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Brad Gericke DS Diary
"The journal extract reprinted below appears essentially intact from its original version. I and the editor have removed certain personal names and "candid" observations not suitable for this venue. But the narrative itself remains untouched. No effort has been made to verify facts and statistics mentioned. I intend to provide a more complete accounting in a forthcoming book concerning the history of the 3d Armored Division. The perspective of the text is of a young lieutenant of Armor witnessing events first-hand as Company XO, Alpha Company, 2-67 Armor. I sensed it then, but only learned to fully appreciate later, just how magnificent were the men with whom I served. The Iron Dukes were a great tank battalion, led by the Army's finest warriors, during a very memorable time…"
7 Feb 91 Spearhead Range, 40km east of TAA Henry
This is my third night at the TAA. And the third full day of Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’S). Believe it or not I’m beginning to get used to them. Realizing that I have another MRE ahead of me doesn’t make me cringe with revulsion like it used to do. Now I accept it calmly, even willingly if I am hungry enough. Best features of the new MRE’s: long spoons, good crackers, M&M’s, and Chicken and Rice.
This range seems as if it is located on the edge of the world. The landscape is completely barren, very lunar-looking. A steep escarpment runs as far as the eye can see from south to north, before it turns and runs east. Standing on the plain above you can see miles of low dunes, rocks, sand, and nothing else. Not even the usual tracks of animals or Bedouins passing. It is in this wasteland, on the floor of the valley that our range rests.
It is not much of a range really. The entire place consists of a bore sight panel and four or five half-sized plywood targets set amidst a lot of space. You could establish a half-mile firing line and beyond. The only requirements to fire: a safety vehicle left and right, a medic, and radio control with the firing ranks.
The purpose for which we have driven here is to "combat calibrate." Someone from higher up has decided that consists of a single training round striking the target. More lay-the-gun-for-record exercise. We took two rounds each. The first one we fired without applying any correction factors. A mistake. And today I arrived late because I started the range. So I did not catch the CCF. The crew is capable. Like the majority of soldiers they respond well to instruction. I’m confident we well do well. SGT Simmons the gunner can surely hit targets. PFC Scriver slings rounds and is quickly picking up the communication drill at his loaders station, and SPC Smith is an experienced driver.
Ten tanks fired today, two (A23 and A24) will fire with their GAS (Gunner Auxiliary Sight) in the morning. My tank A65 is deadlined for a transmission oil cooler.
The ride out here was long, about 5 and one-half hours. We covered the 60 or 70 km slowly as it was the first time the unit has maneuvered across the desert.
9 Feb 91 TAA Henry, 25km SE of KKMC,? km S of Hafar Al Batan
Listening to soldiers is always interesting. I always get insights of their perspective. A couple of days ago the four of us were sitting on our cots in the tent, diving into the great food that friends and relatives had sent. The guys were relaxed and talkative, and they hit upon a dominant, recurring theme: video. In this case that reads television. They can’t wait to take the money they are saving now and purchase brand new TV’s. A $2100 model seemed to be the most popular. They want the best picture, largest screen, and cleanest sound they can afford. Their leisure world seems to revolve around video: VCR tapes, TV, computer games. This is one thing that is very common with that entire generation a few years younger than myself. I don’t remember TV and the movies to be so compelling as it is today to these guys.
In terms of terrain, this is great tank country. Our camp is located on an immense gravel plain. Footing is firm and the tanks push the small rocks right into the sand. To the south and east it is broken up. Small dunes, gullies and escarpments are abundant. Very desolate and slow going there. On our way back yesterday I saw quite a few Bedouins, with both goats and camel herds, in the area. Once we got onto the plain, we roared home. It was a good ride: company wedge, platoons in column. I felt like a naval flotilla. I thought of bringing the unit on-line, but a collision at that speed in the dust would be devastating so I chose against it.
We had a dust storm today. That was the second one this week. It’s been going on all afternoon. And A65 pack (engine/transmission) is on the ground, changing an oil cooler. Not a good time for that.
Thinking back to the port, that operation is amazing both for its seeming lack of organization and for its effective results. The fact is, 500,000 soldiers and their equipment have quickly deployed. But nobody at the port was empowered. 4-16 Infantry just wasn’t enough to cover the bases. The operation performed but the soldiers suffered in terms of security and sanitation.
The MSR from port to TAA has been affectionately termed "Suicide Alley." And was a good reason for that name. It’s a narrow two-lane road, but the Saudis truck drivers pass at will, regardless of traffic. And the Americans try to imitate them. It is truly dangerous. Complete wrecks line the route.
10 Feb 91 TAA Henry
Today we had beautiful weather. It was warm and only the slightest of breezes. I took the opportunity for an infamous 3-minute shower. Then lounged around in coveralls for the afternoon.
Another perfectly clear night tonight, I stood on the turret of A65 and watched the stars for a while.
