2-3 FA

 

2d Battalion, 3d Field Artillery Regiment
"Gunner Battalion" Historical Summary
Operation Desert Storm 24 – 28 February 1991

The mission of the 2d Battalion, 3d Field Artillery as stated in the Field Artillery Support Plan to the Fire Support Annex of 1st Brigade, 3d Armored Divisions Operations Order 91-6 was “2-3 FA provides conventional artillery fires in support of 1st Brigade (RFCT) attack to destroy enemy forces in zone.”  The battalion commander, LTC Richard Treharne's intent was stated as “Never fall behind the Brigade – keep [firing] batteries forward. Report accurately and don't lose commo. Mass the battalion and 2-29 FA on all targets. Plan for diminishing assets as we go into Iraq.”

Organization for combat was:
2-3 FA (155mm SP), DS 1st BDE
2-29 FA (155mm SP), R 2-3 FA

Attached were:
Section 1, F TAB, 333d FA (Q-36)
Flex Team (Stinger), 5-3 ADA

Task organization for the Gunner battalion on the morning of 24 February was a result of two courses of development. One derived from rehearsals and plans, and the second theoretically based on how the battalion thought the battle would develop and be fought. The battalion organized with three forward positioned batteries linked to maneuver units with voice nets supported by self-sufficient heavy combat trains and followed by forward recovering field trains. This newly developed and unproven task organization for combat was fundamentally different than traditional artillery doctrinal task organization based on European-based war scenarios. The underlying assumptions for the desert environment that were used to reorganize the Gunners were: first, the intelligence that the Iraqis did not possess the means to interfere with operations through counter battery fires; second, the need to guarantee that artillery (or at least a portion of the artillery force) kept up with maneuver and would be in a position to immediately affect the battle; third, the belief that TACFIRE could not cope with mobile operations, especially in the early stages of a movement to contact; and last, the imperative for all elements to be self-sufficient. [TACFIRE was an automated fire control system used at battalion and DIVARTY level that could receive and process digital data transmissions from fire support teams and fire direction centers. It was contained in a shelter that mounted on the rear of a 5-Ton truck. By Operation Desert Storm, the system was considered somewhat antiquated, but was still widely used in mechanized and armored division units.]

Because of the absence of an Iraqi counterbattery capability, firing batteries fought as consolidated batteries, led into combat by their battery commanders, i.e., instead of separately moving platoons. Commanders led their batteries from M113 armored personnel carriers and positioned the battery upon orders. Batteries traveled in either column or wedge depending an terrain restrictions. The heavy combat trains co-located with the battalion TOC [Tactical Operations Center] and both were positioned within two hundred meters of firing batteries. This concentration of assets was only possible because of the complete absence of enemy counter battery fires.

The Gunners fought an unusually close artillery battle. Fearful that the guns would be left behind and thus out of the fight, Brava Battery was positioned inside the lead task force (3-5 CAV) and was operationally controlled for movement by the Black Knight 6 (Battalion Commander) [LTC John M. Brown]. A & C Batteries positioned themselves immediately behind maneuver task forces. At different points in the battle, B Battery was located a scant two thousand meters behind the FLOT (friendly line of troops) and A, C and the TOC positioned four thousand meters behind the FLOT. By mid afternoon on the second day of battle, the Gunners had expended 53% of their green bag (low charge) powders. The battalion was always ready and in position to support the 1st Brigade and the often heard criticism from the NTC that artillery can not keep up with maneuver in mobile armored operations proved untrue.

The Gunners planned digitally with TACFIRE but fought a 100% voice battle using traditional FD 1-4 voice FM nets. Because TACFIRE was not designed to operate while moving, the battalion did not want to chance being caught unprepared for an encounter battle during the movement to contact. At all times, the battalion FDC [Fire Direction Center] was able to keep solid communications with both firing batteries and forward observers. This system also enabled the battalion TOC to keep a constant pulse on the flow of the battle and was instrumental in the successful execution of fire support.

Logistics and maintenance assets were tailored and task organized to create self-sufficiency at all levels. Combat vehicles were cross-loaded with supplies of all types to guard against catastrophic loss of capability due to vehicle loss. Battalion fuel HEMMET's and ammo HEMMET's were attached to B Battery far rapid resupply far forward. VTR's and tow bars were positioned with batteries to ensure that broken down vehicles could be recovered forward and their combat power not irretrievably lost as the brigade advanced. The battalion S4 [CPT David J. Faulkner] worked to create excesses in equipment and overages of all kinds in haul and lift capability to ensure that the Gunners had what they needed to fight with at the critical time. Possibly there was no other battalion in the 3d Armored Division that crossed the LD [Line of Departure] as well prepared for self-sufficient operations as were the Gunners on 24 February.

