available line. “I think they keep the morale pretty high here with all the MWR stuff they have going,” he said.
Though the ships work hard to make life as comfortable as possible for the embarked Marines, one thing it just can’t offer is also a favorite of Marines here – room to move.
“On the ship you are pretty much stuck in one place. You can see everything in five minutes” said Lance Cpl. Lawrence P. Epps, a 28-year old administrative clerk for the MEU Command Element who joined the Marine Corps later in life than most of his peers.
The former truck driver from Somerville, Mass., admits to enjoying his space. “Here you can walk to chow, go to the store, go to the gym and you have the room to just walk around and see stuff. I would not mind staying here for the rest of the deployment,” he said.
For all the benefits here though, Camp Buehring is still a desert camp, far from home and the friends and families of these Marines and Sailors. Flynn may have summed it up best. “The best part is this puts us one step closer to completing our mission and going home,” he said.
Not all the Marines and Sailors here will spend their entire at the Camp however. Several hundred of them, primarily from BLT 2/8, will spend the majority of their time in the field or on ranges.
The MEU will conduct training in Kuwait through the end of this month. From here, the unit will continue operations in the Arabian Gulf. As the theater reserve for U.S. Forces Central Command, the MEU may be called to support or conduct a wide range of missions, including support to security and stability operations in Iraq.
To follow the 26th throughout the rest of deployment, log onto www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.