Just had several visitors to the tent as I have been writing this. First John came by to tell me that every one of his radios in inoperable. They were all checked within the last few days too His radio’s were inspected just this AM. The condition of our radios is the greatest weakness of our Army. It is a crime that we are going to war with radios thirty years old. Our communications are guaranteed to fail.
The other visitor was SSG Ryden. He was escorting two female medics who wandered lost into the perimeter. I figure it would be Rusty who was SOG (Sergeant of the Guard). We’ll keep the female medics here for the night.
Now I have an orders group. Meetings seem to be the story of my life. Said SGT Simmons after all of these interruptions while the guys were trying to sleep: "They say everybody is famous once for 15 minutes during their life." I don’t know to whom he was referring. Us perhaps, or maybe himself.
11 Feb 91 TAA Henry
I glanced at SPC Smith, my driver, who was sitting on his bunk across the tent. He had just finished reading his mail, and was propped forward, glumly staring into space, rubbing the tears from his eyes. This thing is hard on the young guys. They are sacred and lonely. I can understand that.
Today has been a maintenance day but a frustrating one. The NCOs are at the moment unfocused. They are interested in doing just about everything except working on vehicles.
The LTC pulled over 801, a deuce & a half for "speeding." He then led it to the field trains. So we had to work that issue.
SSG Loss has spent two days in the field trains with 821.
Supply is always frustrating. Trying to re-drop class II cards. Getting a handle on NBC stocks and issue. Issuing first set of desert fatigues. The conex is a disaster. And I think we totally dropped the ball on A21’s grenade launcher.
We were working on the load plan for the tank this afternoon. Plus the re-issue of night vision devices.
Fixed a bottle of sun tea. Tasted delicious. Best part of the day.
1SG finally got his Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He worked on it all day at the TOC. It arrived this evening.
Clouds moved in at sunset. It was a quiet, dark, warm evening. Rained a little. Reminded me of home.
*****13 Feb 91 TAA Henry (LAT: N27º 46.68’; LONG: E45º 48.18’)
Just received the initial schedule:
G-7: Advance party to FAA
G-6: 3AD lead elements move
G-5: 2-67 enroute
G-4: Arrive FAA Butts
G-2: Redcon 2
G-1: 2ACR BMNT SP; breach
G: 18th Abn, Marines, Allies, spoil
G+1: VII Corps SP H hour
We’ll see how closely we adhere to this.
Once again, air power has been overrated and seems to be holding up the show. This thing is beginning to hang over my head. The sooner we start, the sooner we go home.
Had a company-level movement exercise yesterday AM. One of the platoon sergeants threw track attempting to negotiate a sandy escarpment/dune. And there was a bypass readily available. He can be truly dangerous tactically. Always seems to get himself in trouble.
We’re pretty good at formations now. All this space makes it easier. Scriver doesn’t like to go all-out in the tank. He seriously thinks that we will either make a wrong turn and end up in Iraq, or that we are fooling him and deliberately going to Iraq to start the war. I can’t convince him otherwise.
John has been sick for a few days. After an IV and antibiotics I think he’s doing better.
The other day Smitty mentioned he would be getting his "Sunday Pack." I explained that it was "sundry pack," and the 1SG would issue them as needed. It was the funniest twist of terminology I’ve heard in a long time.
I pulled a funny one myself yesterday. When we stopped halfway on the movement exercise for a TC’s AAR, I exclaimed that I really liked my new scarf. It was soft, comfortable, and just what I needed for riding in the hatch. But it was too short in length. There was only a six inch overlap when I wrapped it around my neck. So SGT Corsiveau asked to see it. I took the scarf off and handed it to him, whereupon he merely unfolded it and suddenly my scarf was twice as long as before. I could only defend myself by saying no manual was included.
Two days ago we were issued along with the scarf, a single set of desert BDU’s. I’m too lazy to sew on the patches (a requirement for wearing).
Smitty just received a package, and that has made Scriver feel badly. Scriver, the poor guy, I think feels like nobody cares about him. "I haven’t received a single package ____it," he snapped. He needs a girlfriend. Actually, he doesn’t—but that’s what he imagines will solve everything.
Right now I’m right on the edge of the curve regarding maintenance. I’m dangerously close to falling behind, The team is stretched fixing things. Too much distance, not enough parts. Equipment is almost breaking faster than it can be repaired. Soon we will begin being degraded.
I finally listened to a news report the other night. Same garbage. The media amazes me. Especially now that I am out here and can see what is happening on the ground. The press gives a 60% story. The rest is political, untimely, misleading, or downright false. And frankly, much of the "misinformation" comes from military spokesmen.
There was so much sand and grit in my caliber .50 that I could not charge it. My .45 wasn’t much better. We clean them every day but weapons are always dirty.
The tank is combat uploaded and ready to go. Rucks on the left, duffels on the right, ammo, food, water in the bustle. No tents, poles, nor nets.