The battalion moved from Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) Henry, about 50 km east of King Kahlid Military City [KKMC], in a single day's tactical march to positions in Forward Assembly Area (FAA) Butts on 19 February 1991. In FAA Butts, the Gunners underwent final "lightening up" and left all non-essential equipment in nearby Log Base E. The task organization described previously was used during the movement to FAA Butts and final minor adjustments were implemented. At the very last minute, 15 additional GPS's [Trimble “Trimpack” Global Positioning System Receivers] were received and issued to FIST [Company Fire Support Teams].

On 24 February 1991 at 0628hrs, the battalion was notified that the 18th Airborne Corps had launched their attack at 0400 and that the 101st ABN Division and the USMC had attacked at BMNT (0530). 1ID was conducting recon, no casualties and 2d ACR [Armored Cavalry Regiment] scouts had crossed, the LD to conduct screening. The division main body was scheduled to cross the LD at BMNT on G+1 the following day.

All elements completed stand down at 0640 and the battalion continued with its pre-combat inspections. Combat strength stood at a full 24 guns plus one operational float.

At 1000, intelligence INSUMS [Intelligence Summaries] gave an increasingly positive picture of a collapsing Iraqi defense all along the front and the division was alerted to be prepared to attack at 1200 that day. Four minutes later, the battalion increased readiness to REDCON 2 (30 minutes readiness level). All recognition panels (VS-17's) [bright orange and pink sheets generally used for aerial recognition] were positioned [on the top of vehicles as a means of identifying friendly vehicles].

About 1100, the battalion received the order to execute movement. Fortunately, due to a high state of readiness and thorough pre-combat inspections, the unexpected and early deployment (19 hours) of the battalion did not hamper operations.

Although Bravo Battery was the first battery to move, Blue 6 (A Battery Commander) [CPT Melvin Fechner] was the first to report at 1120, "Blue 6 moving north."

By 1300 Bravo [Battery] was towing B-27 [an M109A2/A3 155mm self-propelled howitzer], Charlie was towing C-13 [an M109A2/A3], the combat trains were towing HB13 [an M577 command track], and A-27 [an M109A2/A3], experiencing power loss, was behind but moving forward under its own power. The Gunners were moving and recovering forward. The battalion began taking their nerve agent antidote pills at the same time, while moving north [note that fire support elements would have begun taking these when their corresponding maneuver units also began taken the pills]. The gunners had also changed from BDU camouflage into newly broken open chemical protective suits and were at MOPP level 2 [Mission Oriented Protection Posture – for potential chemical weapons environments].

At 1330, the Gunners received a FRAGO that 2d BDE would attack at 241500 [1500hrs on 24 February] and that 1st BDE would close on DIVARTY. The battalion paused for refuel at 1400 and completed a 100% top-off within half an hour.

LTC Treharne called for Gunner Guidons (all battery commanders) at 1445 and transmitted the following message: "Moving forward, good luck, stay tight, God speed." On the FSC [Fire Support Coordination] net, LTC Treharne said "Lets go get 'em."

The battalion began moving at 1500 and at 1530 received orders to cross the berm which marked the de facto Saudi-Iraqi border.

After a brief halt, the battalion resumed moving and at 1642, White 6 (C Battery) [CPT Ira O. “Ike” Credle] reported "Crossing the berm now." Blue [A Battery] quickly followed. Several additional vehicles began to breakdown due to overheating, but were recovered forward.

At 1830, Red (B Battery) occupied firing positions on an azimuth of 0800 mils, followed by the remainder of the battalion at 1500 mils. The battalion center of mass was about 15 km inside hostile territory in the vicinity of NT 420330. All elements conducted refueling operations and conducted sensitive items checks.

The battalion settled down to rest with 50% security. Most personnel spent the night in their fighting vehicles. Tube strength was 23 howitzers.

On the morning of 25 February, the battalion conducted stand-to at 0430 hours and prepared for a 0530 SP time.

Due to the tremendous vehicle concentrations and congestion in the 2d Brigade and DIVARTY the [1st] Brigade did not begin to move forward until about 0830. The battalion crossed PL [Phase Line] Apple at 1000 and began to deploy into its combat wedge formation as the Brigade took up its travelling position on the division's right flank. Fully deployed and operational, the Gunners moved north. Events were ahead of schedule and at 1105 the battalion was notified to link up with their reinforcing artillery – the Pathfinders of the 2d BN 29th FA (155mm), formerly of the 8th ID in Baumholder, but now part of the 42d FA Brigade.

