Desert Storm Introduction

 

Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Desert Calm

It is often said that things occur for a reason, that premonitions come true, that tea leaves tell the future.  It is also absolutely true that by the end of August 1990, the Division PLEX wizards had already named the Division’s operations for  Southwest Asia.  We knew on 4 August that the Division would once again roll toward enemy tanks.  We knew that there was no way that anyone would not deploy the most modernized, well-trained, lethal tank division in the world.  By the end of August, all primary staff members and a selected group of planners from each element had concocted several courses of actions and attack plans with options.  Codename:  “Spearhead Storm”.  “Desert Storm” was not selected by CENTCOM for another two months and it would be November before the 3d Armored Division would receive orders to deploy. 

Yep, Spearhead Storm…little did we know…

Meanwhile a group of serious minded people had gathered in Sweden and agreed on Convention on Reduction of Forces in Europe II.  As Saddam Hussein was planning a major attack on Kuwait, members of the Division Staff had gathered in Bad Kreuznach, 8th Infantry Division headquarters to learn how to put together a “Deactivation Plan.”  During the attack on Kuwait, the Division was in the process of standing down its Air Defense Artillery battalion and the missile maintenance company.  After the attack on Kuwait, the emphasis on standing down elements became quite serious.  Most everyone had guessed that “America’s Choice to Defend the Fulda Gap” was about to go back in a barn in spite of no official announcement to that effect.  Soldiers privately railed against such an injustice while families silently prayed that it might not only be true but  completed…soon.  

Yep, Stand Down the Division…little did we know…

But, there was still a chance.  Despite the stand down orders that only a handful of leaders knew, the Division was still scheduled for gunnery at Grafenwöhr and maneuver evaluation at Hohenfels.  If that rotation was cancelled it would signal the end despite the cap on releasing stand down unit information.  It was not cancelled.  We were going to Graf and hope filled every breast as convoy after convoy rolled toward a destiny that we could not see.  It would be our last Grafenwöhr and last Hohenfels.  We did not know it then of course but we highly suspicioned it.  Looking good no longer mattered – getting better did.   We went after standards like never before. Yep, make your training so difficult that combat is a welcome relief…little did we know…


3d Brigade at Grafenwöhr (photo courtesy of ?????? of 2-67 AR – please let us know who you are)

Meanwhile some well-meaning logisticians in CONUS implemented a change in priority for all units on the stand down lists in Germany.  They did exactly what the system told them to do.  They just didn’t tell those units that they were no longer “priority” and “forward deployed” and therefore parts ordered on high priority by them were not going to be handled as priority.   Consequently, as units came back from two and a half months in the field, parts started drying up, usually at the higher levels of supply like the Division Main Parts Warehouse.  V Corps and other Theater stockages keep some fills coming in and helped to mask the hollowed-out shelves.  When we deployed to Saudi Arabia, the Division Main Parts Warehouse was at 45% zero balance.  We knew we had shortages but we knew we were going to a combat zone and would “get well” there.   What we didn’t know was that our priority at the National level for the Division was never changed, even in Southwest Asia.  Consequently, we never had priority even in the desert.  There were thousands of containers with stuff in them all over the place.   There were parts in them and in a matter of time we would get what we needed and did in some cases – just enough to mask that we still didn’t have priority…even with VII Corps supply units.  We were quite frankly strung out at one point in time from Hohenfels to Dammam.  We had never “trained” on deployment – why not?   We were already “deployed” in Germany!  There was so much to do that even to this day I am not sure how it all was done.  But, all that activity masked the fact that we did not have any priority with the folks that counted for the stuff we needed.  On 24 February 1991, the Division main repair parts stockage level was 55% zero balance.  By the 15th of March, it was above 60% zero balance and the deadlined equipment ripped the masks off real fast.

Yep, get to the Desert and get well…little did we know…

By morning of 28 February 1991, it was clear that the end was not far away.  Southern Iraq belong to the Coalition and a case can be made for the ease with which the Coalition might have taken the rest of Iraq.  It was noon by the time the official word got out and the “high fives” started.   It was also about that time the battle staff was notified to draw up a plan to take Baghdad.  Took about 2 hours to turn the plan but was almost immediately shelved.    What we did end up planning was the “guard” mission in Kuwait as the rest of both VII and XVIII Airborne Corps went south to get ready to go home.  Once more  SPEARHEAD was on a line on the ground beyond which the enemy would not go.  We stayed on that line until mid-May when we were relieved by United Nations forces.  The Ready First Combat Team along with the ADC-S and some other divisional folks drew the mission of being the UN combat power.  That Team stayed in Kuwait until relieved by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in mid June 1991.  By the end of May 1991, 3d Armored Division was again strung out from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to Germany. 

Yep, in a little over eight months we had learned a lot…about ourselves, our families, our Army.  No more of this “…little did we know…” stuff.  We were wearing the Spearhead Patch permanently on our right shoulders.   That’s all we needed to know…SPEARHEAD!