Still tying up loose ends: POL inventory, dropping II cards, marking vehicles, etc.
I’m paying SSG Byrd $5 to sew on my patches to my desert camies. I figure I may decide to wear them someday—like when I’m home! You can’t be a desert war hero in green BDU’s.
Saw three camels, one out in front and two trailing, slowly lope across the western horizon this morning. They walked in a shimmering mirage.
Heard an interesting intel. report. It claimed that soldiers across our front are eager to surrender. They supposedly fear the "men in green suits," meaning VII Corps, who is of course present in woodland camouflage. They allegedly fear us because we are the ones who "beat the Russians." A very interesting perspective.
I agree. We are the predominant heavy force in the theatre. To win a war you must win on the ground, and to win on the ground you must win with tanks. 3AD and 1AD are the main attack. All else supports our assault against the Republican Guards.
Smitty passed his E5 promotion board today. This was his second attempt. Last month he was too nervous.
Lots of talk about anthrax, malaria, etc. We’re supposed to get malaria pills soon. Anthrax medication is on hand in the medic track. Still waiting for the CPOGs.
Taking care of yourself is a serious project. First you have to unpack everything, wash, shine boots, clean your weapons, wash clothes, etc., etc. And the whole time there are a thousand distractions. It has taken men half the day to wash up.
16 Feb 91 Enroute To FAA Butts
I’m writing from the turret—literally. The entire brigade is moving to the FAA today. We SP’d thirty minutes ago but have now been halted. I imagine it will be like this all day. We are not scheduled to reach the FAA until tomorrow. For this operation, navigation is strictly JOG and Loran. I have learned that placing an MRE box halfway across my hatch makes for a perfect desk. A herd of camels is walking among the vehicles. This "war" is a strange sort of experience.
We uncased the colors this morning, which spurred an interesting thought. I never imagined that someday a battle streamer would be "mine." I have always viewed those as a proud page of history. To be a part of one is striking.
Received a good dressing down from MAJ Knack. Subject: aggressively raising maintenance issues to his level (or rather, my not doing so). The story is that for the past 3 or 4 days we have been getting jerked around regarding A24’s GPS. Twice I have received messages instructing A24 to go to Brigade or go to 54th. And each time we send it, it has been a wild goose chase: no parts, no mechanics, nothing coordinated at the other end. Last night I was able to finally pull all of the players together, but we had no sling and could not finish the repair.
17 Feb 91 FAA Butts (N 28º 40.96’, E 45º 14.30’)
Have arrived at the forward assembly area. It has been a long three days. Today is Sunday, but not a day of rest for us.
The ride out from the TAA was long, slow, and dusty. We rode in a Battalion diamond, company wedge. All across the desert I could see columns moving, each one ensnared in its own pallid cloud of dirt. Progress was initially slow as the units untangle themselves. We thereafter maintained a steady 10-12 mph. The only confusion came as we crossed MSR Dodge, the hardball running south from Hafar Al Batin. The dust consumed our tanks as we converged into a column to cross the MSR and the wadi. There were no guides, just the lanes, which had been pounded into a fine powder by the passing hundreds of armored vehicles. Spent the night in formation. We worked on Desert Operations & cleaning until 0100.
Encountered there the battalion’s first real-world operational lesson: we do not carry enough fuel to sustain daily on-going operations. I was responsible for over thirty vehicles but the sent me only two fuel trucks. I rationed to the extent of full rears and 1/2 front, and reported the situation. I commandeered a third fuel truck with a partial load of fuel, and some of a fourth this AM. The tanks burn an incredible amount of diesel. Certainly fuel well be a brake to the tempo of the upcoming operation.
Arrived at Butts shortly after noon. Our first real mission was a success. Every vehicle rolled into the AA under its own power—the only company to do so. Our crews are taking their daily cleaning seriously and it is paying off for us. It’s the major components I can’t keep up with. My tank is down for an oil cooler again. And we broke a PTS line while pulling the pack. I hope to have it put back together tomorrow. I am miserable when my tank is down.
Our move was an historic "first" for the United States. This is the only instance our standing, peacetime Army has deployed and plans to fight a major ground war with its own resources—and win the first battle. A very proud moment for all.
The tension level both professionally and personally, has noticeably risen. The soldiers can feel the enemy only 50km to the north. They are attentive to their duties. I can feel it too. Many thoughts rushed through my mind during the drive here. I am concerned about getting our tanks repaired. In the TAA we moved like in a dream; now the war has become closer to a reality. Much more lies soon ahead for us.
The conversation that Scriver and I had in the tank tonight:
"Sir, do you know when the last time was that I was with a woman?"
"No, Scriver, I don’t."
"Is that good or bad."
He’s a great kid. I really do like him and feel for him sometimes.
The ‘Arabian Knight" was officially christened today. The Iraqis had better watch out.
