A volunteer group of medics, upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War, are informed of their mission and told that they’ll have to steal food, water and ammunition if they want to survive. The medics, known as Detachment One, prove so good at thieving that the U.S. Navy wants these medics to steal for the US military. The day-in and day-out problems of stealing in a foreign country during a war is the premise of retired U.S. Army Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Gatewood’s new book “The Ziploc War” (ISBN 0-7414-1955-6, $15.95, Infinity Publishing, ), and it only sounds like fiction: Gatewood, then a U.S. Army Major, was commander of Detachment One.
As soon as the medics set foot in Saudi Arabia, Major Gatewood is informed of Detachment One’s mission — to secure equipment arriving by ship for the 114th hospital. After being informed of the mission Major Gatewood is told he and his team will have to steal whatever they needed to survive. The medics soon find out that their hospital is missing and will have to steal it back if they’re to do their jobs of taking care of the wounded.
So began an odyssey of thievery. The medics, trained to care for the wounded, knew nothing about stealing. They find out that their hospital had been sold on the black-market, in Texas, prior to the Gulf war. To fulfill their mission the medics of Detachment One will have to steal a hospital, field it, and make it operational. Major Gatewood gives his team the green light to steal everything not tied down. His fear — getting caught in a country where they cut your hands off for stealing and the disgrace of ruining his father’s military reputation. Their efforts do not go unnoticed by the military. The US Navy put Detachment One to work stealing for the military and other units. When the stolen equipment began piling up, Major Gatewood was introduced to the moving company, better known as the CIA.
“First we stole out of necessity — food and water. Then we stole to help get our unit up and running, and then to help other units with their supply problems,” Gatewood explained. “We stole from everybody, but our first priority was to help the Coalition soldiers.”
With the war over Major Gatewood looks forward to going home. But to get his unit and himself home he must break even more Army regulations — but it’s his best deal.
Still, Gatewood says, he didn’t write “The Ziploc War” to shed light on military misdeeds so much as to finally get some recognition for the men of Detachment One. “The 114th commander told me my men were not worthy of recognition. He was wrong. I just want `The Ziploc War’ to draw enough attention to get these men awarded the Bronze Star.”