saudi-map.gif (75312 bytes)Saudi-Arabia.gif (4793 bytes)Saudi Arabia


Recently John Hockenberry, reporter for ABC and PBS, did a report on Saudi Arabia.  While it was interesting, it was apparent the writers and producers had never lived in Saudi Arabia, and had never mingled with and spoken to the ordinary person on the street.  While I do not admit to being an expert on Saudi Arabia, I did live there for three months.  To truly understand the country I would have had to have lived their much longer and traveled more extensively, but I did gain a certain perspective on the country.

In 1999 I was assigned to Eskan Village in Saudi Arabia.  Eskan is an Arabic word for village.  During the oil boom King Faud build a number of villages around Saudi Arabia for the Bedouin people.  The houses in these villages were five bedroom, three bathroom houses.  They are all vacant now.  I heard two different stories about what happened.  The first story is that the Bedouin people didn't like living in the houses and abandoned them for their tents in the desert.  The second story is that the Bedouin people brought their animals inside with them, as they were used to living in close quarters with them.  This caused so much damage the king forced them to move.  I don't know which is true, but it is possible for both to be true in different parts of the country.

During the Gulf War the U.S. was looking for a place to set up their headquarters in Saudi Arabia.  Just outside Riyadh was one of the abandoned eskans, so the Saudi government graciously allowed us to occupy it.  We named this 360 acre site Eskan Village and although the Joint Task Force South West Asia (JTF/SWA) has since moved to Prince Sultan Air Base, the U.S. military still maintains a presence at Eskan Village.  The two main organizations still there are OPM-SANG (Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabian National Guard) and USMTM (United States Military Training Mission).

USMTM and OPM-SANG were in Saudi Arabia at the request of King Faud, and were granted special privileges as a result.  They were granted "tea" rations, meaning they were allowed to drink alcohol.  We were combatants, and the tea rations were not allowed to us.  While I was there our new senior enlisted advisor collapsed and nearly died from alcohol deprivation.  It seems no one knew he was an alcoholic before stationing him there.

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