Our current personnel and vehicle status:
Officer NCO EM Total
Pure: 5 26 31 62
FIST: 1 1 2 4
Maint.: 0 3 8 11
Medic: 0 1 1 2
Stinger: 0 0 2 2
Eng.: 1 12 20 33
Total: 7 43 64 114
A13: Hydraulic line
A31: Elevation servo
A32: PCU/Main NBC
A65: Transmission oil cooler/right track adjusting arm
A66: .50 cal. handle
HQ831: Main winch
A6: Spindle seal/caliper
AVLMC81: Escape hatch missing
C12: Ramp will not raise
C16, C18: Shock missing
A413, A4, A8: Radios
HB93: F Cable
The sight of the national colors on foreign soil is quietly stirring. All great nations feel the colonizing impulse. That our colors march for a democratic republic lends the flag snapping in the desert wind all the more inspiration. Freedom makes for a powerful tonic among the affairs of man. I look forward to witnessing the red, white, and blue flying over conquered enemy soil as well.
23 Feb 91 FAA Butts
Today began as G-2 and finished as G-1. The Brigade/Bn order was briefed this morning. Originally everything was to be on hold until 2000, but that soon changed and we proceeded with the plan.
Our operations order immediately followed dinner to the TC level. No maps, no overlays, just and operation sketch and a matrix. Common sense has prevailed over peacetime Hohenfels doctrine.
It has been a week of adversity within the battalion. Maintenance became the greatest source of frustration I have witnessed so far. It has taken 2 or 3 days to energize our maintenance leaders about the gravity of the situation. The LTC has been all over us, as always happens when tanks go down; I began receiving plenty of help from the Battalion XO and the new BMO, CPT Heatherly. We soon picked up the ball, but then the trains began failing us. The LTC kept the heat on regardless. I had to monitor the entire maintenance process personally: 2406’s, parts run, checking on the trains, etc. On top of it, the team is growing resentful. As usual, they feel "abused." In reality, they are simply bearing the brunt of a round-the-clock schedule and must adjust.
We floated the old A31 several days ago. It was a good decision to do so. I believe there was an inherent electrical problem within that system. We stripped quite a bit from the tank before we surrendered it to the real vultures at the Field Trains. In return we drew a new M1A1 straight. We now possess extra weapons, radios, BII etc. It is amazing how healthy we have become in terms of equipment. Yesterday we put in all new V-packs air filters. We can no longer carry our serviceable II and IX. A good quantity was left on the burn pile.
24 Feb 91 FAA Butts
This morning at 0830 we departed for desert war—at the tail of a driving rainstorm.
Actually we are lined up on our tanks, the BN in three columns, the company in column, waiting for the word to move. And the rain, which fell all night has stopped, replaced by the ever-common winds, blowing clouds, and bright sunshine.
I had planned on sleeping in an hour this AM according to our company rest plan, but I was awakened to execute stand-to. Just as well. I did not sleep too much nor too deeply last night anyway. It wasn’t the prospect of the upcoming mission, which kept me awake, but rather events of a more practical nature. Someone came into my tent wanting to know if I heard a large explosion outside. I hadn’t but Scriver had. Still don’t know what it was. It probably was a "daisy cutter". Then SSG Loss came by to report that A31New was up. It had gone down earlier in the evening with the exact same symptom as the old A31: normal mode inop. My turret mechanic, CPL Macfarland, suspects foul play. Initially I demurred, but after some reflection I am not certain. One of our NCOs has been talking for weeks about "ripping the heart out of a dead Iraqi and drinking his blood." He even wrote a letter to Saddam. Those are the kinds of guys we have to watch.
While I was in the Hummer making the net calls for stand-to, I opened the rest of my mail. I’ve received a lot of packages recently. Two nights ago SSG Salopek woke me dragging an entire garbage bag of seven or eight boxes into my tent. My tank crew and me have consequently been on a frantic snack binge. Anyway, today I opened a box from Mom & Dad with a fantastic gift: the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Wow! What a distraction, and it is worth a fortune in this environment. I’ve only glanced at it once. I’ll ‘study’ it later when I have more time. If I don’t keep it somewhat of a secret it will be "borrowed" immediately.
Our Unit Basic Load (UBL) for this operation follows:
M829A1: 27 Sabot Main Gun Rounds
M830: 13 Heat Main Gun Rounds
7.62: 11,400 Coax & Loader Machine Guns
.50 cal: 900 Tank Commanders Machine Gun
Smoke Grenades: ~18 (3 boxes)
.45 cal: 21 ea.
Claymores: 6 ea. Per platoon
M203 40mm: 40 rds. ea.
The Loran is called a "game boy" over the net.
The current plan is to move some 20 or 30 km to an attack position. Today is G Day. The Marines, 18th Abn Corps, and 1 ID are apparently moving virtually unopposed. Tomorrow we are to advance some 200 km to OBJ Collins. The main threat of contact as briefed is dug-in infantry south of the town of Al Bassaya.
I expect that our timetable may be moved forward in response to our early success.