The plan was to bring the Pathfinders forward using 4-7 CAV [Divisional Cavalry Squadron] and divisional MPs at PL Smash. However, the plan was askew because of the rapidity of the Iraqi collapse.

At 1200, the battalion RSO [Recon & Survey Officer] (2LT Robert Goley) was ordered to link up with the Pathfinders at a point outside the 3d Armored Division sector. Goley reacted quickly and contacted the Pathfinders about 1300. Immediate communications were established and the Gunners had to develop a plan to integrate an entire FA battalion into the Brigade wedge, then traveling north at 12 mph. The S3 [Operations Officer] (MAJ Ed Erickson) directed the HHB Commander (CPT Robert Reeves) and the [Battalion] XO [Executive Officer] (MAJ Gary McCarty) to coordinate the on-order stopping of the 12th Engineers and the 503d [Forward] Support Battalion. Seeing CPT Reeves' star clusters, the Pathfinders located the end of the battalion formation and brought their battalion on line. Halting the engineers, the Gunners brought the Pathfinders into the continuously moving Brigade wedge at about 1500. Reports were exchanged, FDC's coordinated procedures and the Pathfinders were reinforcing the Gunners with an additional 24 155mm howitzers.>

About 1630, the TOC notified the Gunner elements and the Pathfinders to be prepared to occupy firing positions vicinity PT 115965. Azimuth of fire for the Pathfinders was 2400 mils and for the Gunners the azimuth of fire was 1600 mils. By 1830 the Brigade was concentrated in a very tight formation with batteries and TOC's occupying almost hub to hub. This unusual concentration of guns, TOC's, and trains [logistical units/vehicles] would continue be used throughout the operation. Final night positions during the 2d night of the war put the Gunners center Of mass at PT 110960 and the Pathfinders at PT 990940.

Exhausted, the battalion dug foxholes, established security and conducted maintenance and refueling operations. All elements were surveyed in with PAD's [Position/Azimth Determination – inertial navigation systems mounted on HMMWV’s in the Survey Platoon of HHB] and all vehicles were accounted for. Reports were rendered to the RFCT and DIVARTY.

LTC Treharne attended the Brigade orders brief at 1900 and at 2100hrs transmitted the new mission statement "NLT 260600, 3AD conducts forward passage of lines thru 2 ACR vicinity PL Cairo, continues attack to PL Rifle, orients E/SE [east/southeast], continues attack towards the northern brigade of the "Tawakalna" Division [this and the following two units were part of the Iraqi Repubican Guard Forces]. Continues attack against 17th AD and the 52d AD." The TOC sent a FRAGO to all units to stand-to at 0430, REDCON 1 at 0515, prepare to SP NLT 0530.

That night, the skies opened and heavy rain fell for hours. Again many Gunners slept in their vehicles and many more were soaked to the skin at stand-to.

Combat power at 0515 on the morning of 26 February was Blue 8, Red 7, and White 8 [these numbers refer to the number of operational howitzers in each battery]. The Brigade did not move until 0750, which was fortunate for the Gunners because refueling operations from the previous night had been incomplete. This extra hour of time enabled the battalion to complete refuel and move 100% topped off. Additionally, Section 1, F Tab (Q-36) was repositioned with 2-29 FA for counterfire operations.

As the Brigade began moving, the battalion moved the Pathfinder Battalion to a position north of the Brigade axis of advance, while simultaneously moving itself south of the axis, until both battalions were on line and travelling together. Unexpectedly at 1030, the entire 1-27 FA (MLRS) “Smasher”

Battalion [part of 42d FA BDE] appeared on the left flank of the Gunner Battalion TOC and asked for positioning instructions. The Smashers were positioned behind the Pathfinders and the Gunners. The Gunner TOC was now controlling the movement of three artillery battalions moving simultaneously inside a maneuver brigade travelling at 12 mph.

About noon, Airforce aircraft began engaging the B Brigade of the "Tawakalna" Division vicinity PU6922 and a T-72 battalion was reported conducting a recon in force toward the northwest.

At 1355, the Brigade was alerted to expect contact. The battalion continued to move forward.

About 1630, forward elements of the RFCT encountered the enemy and the gunner artillery went to ground (emplaced and ready to fire). Positions were: A Battery at PU661140; B Battery at PU702142; C Battery at PU663130. The Pathfinder continued to move forward Until ordered to emplace about 1700.

