Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Celebrity Camel Boosts Troops' Morale in Kuwait

Photo: Army Sgt. Dale Carson with the 76th Brigade out of Indianapolis, Ind., gets a wild ride from Clyde the camel March 7, 2008, on Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Clyde comes to the base once a month as part of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office's efforts to give the troops a break from their day-to-day routines. Defense Dept. photo by Samantha L. Quigley

Like devoted fans, about 100 servicemembers anxiously awaited Clyde's arrival here on March 7. And, like a true celebrity, Clyde was fashionably late.

"I wanted to take a picture with the camel, but where is the camel?" asked Army Sgt. 1st Class Darlene Brent, with the 106th Financial Management Company out of Bamberg, Germany. "You got all these people standing out here and there's no camel."

Clyde the camel was an hour past due for his gig giving brief rides to troops transiting through Camp Buehring into Iraq. There was wild speculation that he'd been stopped at the front gate because he'd forgotten is identification card.

"It's 3:45 now," Brent said. "The camel's supposed to have been here at 3:00."

Clyde and handler, Kadry, trotted up about 4 p.m. Both were in good spirits as the servicemembers, mostly soldiers, snapped pictures, fed the furry celeb walnuts and dates, and climbed a ladder for their ride atop the dromedary.

Regardless of his tardiness, Clyde provides a big morale boost for the troops, said Army Reserve Lt. Col. Sean Clark of the 2145th Garrison Support Unit out of Nashville, Tenn. The camel's services are provided by the camp's Morale, Welfare and Recreation services.

"MWR offers the soldiers, sailors and people who are here on Camp Buehring the opportunity to come out and ride a camel; get a little desert experience up close and personal," Clark said.

The novelty allows the troops to give family and friends a glimpse of their life during deployment, Clark added, noting that troops can't share many details or images with families back home for security reasons.

Clark said being able to share photos and stories of Clyde is "good because it shows them that we're not in constant danger all the time; (that) there are fun and exciting things that we can do, and a little on the humorous side."

Letting loved ones in on that side of deployment helps relieve their stress about what's happening to deployed servicemembers, Clark added.

Camel rides are a monthly occurrence on the base, said Michelle Larsen, an employee of the base Morale, Welfare and Recreation office, which organizes the popular event.

"Not too many people get to ride camels," she said. "It's something that the troops all really like to participate in, mostly for photo ops, and just an opportunity to ride a camel."

Judging by the troops' reactions to riding atop the trotting Clyde, or having him nibble snacks out of their hands, the experience was worth the long wait in the nearly 90 degree weather.

In fact, the camel's fame has spread internationally, it seems. A handful of those waiting up to two hours for a ride after Clyde showed up included some of the about 500 British soldiers on the base.

Clyde's next appearance will be at the beginning of April. Until then, transiting troops will have to make do with myriad other MWR programs including sporting and fitness events and karaoke nights.
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
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