My early suspicion was correct. As I write this we are laagered within sight of the berms defining the Iraqi border. We bypassed the attack position and went through PL’s Purple, Silver, and Gray, a total of 49 km.
At 1300 we began taking NAP pills. From 1345 to 1515 we halted for fueling while the Brigade brought itself on line. At approximately 1720 the battalion approached the LD. Our scouts crossed, but were pulled back as the lead brigades became congested on the far side of the berm. We refueled and are laagering for the night. I think is a smart move to hold up during darkness. Operations at night are doable but difficult. There really is little need to do so as we enjoy air superiority.
All day we have marched north enshrouded in an ominous pall of dust. Visibility of only several hundred meters, the constant rumble of machinery, and the pounding rhythm of the tanks lent a surreal quality to the scene.
I know very little of what is happening outside of our unit. This morning we heard that a radio intercept indicated an Iraqi division requested chemical release authority, and that a missile had been launched at KKMC. Tonight we picked up a little news. Reports of advance across the board by the attacking forces with numerous EPW’s.
The concept of the operation:
Our maintenance status:
A22: normal mode inop—deadlined
A21: weak batteries
A34: weak batteries, possible bad air intake-sending unit
A65: L. fuel pump inop
A33: oil filter clog (engine)
A34: oil filter clog (engine)
I have done all of this so many times over the past two years, at least three or four months each, that this seems like more training. I just can’t believe I’m at war.
1 March 91; G+5 (Pl Kiwi, N 28º 25.61’ E 44º 22.80’)
What an extraordinary several days. The sense of unreality surrounding this whole experience has only heightened. I feel like I’m watching a newsreel unwind frame by frame. The clearest manner in which to relate what I have seen is probably just to begin with the thoughts on top of my mind.
The order came FM this morning to initiate formal consolidation and clearing activities. That concludes for us that the war is over. We suspected, as much yesterday AM when the mission to cut the MSR 28km to the east was canceled and we began digging in to prepare a deliberate defense.
To recount events since the night on the LD:
At 0658, 25 Feb 91, the Dukes crossed our first LD since WWII. It felt good. To be the attacker, colors flying, tanks rumbling forward are the way to start a war if one must. We won this conflict at the planning stage, the ultimate tribute to organization, doctrine, leadership, and will.
Although I thought such at 0658, the fact had not been established. What I felt was absolute disbelief at where I was and what I was doing.
We crossed into Iraq beneath the gray squalid skies, which were to follow us every day. Rain, fog, and mist became our companions, much like Germany. Only today, the first full day of ‘peace,’ has the sun shone brightly.
Somehow we managed to keep all of our tanks with us. Several times a single tank went down for a number of hours or half a day, but the maintenance team brought them right back up. Usually the faults were in the turret: 22 with GTD, 32 and 14 with TIS, 34 with RT, 23 was a hull, the EMFS, and 11 comp idler hub went bad. So we did very well in the maintenance arena. I have not had time to determine why we were successful. I predicted much worse.
The battalion’s official BDA:
The company’s round expenditure:
A11: 2 1
A12: 0 0
A13: 0 1
A14: 0 2
A21: 1 3
A22: 0 3
A23: 1 1
A24: 0 4
A31: 2 6
A32: 1 2
A33: 0 4
A34: 1 1
A65: 0 2
A66: 0 2
Total: 8 Ht 32 Sabot
M830: HEAT MP-T M829A1: APFSDS-T
8 March 91 Northern Kuwait
The Company formation for most of our movement:
We’re still sitting in the exact position we halted the night of the 27th. An order to move outside of Kuwait City for a relief in place of 1st ID is expected shortly.
Mail has arrived the past three nights. The letters are always welcomed, but the packages are especially important now that our entire supply system has broken down. No food, no water, no parts, not a bit of logistical support has been brought forward. I’m glad somebody prioritized the mail. The wealth of packages is primarily for the food to be found inside. We’re somewhere on our third straight week of MRE’s and water. I’m surprised our soldiers have not fallen sick. Our diets include no fruit, vegetables, nor milk. I’ve gotten the MRE thing down to a science. I know exactly which portions of which menus I will eat:
#11: Chicken and Rice: the chicken and rice goes on the crackers, with cookie bar and sometimes M&M’s
#6: Chicken a la King: w/ peanut butter
#9: Chicken Stew: w/ peanut butter
#3: Ham slice: crackers straight
Meatballs and Rice: w/peanut butter
Spaghetti: crackers straight
Those are my only options. So a package is devoured instantly.
Looking back to the FAA:
The minute we crossed MSR Dodge, led by 1SG, our occupation degenerated into a mess of jostling vehicles. The plan established by the quartering party called for our vehicles to be spread out over a tremendous frontage, forming a semicircle to the north. I immediately saw that such a position would never work. After a quick talk on the ground with the platoon leaders, and a few sketches in the sand, we all agreed to retain the northward arc but to tighten the spacing to a standard 75 m interval with the CP located in center sector.