At 1704 hours, 26 February 1991, the Gunners fired their first shot in anger since May 1945 with A Battery putting an illumination round down range at PU7513 at a 100 meter height of burst in the hopes that it would be observed by an observer.

LTC Treharne decided to begin "leap frogging" batteries closer to the enemy and gave orders for A and C to move to PU 700134 and PU 705127 respectively. These batteries began to move about 1900, but were almost immediately halted because they were moving to within several kilometers of the FLOT. Blue and White executed a hasty occupation at PU 167146 and PU 680127. Battalion center of mass of the Pathfinders was PU 667160.

The Gunner battalion was now positioned so that 90% of its range capability was projected over the FLOT. Normally positioning for DS artillery in offensive warfare is to put 66% of cannon range beyond friendly forces. Aggressive positioning enabled the Gunner battalion to range deep into the Iraqi rear.

As combat was joined against elements of the Tawakalna Division on the evening of 26 February, the Gunner Battalion's first task was to destroy an enemy bunker for the Black Knights of 3-5 CAV. Immediately thereafter the attached Q36 counterfire radar, led by WO1 Lewis, detected incoming enemy artillery. The guns and rockets of the Gunner, Pathfinder, and Smasher Battalions massed to silence the enemy Redlegs [artillery units]. A battery gunners shot two Copperhead rounds for 2LT Brent Bush and SSG Lincoln in C/3-5 FIST, one with devastating results on an Iraqi bunker. Throughout the night of 26 February, the Battalion engaged armored vehicles, broke bunkers open with copperhead rounds, destroyed enemy dismounted infantry and fired on artillery positions. As enemy resistance waned, reports of reinforcements led the Gunner Battalion to fire a schedule of harassment and interdiction fires throughout the night. All told that evening, 608 RDS [rounds] and 15 missions were fired in support of the Brigade fight.

Of particular note was the battalion FDC configuration adopted by the Gunners. Anticipating a mobile battle where deployment from a march wedge would almost immediately be followed by fire missions, the Gunners FDC was configured in a M577 on four voice fire direction nets – FD1, 2, and 3 for A, B, and C Batteries and FD4 for the battalion. This configuration went out of [strayed from] artillery doctrine when TACFIRE was fielded in the early 80's. However, the Gunners felt that TACFIRE would not be effective in mobile warfare and reverted to tried and tested combat methods. This paid off handsomely when, as the battalion went to ground, continuous and effective communication links were maintained 100% of the time between batteries, fire support elements, the reinforcing battalion, and the Gunner Command Post.

Firing continued throughout the night and many Gunners stayed awake to watch the almost continuous firing of the battalion and surrounding Pathfinder 155mm and Smasher MLRS firing. From the positions of the Gunner units, the explosions of the Gunners rounds could be clearly seen and felt.

The immediate effectiveness in combat of the Gunner battalion was a result of persistent efforts to conduct good training, a working understanding of the operational aspects of mobile armored warfare, tremendous fighting spirit and morale, and finally, effective leadership at all levels. The Gunners acquitted themselves honorably in their first engagement in forty-six years. Working throughout the night and the early morning hours of 27 February, the battalion prepared a ten target preparation schedule to be fired at 0700 on 27 February to support the Brigade attack. Known and suspected enemy locations were targeted for destruction and neutralization. About 0530, it became apparent that the true position of the divisional right flank boundary was in doubt and this resulted in all but five of the targets being cancelled. Further internal Brigade restrictions further reduced the target list to one target – which was finally fired about 0700.

The battalion march ordered its guns and continued its movement about 1000. The day was clear and bright but movement was slow due to the possibility of contact with Iraqi forces. Numerous intelligence reports told of coalition victories to the south and the liberation of parts of Kuwait City. Air assets reported many armor and artillery assets to the east. The march continued.

About 1400 hours, the Brigade again made contact and the Gunner battalion entered its second engagement of the Gulf War. Bringing the Gunners and Pathfinders to a halt and emplacing rapidly, all units were brought on common survey. The battalion CP (TOC and TACFIRE), A and C batteries unknowingly set up in the middle of an uncleared Iraqi minefield.  By some miracle, no mines were detonated. The battalion Chemical Officer, 1LT Keith Carroll, found an unfired enemy chemical round 50 feet from the TOC and supervised the S2 [Intelligence] 1LT Jeffrey Skilling, in full MOPP 4 in conducting M256 kit test for leakage.

