• Chapter 19: Strength in Numbers

    January 7, 2016
  • Port Al Jubayl

    We had been in Saudi a little over a week now and still waiting on mail from home. In a letter I wrote on 1-6-91, I mentioned being sent to the port at Al Jubayl to drive vehicles off the ships when they came in and taking shifts pulling guard duty until the various units retrieved their equipment. My shift was at night. It was fine by me. We basically sat around in our cots waiting for a ship to come in, occasionally playing cards or board games. Usually I played spades or chess. I wrote my sister on the 7th and said, "I borrowed a miniature game of chess from a friend and have been playing with another friend. I won three or four games and he won one. He doesn't know it yet but I'm fixing to beat him in only three moves." The friend I was talking about is Lance Corporal Montero. We became pretty close while at the port.

    Life wasn't so bad at the port. We didn't get any hot chow, though. Every meal was an MRE. It stands for Meals Ready to Eat, but we preferred Meals Rarely Edible. But in Saudi, our choices were MREs or that sorry excuse for a meal they were serving at the mess hall at tent city. In the letter to my sister I made a request for care packages. I mentioned several items I would love to have. I later discovered that certain items were worth a lot in the field. Your money was no good but if you had some good chow, a Marine would trade just about anything for it.

    In a letter to my grandmother I spoke about a rumor that Saudi Arabia wanted all American troops out by March; like we were just going to come over here and defeat the world's 4th largest army in a few days and then be gone within a couple of months. Yeah right! Little did I know at the time, though, that the war I expected to be involved in for at least a year would be a lot shorter. I go on to say, "I know one thing, from what I've seen and learned, Iraq doesn't stand much of a chance against us. We are aware of a lot of tricks he (Saddam) has in stored for us. I think by the 5th of February Saddam will come to his senses." But a mad man doesn't have any common sense and it would be a little longer before the war would be over.

  • Reinforcements

    Now that we were all in country, certain divisions needed reinforcements, including mine, the 2nd Mar Div. In particular, the division's artillery regiment that I was in, 10th Marines, needed reinforcement. They attached marines from 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines so that in all we had four artillery batteries. However, we were still short on infantry. The U.S. Army's 1st Brigade ("Tiger Brigade"), 2nd Armored Division, would soon be reporting From ArCent (Army Central Command), to the operational control of the 2nd Mar Div effective January 10, 1991.

    This transfer appeared to be an ironic play on history. Seventy-four years earlier, the 4th Brigade of Marines had joined the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division and went on to win everlasting fame in such hard-fought battles as Belleau Wood and Chateau Thierry in World War I. The 6th Marines was a part of that brigade, and the French fourragere remains a proud and distinctive decoration worn by its Marines. Many of its subordinate units still incorporate the famous 2nd Infantry Division "Indianhead" insignia in their coats of arms. Now an Army brigade was to be a part of the Marine Corps' 2nd Marine Division, and all looked forward to an equally satisfactory relationship.

    The Tiger Brigade was commanded by Colonel John B. Sylvester, U.S. Army. It was organized around two armored battalions, the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 67th Armor Regiment and one mechanized infantry battalion, the 3rd Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment. The brigade was well equipped with fire support, containing the 1st Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment (1-3 FA) and a battery of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), Battery A, 92nd Field Artillery.

    With the arrival of this important brigade, the division's assembly in theater was complete. It now numbered more than 20,000 personnel, and contained a large number of armored vehicles: 196 M1A1 tanks, 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 66 M60A1 tanks, 248 assault amphibious vehicles and 159 light armored vehicles.

  • Task Forces Assignments

    General Keys planned now to task organize this highly mobile and powerful force. The first was Task Force Shepherd, which would use its nimble eight-wheeled light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) for screening and scouting. Next was to form two assault units, Task Force Ripper, commanded by Colonel Carlton W. Fulford, and Task Force Papa Bear, led by Colonel Richard W. Hodory. In anticipation of a fast-moving battle in the desert, these units were equipped more like army mechanized brigades than the usual marine light infantry regiments. Each assault force had two infantry battalions plus combat engineer and reconnaissance units. For the mobility essential in desert warfare, each had two companies of thinly armored, tracked assault amphibious vehicles. TF Ripper also had two companies of M-60 main battle tanks, and TF Papa Bear had one. Task Forces Taro and Grizzly were more typical marine units, with two battalions of infantry but no tanks or armored vehicles. The division would enter operations composed of two infantry regiments, an armored brigade, an artillery regiment, and combat support battalions; it contained enough armored vehicles and firepower to match the highly mobile warfare which was anticipated. It was therefore decided that the division would go into combat in the "triangular" structure of three maneuver elements, familiar to commanders at all levels.

    I was unofficially a part of Task Force Taro, Marines advancing in Humvees. Ryder managed to attach us to Taro in the early days leading up to the ground war but then we became detached when it was later decided that 1st Marines and 2nd Marines would have separate breaching points. In my Humvee would be "Doc" our corpsman, "Ryder" the warrant officer leading our Counter Battery Radar teams, and myself "Echo Four Lima" manning the main machine gun. Although I was a radar operator with Counter Battery Radar (CBR), I would act mostly as the lead vehicle for 10th Marines in the advance during the ground war. I provided combat support and security for the radar teams. The funny thing about this is, I signed up to be a radar operator. I trained to be a radar operator. And when war came, I did anything but. But I'm getting ahead of myself so I better not go into any details. Just know that we were more than ready to meet the enemy face to face in this desert show down.

    "The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming,
    but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking,
    but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable."
    – Sun Tzu