For some reason the desert I have seen since leaving the TAA has all seemed ‘bad’ desert, in contrast to the ‘good’ desert of our first desert home? As I walked our new perimeter I noticed the difference between the TAA and FAA. The ground at the FAA consisted of a flat, beige, soft sand, with a greater "dirt" nature, whereas in the TAA the sand seemed a brighter color, sepia to orange, with small jagged rocks and a firm footing. Here the rocks were few, like the scarcity of people in the area. The herdsmen and Bedouins had apparently fled south. The only permanent inhabitants were a family of wild dogs (with puppies), who inhabited a small earth cave north of the MSR. Each time I passed enroute to the berm spanning the pipeline and the field trains, mom and dad would rush at my Humvee, barking ferociously.
To the NW, the Saudis cultivated two circles of irrigated, verdant green grass. One morning a Military Intelligence Lt in a land cruiser full of Saudis drove up to the CP. He said tracks led through the "green circles," and towards our perimeter. We explained that the damage did not come from our unit, all the while barely concealing the fact that I cared less, and that a great deal of traffic drove through the western half of our area in a N-S direction. The day before our engineers had pushed up several berms to thwart this traffic which was moving between the MSR and the forward brigades of 3AD.
The only other feature in our vicinity was a small town adjacent to the MSR on the south side and a gas station on the north. Each was stereotypical: trashed, quiet, falling apart, dirty, and only barely functioning. Some of our soldiers suffered rocks thrown at them by children while they passed through on a truck. Nothing came of it.
The week I spent at FAA Butts was hell: all discord and self-made adversity. I simply could not get the company healthy in maintenance. One component after another failed in tank after tank. Adding to the trouble were multiple instances of blatantly poor troubleshooting and a team chief who was struggling to find his proper role. The maintenance team had been a source of disappointment since MGM. Here they reached their nadir.
9 March 91 Northern Kuwait
The 25th of February, the day we crossed the LD, was G+1. As we began our movement we immediately assumed the familiar routine we had been practicing through our prior movements. Traveling in a BN wedge, co. wedge, flank platoons. In a staggered column, at anywhere from 02 to 12 mph. always maintaining contact with 4-67 AR to our right front.
Each time the tank stopped, the crew automatically went into its maintenance routine, much like an Indy pit team. Looking at the suspension, checking track, relieving oneself (always Smitty), grabbing an MRE, shooting an azimuth, all were accomplished to a certain degree numerous times throughout the day. At least once daily the BN halted for a dedicated refueling of the tanks. On the 25th we halted for an hour and a half, 1135 to 1305.
Shortly thereafter we made contact for the first time. HQ54 (scouts), encountered 65 EM’s and 4 LT’s of the Iraqi army clearly felt, as one stated, "Saddam is through." They are held up for several hours while a tank platoon from D Co. went to assist and the Division MP’s attempted to locate the surrendering Iraqi soldiers. The MP’s did not seem too aggressive, nor capable of independent movement. Rather they listlessly drove around, asking for directions time and again. The next morning later a female MP and classmate from West Point surprised me when she approached from her Hummer to inquire about another group of prisoners.
While the scouts were making their capture, our column passed beside a decapitated body. The body was chest down, fully clothed and wearing tennis shoes, BDU pants and raincoat. Not American, but recently killed. I don’t have any idea what chain of circumstances brought that individual to such a grisly fate.
At 1630 hrs, the BN hit a trench system on the south side of Al Bussaya. These were the first enemy works we had seen, and they included observation posts, machinegun positions, minefields, and living quarters tied in with the trenches. The minefields appeared to be command detonated, and the OP wired into the main network, as evidenced by the notable abundance of commo wire trailing like black snakes in the sand. The place had suffered some damage; one of their OP’s was a small dug-in jeep equipped with a ground based antenna. This had been knocked out and the trenches were in disarray. They were freshly occupied however, with clothing, ammunition, and weapons strewn about but all close at hand. None of it appeared too formidable. First of all it was easily bypassed positioned as it was alone in a large expanse of empty desert, cutting it off or merely standing off and pounding the works with indirect or direct fires would have been simple. The trenches themselves were narrow, offering movement for only a single soldier in either direction. Overhead protection appeared scant. Their living quarters were mere holes or caves carved into the trench with scraps of plastic and aluminum siding forming the roofs and walls. I did not see any vehicle positions, only that for light weapons and machineguns. There existed enough space to place an entire battalion of light infantry within the works, but only soldiers of a company-sized strength were present to surrender. The works formed a semicircle to the south, in several concentric rings, protecting what I believe to be a well from my civilian maps. A single rectangular building and freshly tarred hard-packed road running E-W were evident.