Firing began rapidly and the battalion massed its fires with the Pathfinder battalion. Detecting enemy armor formations, the battalion built a base of fires to facilitate maneuver. BMP's, T-72's, trucks, and more bunker busting were the order of the day. The RFCT plunged towards Kuwait at dusk, having overrun the initial objective and blasting their way into a Republican Guard stronghold. When the smoke had cleared, the Americans found themselves in control of the battlefield with the vaunted RGFC [Republican Guard Forces Command] fleeing the field in disarray. The gunners fired an additional 259 RDS that day and another 44 Missions. During two days of combat operations, the battalion had fired 59 missions and 1467 RDS.

After several hours of firing, closely coordinated by the Brigade FSO [MAJ Michael Spasyk] and FSC [Fire Support Coordination?] with attack helicopters and USAF A-10's, enemy resistance collapsed and the Brigade advanced. By 1700, the battalion was beyond PL Lime at PU870140.

As darkness and more rain fell on the Gunners, the Brigade advanced on Objective Dorset South. To maintain the tempo of the attack, maneuver commanders within the Ready First elected not to use artillery fires and employed air and armor assets instead. The Gunners and the Pathfinders rolled forward surrounded by Abrams and Bradley’s firing at and destroying enemy armor. Driving through an unexploded Dual Purpose ICM field, SSG [Ernest] Johnson [S3 Section] and SSG Jimenez [BN NBC NCO] detonated a DPICM bomblet and blew a hole in their HMMWV tire. Undaunted by their experience and uninjured, they continued forward movement on their tire rim. {INSERT PHOTO}

The Gunners witnessed spectacular friendly fires as they drove through enemy berm defenses and mine fields. Many gunner vehicles had to swerve around burning enemy tanks and unexploded ordnance. The attack continued and by 2020 hours, the battalion was dead in the center of Objective Dorset South.

The attack continued and by 2200 hours, the battalion reached the Kuwaiti frontier and drove into liberated Kuwait. Abandoned and destroyed enemy equipment surrounded the battalion as it oriented southeast and continued the attack onward toward Objective Minden. After crossing PL Lemon, the battalion occupied firing positions in the center of the objective. The night march had been confusing and the battalion overtook and engulfed the Brigade TAC. Repositioning quickly, the battalion occupied positions vicinity QT 117982 (TOC), QT 124982 (A Battery), QT 148974 (B Battery), QT 124997 (C Battery). The Pathfinders occupied vicinity QT 120990. The batteries were surveyed in and began to establish accountability of equipment and personnel. Combat power for the Gunner battalion was 22 howitzers.

At dawn on 28 February the battalion began to refuel and refit. The Gunners topped off by 0645. At 0719, Gunner 4, CPT Dave Faulkner leading a fueler, reported contact with the enemy – a bunker complex and four BMP's. While fixing the enemy and awaiting armor support, Gunner 4 was prevented from engaging the enemy by the imposition of a ceasefire.

At 0910 hours 28 February 1991, The battalion ceased combat operations against the enemy.


MLRS missions fired in the RFCT sector on 27 February 1991 (48 total rockets)

 

Target Number Grid Location Time
YG1288 PU 836111 0810
YG1290 PU 830079 0812
YG1287 PU 815085 0816
YG1173 PU 818091 0818

 

Close Air Support (CAS) missions in the RFCT sector (6 missions on 26 February and 6 missions on 27 February)

6 missions destroyed armor
1 mission destroyed unknown vehicles
5 missions were “no BDA [Battle Damage Assessment]” or retasked

 

 

Mortar rounds fired in the RFCT sector

[HE – High Explosive]
[WP – White Phosphorous]
[IILUM – Illumination]

Mortar missions fired in the RFCT sector

[H & I – Harrassment and Interdiction]

[Editorial Note:  the total number of rounds in the two tables above should be the same.  In the original document, the totals did match, but the columns had been incorrectly added.  The reason for the discrepancy is not known, but is most likely an unintentional error in transcribing mission logs.  To see the tables as they actually were written, download the Acrobat *.pdf file for this document.  The Acrobat file contains an image of the actual document.]

Indirect Fire (155mm Field Artillery) Summary for the RFCT Sector (two tables)

[DPICM – Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions – “bomblet” projectile]
[RAP – Rocket Assisted Projectile – HE projectile with small rocket motors to increase range]
[CPH – “Copperhead” – laser-guided, anti-armor projectile]

Of the above 78 missions, the Brigade Commander or Brigade FSCOORD called 69 missions, Company FIST’s called 18 missions, and 1 was called by the counterbattery radar section.

Comparison of number of rounds fired by 3AD DIVARTY 155mm Direct Support FA Battalions