Monday, June 16, 2014

The Gulf War: Serving the Navies #OFW39

It was in the...

Year 1990 of February, when Dubai was visited by foreign navies; including the Americans, Argentinians, French, Japanese, British and others – The Sign of Gulf War.

I was assigned by our area manager, Mr. Gamal Abdul Rahman to transact business with Dubai Mercantile and Maritime Authority - the organization who handled the traffic of the sea along the coast of Dubai - through the recommendation of the top management. I’d got a written permit from them to sell our food products inside the Jebel Ali Free Zone where the American fleets were stationed.

I organized my resources; manpower, transportation service, equipments, frozen items, fresh bread, vegetables, beverages, identification cards of employees and other legalities. Our main objectives were the American fleets who docked in Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZ) for repairs. The JAFZ was located approximately three kilometers from the city center of Dubai where it housed some products of the world’s largest corporation. The warehouses were built according to the structural development of the management. It had a multiple docks for easy loading and unloading of product items to and from Dubai, or the whole of the Emirates. It embodied the increasing economy of Dubai by developing it to be a global market.

We constructed a temporary store along the canal where the gigantic ship was anchored where the navy people used to roam around the place for temporary break. Some of the famous international fast food companies were also there with the same purpose as ours.

Our makeshift store was connected to mobile equipment that supported our electricity needs. We had upright chiller, big chest freezer, open fryer, bread warmer, salad chiller and family sized cola drinks. The ready- made packaging was prepared in advance to avoid delayed orders. I considered this journey of mine as very exciting but hard to accomplished for our daily operations.

I was with my staff for the whole-day-operation to ran smoothly daily; to managed the stocks, manpower and to applied the QSC of our system; quality of products, fast service and cleanliness. Even giving solutions to complaints and other problems that may encountered along the way.

Our first job was the American fleet, USS Nimitz, when it docked around nine in the morning. I asked beforehand some fleet officer about the schedule, that the navy personnel were being scheduled for their rest hours by fifty personnel in one batch. We served them batches by batches for the whole day that I telephoned Mr. Gamal Abdulrahman for a possible delivery of additional stocks and manpower at JAFZ.

As we continued selling our products, the Americans thanked us for our effort in supporting them for their snacks. Each of them, usually bought a family sized cola and two large beef cheeseburgers in which they paid in US currency and not getting their change. In this case, every day I calculated our sales and stocks, and the overage was distributed to my staff as tips.

Daily, we brought all the perishable stocks to Al Fahidi branch for proper storage, and in the morning, we prepared the required stocks for our daily operation. It was hard for us to stay there in the makeshift store because of the high temperature. The usual staff cannot withstand the environment that I reported the matter to our area manager. He told me to re-assign some staff from the other stores with added remuneration.

I was managing this kind of set up for almost three months that I only managed the manpower office in Al Maktouum Street through my mobile phone given by Danielle.

It was on this situation that Danielle called me up that she gave birth to a baby girl which I was glad to hear. Another thing that she relayed to me was to go to Kuwait for business transaction of manpower by a large corporation stationed there. I answered her that I had to ask permission to our area manager, if he will allow me when I was busy for the operation in JAFZ. He permitted me for two days’ time of my emergency leave.

It was in the year 1990 of June, when I went to Kuwait for business meeting with manpower clients. I purchased a round-trip ticket going to Kuwait through Kuwait Airways. I arrived around eleven in the morning that I directly went to the office of my client at the city center. I brought my attaché case with some documents of the manpower I represented.

My client was an international fast food chain of restaurants that was planning to put up their business in Kuwait, thus, they need Filipino workers for this endeavor. He was an American guy with a nice disposition about the spreading of the business. More International fast food chain of restaurants are willing to invest to this place especially the United Arab Emirates. And this client of mine has the financial capability to go on with their plans; and they need Filipino workers for this purpose. We talked each other personally during our lunch that he relayed a message about the rumor of Iraq invading Kuwait for the coming month.

I called up Danielle about the news and she told me to come back in Dubai City for finalizing the remaining transactions. I hurriedly left Kuwait and back in Dubai where I personally copied all the data to my diskette. Also, I telephoned Danielle about purchasing independent visa for me that she answered in a positive tone and I held a meeting with the manpower staff about the rumors.

I was back with my usual job in JAFZ where different fleets and ships were being repaired. Rumors now were spreading like wildfire around Dubai about the Gulf War; some expatriates were only disregarded while some were over speculating. Other people were spreading about the possible chemical attacks by Saddam Hussein. Everyone I met feared for their lives and calling their loved ones in the Philippines.

There was no news about the rumors but I observed that more navy ships were coming from Dubai seashore when I checked Danielle’s house at Jumeirah Beach. The ships were anchored from Dubai shores up to Sharjah shoreline.

It was in the year 1990 of August 2 up to February 26, 1991, when Iraq occupied Kuwait. Kuwait an oil-rich Arab sheiksdom in the northeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula at the head of the Persian Gulf became independent in 1961. Kuwait is bordered in the north and west by Iraq, on the east by the Persian Gulf., and on the south by Saudi Arabia. It ranks fourth in proven oil reserves (after Saudi Arabia, the USSR, and Iraq) and was a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC).

