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Into Theater

Upon arrival, I reported to the Headquarters Battalion (forward). We slept in smaller tents within large Kuwaiti desert tents to keep from waking with sand and dust in our faces. The camp was large and growing. Getting ready to cross into Iraq meant meeting with all the other staffs, coordinating and verifying plans and intentions. It was time to see if everything fit together.

Unfortunately, overlapping USMC/USN and line/staff boundaries left many areas that had to be worked out in the field. A visit to the Group Aid Station set up in Kuwait proved they were not aligned with Division’s battle plan. They were convinced they knew better.

The psychiatrists in Group presented a white paper through their chain of command about combat stress support. In it, they insisted that the Proximity in PIES (Proximity Immediacy Expectancy Simplicity) or BICEPS (Brevity Immediacy Centrality Expectancy Proximity Simplicity) was only possible if it was also safe enough for the mental health providers not to get hurt. They were confident that medical evacuation to and from combat operations would allow the mental health assets to remain in the rear. Their assumptions would be proven wrong.

Time Phased Force Deployment Data (TPFDD) was developed, which provided a time frame for all units arriving. If you were not on it, you weren’t moving forward until after everyone else. The Group would not be on the TPFDD crossing into Iraq.

The MEF Surgeon told me that I needed to talk to the Group psychiatrists. After all, I was the psychiatry specialty leader. Unfortunately, command in combat zones trumps any specialty leader authority. The Group Medical Battalion had its own Commanding Officer (CO), who in turn had his own staff. The Group CG had his own Surgeon. Despite repeated requests and negotiations trying to solve the problem, Division deployed with no embedded mental health assets except for the Division Psychiatrist.

The GMOs and their Division Corpsman had done well in focusing on predeployment of their battalions and regiments. As feared, despite Medical Battalion promises to the contrary, some Authorized Medical Allowances (AMALs) did not arrive in theater. Battalions were forced to share equipment, since resupply would not occur until after the invasion had begun.

The wait in Kuwait was brief; we received our orders to move into pre-position for invasion. I vividly remember looking out over the desert over the anticipated Line of Departure (LD), wondering what would be the endpoint. We talked about it amongst ourselves. No one knew the answer. It was not our role to even question. We were to be ready to start when told.

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