This is part of my Moving to Kuwait series.
It’s been 11 months since I arrived in Kuwait for work. Throughout the initial move and since living here, I’ve taken notes occasionally on my impressions. I’m just getting around to compiling them, but I hope the initial feel still comes through.
We were in a tough spot.
It’s a long story, but my wife was being forced to go home to Uzbekistan for 2 years to fulfill some outstanding conditions of her student visa that originally brought her to the U.S. - where we fell in love, got married, bought a house…
I would be without her in America. I was thinking of getting a different job and trying out a new city anyway. I got a hit on Monster about a job in Kuwait. Kuwait is closer to Uzbekistan than the U.S. is, and I would be closer to her.
My employer was a U.S. defense contractor. As part of the job orientation, I was required to go to Ft Benning, GA for a week to get basic training and exposure to the environment I would be working in.
There was a large group of people that I was doing the training with, and they often divided us into three lines: military personnel, DoD civilian workers, and (by far the largest, and my own group) contractors.
I remember one of the first things we did was watch a promotional video. There was a cheesy Hollywood feel to it, and the soundtrack was sappy with a country-Western feel and lyrics like
And the band is playing, and the drum’s are drumming, ‘cuz someone’s gotta die over there.
I heard many people, instructors even say “over there”, and it bugged me. It seemed like a bad way to say it, a blanket statement, just not precise.
I hadn’t been around military facilities very much, and I remember being pleasantly surprised at how nice the accommodations were. Nice buildings, a gym, cafeteria, air conditioning everywhere. The training coordinators seemed so orderly and considerate. Once, when we all walked a short distance to a large, air-conditioned tent and it rained, they had buses brought in to bring us back to our rooms so we wouldn’t have to wait or walk in the rain.
But there was something disturbing under all the niceties - all of this was part of the world’s biggest war machine.
We would fly into Kuwait, but the majority of contractors I spoke with seemed to be going on to Iraq or Afghanistan. Mechanics, IT networking guys, system administrators, a large batch of linguists — Arabic and Kurdish (for Iraq) and Farsi and Pashtu (for Afghanistan) — soldiers coming back as contractors for more pay.
We went to several parts of the base for our training, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the size of the place — it was a little city, with shops, movie theaters, a bowling alley, all tucked away from the general public — I imagined the resources it took to build and maintain such a thing.
I had a hard time getting anyone else to share my wonder; it seemed familiar and old hat to most people.
Many people even seemed whiny to me, and they didn’t seem to have a good perspective. There were complaints about the free food, free rooms we stayed in, free entertainment at the recreation building — while we were on the clock during this training.
I heard too much bragging about how much money there is to be made. It seemed like a bad attitude to have, and I felt ashamed to think of the money I would be making off of war.
Here were my reasons for taking this job: I wanted to be closer to my wife while she spends two years in Uzbekistan, I wanted a change of pace and to get different experience than from from my old job, I wanted to experience living in a different location (and in a different country, all the better) while I’m young and have the opportunity to. Money or patriotism is not on that list, although I take the money just the same.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a war profiteer. I could justify it, but still I would be one.