The BN did not halt but skirted the system to the east, reformed, and proceeded northward. After our customary short halt to prepare for night operations, we continued to push several hours longer after dark, stopping sometime around 2200. I was exhausted. For awhile I stood in the hatch alternating between viewing the sea-green world ahead with my AN-PVS 7’s, and staring into the murky darkness out of the corners of my eyes. To borrow a familiar phrase, it was a dark and stormy night. The wind picked up until the gusts of rain drove me down into my tank. I tried to stand on my platform and look through my periscope while remaining in open-protected. I did not meet with much success. Not only did I become wetter by the minute, my head rattled around the hatch, giving me a sharp jar every time the tank hit a bump. For relief I frequently sat down and watched our progress through the TIS, not the best way to ‘command’ a tank. At that point my driver was running the show. My gunner, as is his habit, had been asleep for hours, my loader, finding that standing in the hatch after dark, rain or not, to be a difficult task, was contentedly curled on his seat at his station.
One hundred and three kilometers from the line of departure we finally halted for the night. The halting of our column signaled the initiation of a critical but frustrating and length event: refueling. The tendency once the vehicle ceases its forward momentum is to fall soundly asleep as is. Most of the crews are distinguished sleep experts at this point. Meanwhile, our NCO in the trains is leading forward our contingent of fuel trucks. He may or may not possess the proper number of trucks with the proper quantity of fuel, and he may or may not have been given separate instructions along the way. I have no means to check anything. But I have learned to expect that somehow a lack of initiative, inability to grasp the urgency of refueling, and poor navigation from the trains to the tanks will hinder, confuse, and lengthen the operation. Each night several of the above factors come into play. The fuel trucks would go to the wrong vehicles, or in the wrong sequence, or the tank crews wouldn’t bother to fuel completely. Eventually we get the job done, but it is consistently a struggle.
Revised graphics as of 26 Feb, 1145hrs:
11 March 91 Northern Kuwait
Only recently returned from an officers’ night at the phones. We left at 0200, arrived near 0245, talked for twenty minutes but made it into camp at 0730. The intervening four hours we spent lost, mostly behind 1AD’s sector to the north. This is the first phone-home war. The phones were located inside two GP mediums, approximately forty in total number. They sat on a wooden bench for the patrons to line shoulder to shoulder with their conversations. The time limit was 10 minutes unless there was no line, a phenomenon occurring only in the middle of the night. Otherwise the wait may be up to six hours. Such a setup makes expressing yourself quite difficult. Still, I suppose it is a good thing.
12 March 91 Northern Kuwait
Noticed last night a second fire on the horizon, this one to the SE. Don’t know what it could be. The fires to the NE, which I assume to be the Romalia oil fields, continue to burn brightly, lighting up the sky to a glowing amber hue each night. By day the flames cannot be seen.
Not much is happening here in the assembly area. Maintenance is low key. A34 remains down for right adjusting link and A23 suffers periodic engine troubles but that is all.
The process of acquiring new -14’s and open document register has been finished. Supply actions have replaced maintenance as the topic of interest. Our guidance was to write off 10% of high use items such as compasses, watches, holsters, etc. In all honesty those items have been damaged to a great extent and there is not reason not to write off a few of the others. But Brigade kicked back so now we are wrong. The surveys will have to be re-written once higher figures out their guidance.
‘Any service member’ mail continues to flood us. And the soldiers remain enthusiastic and responsive. The rule is, you open it, you own it, and are bound to reply. I haven’t opened any myself but I’ve read plenty. The wealth of variety is tremendous. People from every occupation and level of our society have written: housewives, teachers, children, veterans, businessmen, shop workers, college students, etc. Some of the fascination mail comes from the veterans and those who have experienced war. One woman wrote of her memories during the liberation of France in WWII, and how thrilling it was to witness a further liberation, that of Kuwait.
On a lighter side, the letters from the public also give rise to more down-to-earth thoughts. Envelopes are earnestly scanned to determine if the sender may be female, attractive, and available. And from the kids, questions come to mind: Do you have an older sister? Where is your mother?
The officers (and SFC Cobb), sat in the tent the other night and listened to the ever-classic ‘Dice Tape.’ It always makes for a diversionary evening of male bonding.
1SG has gone back to the TAA and KKMC to secure our B Bags and recreation equipment. He was excited about the mission. 1SG loves to drive around in his Hummer. He brought a few Iraqi CVC’s to trade with the REMFS. We’ll see what he can get. The soldiers will welcome the sports equipment. They need to constructively expend their frustrations. It has been a long time since anyone has had any fun. We have been in the field since September. And until now the pressure has been turned on the whole time.
Over the past hour it has grown so dark outside that the day appears to be night. I have never before witnessed such darkness at midday, it being 1130 hrs. Early this morning a belt of dark clouds could be seen making a great arc either side of due west. As the day progressed the temperature steadily dropped, as the clouds grew closer. For thirty minutes now a gray, blue-black mass of moving clouds has swept above us at probably no more than 1000-1500 ft. We originally predicted a rainstorm or dust storm; as such clouds are the usual harbingers of unpleasant weather. But that is not the case this time. The sun appears as a pale orange disc pasted high in the sky. Our burning trash fires glow brightly on the ground, their fingers of brown smoke trailing skyward to add to the gloom.