The Sabah dynasty was established in 1756 after Arab tribes settled the area. Kuwait was nominally a province in the Ottoman Empire, but the sheik received British protection in 1899.when the Turks threatened actual control. Kuwait achieved independence in 1961, but when Iraq claimed the area, it again received a British pledge of protection. Under the 1963 constitution, executive power is vested in the emir and exercised by a council of ministers. Sheik Jabir Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah became emir in 1977. The legislature was suspended from 1976 to 1981 and again in 1986; an interim council without legislative powers was elected in June 1990. In the 1980’s Kuwait was subject to terrorist attacks by Shiite Muslim Extremists, including the 1985 attempt to assassinate the emir; it supported Iraq against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War (1980 – 1988).

On August 2, 1990, after dispute over oil, money, and boundaries, Iraq occupied Kuwait, a move condemned by the world community.

We panicked by the news of chemical attacks that all of us feared for our lives. Gas masks and masking tapes were selling like hotcakes in the market. Panic buying was showing in some other areas; Deirah Side Souq, Supermarkets, Al Fahidi Street and even some Malls, but we were still opening our stores around Dubai. I instructed my staff to minimize selling of goods for our consumption in case of chemical attacks and to be ready always, when worst comes to worst.

Also, we came to our knowledge that some owners and managers of the companies around Dubai were evacuated their families at the onset of the occupation. Our company issued a memorandum that nobody can leave Dubai because all possible route terminals were suspended. We were discouraged for this announcement that we felt discriminated because we knew that our Company's top managers left us beforehand. We had no other choice but to stay with our jobs. We suspended our operation inside the JAFZ that we took our duty on our respective stores.

As the days passed without any chemical attacks happened, we enjoy serving foreign people of different nationalities. Brisk business of all sorts was increasing due to these developments. The fear inside of us became an enjoyable experienced wherein we intermingled with the foreign people. We had lots of tips from them everyday that we can use with our nightlife, together with them.

Our stores around Dubai got an increase in sales for the first month of the invasion. But the stocks were limited from the main office in Sharjah because of the restrictions during the occupation.

American people were very friendly and gave tips every time they purchased food. Disco houses, themed-parks, shopping malls were full-packed with navies that each night when we came home from work, we can see foreign people sleeping outside our store and some in the roadside. Everyday, we experienced this kind of operation that my friends were also tired for their daily operation.

In the manpower office, I instructed them to open daily to do their jobs. Danielle called me up daily for the Dubai happenings and she in return gave the news that I needed in Dubai. Every week, I had a scheduled call to my wife in Bacoor, Cavite for their living conditions.

We received news about the atrocities done by Iraqi people to other nationalities inside Kuwait. Different stories were spreading in Dubai about this news, other stories of heroism and escapade. News were spread by mouth through the navies, not by the media.

I visited Mike Luna in the coffee shop where he’s working and found out that he had rented a room for both of them. He was living-in with his new lady partner. I talked to him about his wife Lina, but he ignored me. I felt sorry for him that his life centered only in one facet of living.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A freelance writer who meticulously structured and maintained blogs just for you:A LIFE SO FAR AWAYand my other business blog:SHOPPING eMALL Thank you for your valuable time. Follow my business & writings and you'll find what life's meant to be.

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  1. I really enjoyed your military experiences Fernando. It's so sad that chemical warfare was used in some of these wars.

  2. It's sad to go back on the memory of the gulf war again as those things don't belong to the modern society. It's nice that there were a lot of business opportunities at this time.

  3. Good to know that you are safe from harm..

  4. I wonder if there are many good Filipino restaurants also being put up in Kuwait and if the food is appreciated by the locals there.

  5. great anecdote sir. it's good to read experiences of our kababayans working oversees... knowing their sacrifices, their hardships and their unforgettable and frightening experience. I remember one of my college instructor who was a nurse in the middle east before and told us about how scared they were because of the chaos in the middle east. as i remember it, it was also about chemical warfare.

  6. War is really a no-win situation. I had an American soldier who was part of the the Desert Storm operations in Kuwait who told me that life in the frontlines was like a living hell.

    I'm glad that you survived all these hardships.

  7. It's good that you are safe. I really enjoy reading your story.

  8. Interesting story you have. Great job at documenting this because it might be useful in the future

  9. This is an eye opener to a personal experience of a Filipino working in a war zone. Good to know that you're safe, it must be very challenging trying to get on with the routine of daily life.

  10. It must be scary being in Dubai in Kuwait with the war looming.

  11. It's glad to hear that you are safe "kuya"...working in abroad is not's a big decision that we need to think twice or more...because we don't know if what happen to us tatay is a ex-ofw and hndi biro ang paghihirap at pagsasakripisyo niya para sa amin...

  12. That was a sad memory but good to know your safe :)

  13. Being far away from home is so hard, temptation arises to those who aren't strong enough.

  14. Since, I've gone this far in the story. Let me say that this would be a really good movie.

  15. wow! that experience you had was scary but it was surely the bravest thing you've ever done. Kudos!

  16. I am not sure if I would like to find myself in a place where war is imminent. It's just too scary. Nobody wins in any war. There's just too much casualties.

  17. I don't like the idea of being in the middle of the war.

  18. I'd be really scared if I were in your place.


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