Surviving the sandstorm

  • Published
  • By Capt. Douglas Pietersma
  • Strategic operations watch officer

Physical acclamation to any deployed location can be a challenge, but acclamation to the Middle East can be especially challenging.

Even six years of living in the South did not prepare me for the heat I have encountered, but worse than the heat is the frequent sandstorms.

Just a few days after arriving at my deployed location, I experienced my first sandstorm. My co-workers told me this was not the worst they had seen, and it turned out to be true. After my first few weeks, I had seen sandstorms that have lasted as long as two weeks -- and I don't think I've seen the worst of it.

During these sandstorms, surroundings take on a different appearance and sometimes barely show an outline. Occasionally, the air appears orange as the sunlight makes a futile attempt to break through the clouds of dust. People walking around, if you can see them at all, look like phantoms walking through the swirling dirt even when they are only a few feet away.

At times these storms come out of nowhere and often catch many of us by surprise. Many days have started with a cool, clear sky, but by lunchtime the sky is filled with swirling clouds of dirt. However, seeing isn't the only problem.

Breathing during a sandstorm can be another issue. Many of the deployed servicemembers and civilians attempt to filter out the choking dirt by using bandanas or other masks. It doesn't work because if they can breathe in these masks, the dust can still get in.

be they are easier to travel in if a person starts by focusing on the closest object to them and then walks to it. As long as there are a small series of objectives that lead to a primary objective, they will almost always get through.

Along with literal sandstorms, any given deployment will likely have its share of figurative sandstorms. These can range the spectrum of personal, family or work-related issues. These emotional and spiritual challenges can be just as daunting to tackle as a real sandstorm. No matter how bad it might seem, these storms are also survivable. Of course , this is always easier said than done.

Amazingly enough, getting through these figurative sandstorms is done in much the same way as the literal ones. Dividing the problem into small, achievable objectives and focusing only on the nearest one is one way to achieve success. With the smaller objectives accomplished, an individual is one step closer to the overall objective -- coming out on the other side of the sandstorm.