I imagine our current weather is the result of burning oil fires in conjunction with the dust from moving vehicles. Several minutes ago we witnessed tremendous fireballs and explosions from the oilfields to the NE. Huge clouds of black smoke can now be seen billowing from the fires. Probably attempting to blow out the flames. The flash to bang time was 15 or 20 seconds.
Received the warning order to break camp and be prepared to move first thing in the morning. We are heading to a range some 30km to the east. I take that as good news. There are hints of the TAA after our five days of range time. Either way I intend to do a bit of gunning myself.
Division has imposed a freeze on night movement. People continue to drive over unexploded ordinance and injure themselves.
I do feel a small sense of loss at leaving this place. This exact location is the front line trace of 3AD’s and VII Corps’ advance into Kuwait. The ‘front line’ is 150 meters from where I am sitting. Our unit was fortunate to experience so much. I wonder if ever again I will find myself in this position. After we pull out tomorrow it becomes just another war story about a place lost in the desert.
Two nights ago we took the first in our weekly iteration of malaria pills. The expected side effects of nausea and vomiting did not occur. Today we receive our gamma globulin booster shot. The company is marching to the combat trains for the privilege.
The chain of command rank-ordered every soldier for possible re-deployment. The thinking is that BN may receive certain numbers of seats periodically for flights home. Supposedly the number of vacancies will be by percentages of each unit, so the proper number of personnel remains to drive and turn in vehicles.
(2000) Frago just received canceling tomorrow’s move. Reason unknown.
Spent the afternoon running between here, the field trains and TOC. Resubmitted surveys and heard OPORD for aborted mission. Sky remained dark all day. Can’t imagine this is too healthy.
Returning to the 26th of February to finish my war story:
Dawn broke beneath bluster skies reminiscent of Germany or an April morning at home. We continued along our axis to the north for the duration of a fairly uneventful day, save one exception.
Late in the morning following a brief maintenance and refueling halt we traversed an escarpment that was rather colorful. The scene reminded me of photos I’ve seen of the American Southwest: plenty of sandy pink tones blending to burnt orange and red, all complimented by the green of abundant shrubs. The BN was forced to converge to a singe column while we worked ourselves off of the ridge.
The desert of Iraq was covered with low shrubs and bushes. They were rough to touch; many stemmed, and averaged in height from 12 to 24 inches. From a distance the desert appeared blue-gray to blue-green.
Tragedy struck or company during a late afternoon refueling. This is how the scene unfolded from my perspective. I was standing beside my tank eating an MRE (chicken a la king), when I heard several shots. I looked up but could not tell where the shots had come from. I saw others looking as well, but nobody was reacting. Several minutes later SSG Richardson ran to the company commander’s tank, clearly winded and flustered, and climbed aboard A-66. I walked over and he explained that PFC Bailey had been shot. One of the privates had leaned on the loader’s M240 on A13, setting it off. Three rounds struck PFC Bailey on the back deck. Tow rounds went through his right arm and one grazed his back. I along with SSG Richardson ran to the tank. I remember being winded myself by the time I arrived having on my vest running over shrubs for the distance. I detest Vietnam parallels, but what I observed upon my arrival brought images I’d seen of wounded right to my mind. Bailey was conscious, lying on his side on the front slope. Blood and skin seemed everywhere. It was all over Bailey and running down the front slope. I told Bailey that "its all right and we’re going to take care of you." Then I asked CPL Fry, the medic, whether we needed an air medevac. He thought not, that ground evacuation was appropriate. Chief arrived and concurred so that was executed. I returned immediately after speaking with CPL Fry to my tank to report. Without thinking I resumed eating until I realized what I was doing. I threw down the MRE pack and boarded my tank, all the while threatening my crew with the fruits of indiscipline I had witnessed, and prepared to resume our move.
Again we drove for several hours after dark, with most of us falling into an incoherent stupor before we halted. We had met no resistance that day. Several groups of dismounts had surrendered themselves and a single truck fled into our formation but escaped. The truck came at us from the west (left), pursued by Hummers from 1AD. The LTC couldn’t figure out how to respond. He ordered D Co., Scouts, and A Co. in turn, to either chase it down and then, to shoot it. By that time the truck had raced away. The whole situation was ludicrous, like a scene from a bad movie.
That night we sat within sight and hearing of both direct fires and MLRS to the NE. But we were called to no action.
The peacetime training event which most closely resembles the operational tempo of our small "war" was Reforger. Meager intelligence, long days of movement, rapidly changing fragos, few graphics, these characterize both events, particularly as we are the Divisions’ reserve brigade as well as the brigade’s reserve battalion.