About 3,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan are also learning to cope with a lack of privacy. The soldiers are training right now at Fort Irwin, California and are sleeping on cots in large tents with more than 100 other people, eating every meal together and sharing community bathrooms. Specialist Neal Sauerberg admits the close quarters make it difficult to always get along with fellow soldiers.
“Sometimes they irritate you, but for the most part, everyone’s getting really close. You can’t help but get close,” Sauerberg said. “Each person has their own degree to which they need to be by themselves. People who really need to be by themselves stay up late or maybe go for a long run by themselves.” Specialist Dan Kline of Des Moines says the situation isn’t unlike being part of a family.
“We’re all brothers and we all look out for each other,” Kline said. “We know when someone’s not feeling right or not feeling their best or missing home.” Most of the soldiers find they need alone time, including Private Aaron McNew of Gladbrook and Specialist Kyle Kuehl of Davenport.
“I pass the time reading, writing and listening to my iPod,” McNew said. Kuehl is also reading. “I don’t like reading, but I am getting close to finishing my first book in about six years,” Kuehl said. While they’re training at Ft. Irwin, the soldiers are not allowed to use cell phones or computers. The military says the communication cut-off forces troops to focus on training and building relationships with each other.
By Mark Geary, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids