The border sectors hosted many artillery raids, or so-called "ambiguity operations," designed as part of a CentCom and I MEF deception effort aimed at confusing Iraqis as to the position and intentions of allied forces. There were 12 combined arms artillery raids. The first raid took place on the night of 21st/22nd of January and was an attempt to silence an Iraqi MLRS battery positioned near Khafji. The 1st Mar Div continued raids on the 26th and 28th of January, and then on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 19th, 20th, and the 22nd of February.
Today, the 1st Mar Div conducted a combined-arms raid into Kuwait approximately fifty miles from the Persian Gulf. While EA-6Bs jammed Iraqi surveillance radars, eighteen LAVs (Light Armored Vehicles) with 25-mm cannon, mortars, and anti-tank missiles, moved forward across the border to within a kilometer of the Iraqi positions. A kilometer is a little more than a half mile. Forward Observers (FOs), Forward Air Controllers (FACs), scouts, and mortar teams were deployed. Marine self-propelled artillery followed in trace and deployed approximately twelve kilometers south of the target area. The forward observers called in the artillery while mortar teams (pictured here) shelled the area. FACs painted targets with lasers for Marine F/A-18 attack runs. The attacks lasted approximately five minutes, after which the Marines withdrew rapidly. It took the Iraqis seven minutes to respond with sporadic, undirected artillery and machine gun fire. By this time, the Marines had safely withdrawn.
Each raid followed a similar format. Preparations generally began 24-48 hours prior to the raid with a raid force planning cell formed to develop targeting and support requirements. The designated battalion next developed its raid time line and coordinated with covering and security forces. Division selected a target and requested air support while the raid force planned routes, checkpoints, assembly areas, and tentative firing positions.
On the day of the raid, the raid force would depart in sufficient time for all elements to be in their firing positions by nightfall. Once the raid commander declared "ready to fire," and the airborne forward air controllers and air support were on station, the primary battery fired on the designated targets. Afterwards it withdrew under covering fire from the support battery. A remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) later provided a battle damage assessment. While the raids damaged Iraqi forward positions, the division took casualties as well. The raid today caused the deaths of three Task Force Shepherd Marines.
From the Iraqi Lieutenant's Diary:
"Enemy air strikes continue, and I'm very worried, depressed and bored. I think about my children."
The Thunder of the Storm
Ryder and I wanted to join this raid as observers because we were going to be conducting a similar raid ourselves sometime soon, but we never made it out there. He never said whether or not we were denied this opportunity from top brass or if something else truly came up.
Instead, we took a short lunch break after a military briefing and then met up with the other Warrant Officer, Wolf, and his driver at team five's location. I didn't know who was driving Wolf around because I had not seen him yet. When I did lay eyes on him, I realized that he was a marine I went to boot camp with in '86. "Pacman!" I yelled. It was Corporal Aaron Pack. We called him Pacman because his last name reminded us of the popular video game my generation grew up with. We graduated boot camp together and then spent several weeks at MOS school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. When I finished my MOS training and went on to my next duty station, he stayed back a few more weeks because his MOS was not just a radar operator, but a technician that would repair the equipment on site when it would break down, mainly the generator equipment. I remember something Pacman said in a Gung ho kind of way. "We're making history out here, Lovell." I guess I never once stopped to think about it that way. What we would be doing would go down in history, whether good or bad. My response to him was, "We better not mess up!"
Pacman and I had a two hour conversation about where we had been and done up to this point. He was the one that suggested we get new call signs. His current one was "Echo Four Papa" and he hated it. After going through names from the top of our heads, he came up with one that we both liked, "Thunder." He would be Thunder One since he was in the 1st Marine Division, and I was Thunder Two because I was in the 2nd Marine Division. We could basically come up with anything we wanted since our radio traffic was only back and forth to each other and the radar teams. Any official communications had to be done through either Ryder or Wolf.
Now that we had our new call signs, we had let the teams know what they were so they would know who was calling them. I liked the name because it fit with the operation name of the war, Desert Storm.
Bravo Two Zero -Day 5
At 1530, McNab an his men were discovered again, this time by an elderly goat herder. The lone Iraqi was friendly and attempted to chat for nearly an hour. Finally he wandered off into the wasteland. McNab and his men had to move again, and they had to move now. They decided that their best chance for escape would be to hike a half hour to a nearby road and under cover of darkness, hijack a vehicle. They hoped that they could commandeer a Land Rover so that they could take off cross-country and not have to travel the dangerous roads.
The commandos took up positions and waited for a lone vehicle to wander down the road. Early in the evening their prey approached. Two of McNab's men flagged down the vehicle and the rest jumped from the shadows weapons ready. The occupants were nearly scared to death. The five remaining soldiers jumped into the 1950s New York yellow cab and took off down the road! There would be no off-road travel in this vehicle.
The men drove into the night for nearly thirty kilometers, winding their way closer to the Syrian border. Traffic began to get heavier. Vehicles were both ahead and behind the taxi as the traffic grew. Then the traffic ground to a halt. An Iraqi checkpoint lay directly ahead. The men were hemmed in. If compromised, they would have to run to safety. An Iraqi soldier began moving down the line of vehicles, chatting with each driver. He approached the yellow cab and peered into the driver's window. One of the men, known as "Legs," fired one shot through the window instantly killing the soldier. The Brits were compromised again. They all leaped from the car, methodically firing at Iraqi soldiers as they ran westward. The surprise of the encounter and the thirty seconds of automatic fire caused chaos among the Iraqi soldiers. McNab and his men had just enough time to run away into the darkness.
They had eluded immediate capture, but the area was crawling with Iraqi troops. As they continued to run they could hear shouting and gunfire behind them. McNab had calculated that they were only fifteen kilometers from the border. As they ran up on to a small rise of land, they could see the lights of Kamal, Syria. They pressed forward toward freedom.
At 2200, they were only ten kilometers from the border. The night had again become bitterly cold. They moved along the river trying desperately to advance yet not show themselves. By midnight, they had moved to within seven kilometers of the border. There they encountered a giant wadi severing their path to freedom.
Mark and Andy went forward to look for a safe crossing point. To Andy's surprise, the wadi was a campground for an Iraqi Army unit. As Mark and Andy started to return to the others, gunshots rang out again. Legs, and two other commandos known as "Dinger" and "Bob," had been seen. Andy and Mark were now under fire too. A major firefight erupted.
Andy and Mark spent the next three and a half hours fighting, hiding, crawling, trying to avoid capture or death. They continued to make their way toward Syria. With only two and a half hours of darkness remaining, and nearly out of ammunition, McNab and Mark encountered their next obstacle, a road filled with Iraqi Army vehicles crossed their path. They crawled up next to the raised road, and expending their last rounds, they fought their way across the road. Again, their surprise attack sent the Iraqis into a frenzy just long enough for the two men to run away into the darkness. In their sprint, a burst of automatic weapons fire cut down Mark. Mark was shot in the foot, unable to continue. McNab continued to run. He was now alone.
Now only four kilometers from the border, daylight was rapidly approaching. Andy decided to find a place to hide. He found a small metal bridge crossing a drainage ditch. He crawled under the bridge and took shelter, hoping that he would not be discovered. He remained motionless in the ditch for most of the day. Shortly after 1300, he was found by Iraqi soldiers, dragged out of his hiding place, then savagely kicked and beaten with rifle butts. His military ordeal was over. Just like Clifford, Acree, and Jeffery Tice before him, his ordeal as an Iraqi prisoner of war was just beginning.
An Unwanted NAP
Today was a relatively quiet day for the rest of us. Only about one thousand sorties were flown. As the Allies began shifting to battlefield preparations, more and more missions were flown against Iraqi troop concentrations.
With virtually no Iraqi air resistance, the Coalition decided to allow the French Mirage F1s into the air for the first time. The French F1s had been grounded since the start of the air war. The Iraqis had F1 Mirages and the Coalition command did not want the French aircraft to be mistaken for the enemy. The morning's briefing provided update to the air campaign and revealed that Jaguars and Mirages conducted two coordinated raids on Republican Guard supply centers, along the Iraq/Kuwait border. This is good news for us because we were going to be head-to-head with these guys and the more damage we can inflict on them before the ground war the better.
I met up with radar team two today. Whenever we were going to enter their position, we would always call ahead and give them a heads up. I didn't want to get shot by someone with an itchy trigger finger. It was the first time to use my new call sign. "Romeo Two, this is Thunder Two, over." Romeo Two was their call sign. All the teams would be "Romeo" followed by their team number. "Thunder Two, this is Romeo Two, go ahead." "Romeo Two, we are heading your way. We are approximately four clicks (kilometers) from your position arriving from your southeast, over." Romeo Two copied, out."
Once we got there I hung out with some of the guys for a while, checking to see if they had plenty of supplies or if they needed anything. It was about dinner time so we were starting to break out some MREs. Ryder also invited the guys to help themselves to some of the goodies he had in the back of the humvee so everyone loved seeing us come around. It's like being a kid in a candy store! I poked my head in the radar shelter where the operator sits to see who was at the helm. It was Lance Corporal Corey. The radio had a lot of chatter but nothing that made any sense to me. "Corporal Lovell, have you had your NAP yet?" It was Sgt. Dilworth's voice. I went to boot camp with him. We also went through MOS training together. He had two young daughters and a lovely wife that I had the privilege of meeting at their house one day as I gave him a ride home from Fort Sill while on weekend leave. He lived in the Dallas area but I can't remember what city. "Nap? Whose got time for a nap?" I asked. "No, your NAP pills," he said with a laughter. "What the heck are those?" I asked. I had no idea we were supposed to be taking these pills starting the 17th. I was at the port and no one gave us these pills. As soon I came back to the field, I was immediately reassigned again, so I never had a chance to even find out about them. "Take these every eight hours," he said as he handed me some pills (pictured here). They were Nerve Agent Pre-treatment (NAP) pills. He handed me some other ones that were to be taken every 12 hours, but I don't remember what they were called. He also made sure I had my atropine. It was an autoinjector of more nerve gas treatment to be taken only if you were exposed to nerve gas and after you donned your gas mask. I had that already because we were given that to be packed with our gas masks a while back.
The NAP pills that we took every eight hours were pyridostigmine bromide, and were to help protect us against nerve gas. In 1990, the Defense Department got special waivers from the Food and Drug Administration to give drugs experimentally to American troops. This, along with the mysterious injections we received before being deployed, are being blamed for the Gulf War Syndrome reported by more than half of all who received these experimental drugs in the Gulf War. Senator John D. Rockefeller 4th, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said his panel's staff had spent six months looking into possible causes of the ailments reported by the veterans and had found a link with drugs given experimentally to more than 400,000 of the 700,000 troops who served in the war.
According to a report written by Gary Null Ph.D. in September of 1994 called, "THE GULF WAR SYNDROME: CAUSES AND THE COVER-UP", while these pills were "supposed to be effective against a particular chemical agent, Soman, it may make individuals more vulnerable to other nerve agents, such as one called Sarin. The only verified report of chemical weapons in the gulf concluded that it was this later agent, Sarin, that was present. In other words, experimental pills were given for the wrong agent."
Yes, we were the guinea pigs for this drug. I don't fault the government for trying to do something to protect us from a chemical attack in the war, but I do fault them for not taking any responsibility for it for years. As I mentioned in a much earlier post, I have fellow marines who were diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. I still wonder if there is some ticking time bomb within me or if the medical problems I've been suffering from the last few years are just a coincidence.
"The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change.
The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed."