The 2nd Marine Division elements were still stationed around Abraq Al Kirbit with 1st Marine Division in the Ras Al-Mishab Airfield area. The town of Al Khafji was north of these towns where elements of the 1st recon marines were. Khafji, Kirbit, and Mishab make up the "triangle" area that the two Marine divisions were primarily stationed in the weeks leading up to the ground war. I created a map for visual aid. I would call this, the "Devil Dog's Triangle." This was our assembly area I spoke of the previous days. When we were giving an artillery raid firing order, we would move up to the border into our predetermined firing positions and begin firing when given the order. Then we would return to our assembly areas and wait for further orders.
By the end of January, our division was planning to move forward north into our final Forward Assembly Areas (FAA), in preparation for further offensive operations as assigned by the original MEF operation plan. Ryder always wanted to be on the move and made sure that we were included in every intelligence briefing, meeting, planning, etc. When there was something going on, whether we were a part of it or not, he wanted us to be there. He would say, "Corporal Lovell, do you want to see some action?" I had heard this enough times to know what he meant by it. Every time I would answer, "Let's go!" With that we became a part of a party from Headquarters Battalion, commanded by the battalion executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel John W. Muth III, to go forward on the 29th of January to the vicinity of the large sand berm which marked the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. It was a reconnaissance mission for a new site for the Command Post. However, plans changed quickly when Iraq decided to make a bold move and would change the course of the war. The details of their offensive moves will appear in a series of posts from the 29th of January through the 1st of February. It would be our biggest challenge yet.
Another two thousand sorties were flown today raising the campaign total to over twenty four thousand. In one of the day's sorties, a Marine AV-8B was shot down and the Iraqi captured Captain Michael Berryman. The next day, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted "Operation Desert Sting." Fifty Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Flinn, conducted a helicopter assault on Maradim Island (mapped out here). They landed on the small, twelve thousand foot island, twelve miles off the coast of Kuwait. The Marines found the island abandoned. They did, however, uncover a large cache of weapons and ammunition, which they promptly destroyed.
Today, 1st Marine Division had another artillery raid. I'm surprised Ryder wasn't trying to be a part of it. It would mean another sleepless night but I wouldn't mind. Although I was really tired and needed some down time. I took catnaps that amounted to about 15 minutes of real sleep maybe three times a day.
Ryder was attending a debriefing of the artillery raid we conducted last night. I sat this one out. I needed some rest and didn't think I could stay awake if I had attended. So I sat in the Humvee and took one of those catnaps. When I woke up, I decided to get caught up on some mail. I had not had time to write letters. I wrote my sister, Robin today explaining how I was getting little sleep and always on the move. Ryder was easily bored so if we weren't doing anything, he'd say let's go here or there. He just didn't like staying in one place too long unless we were busy doing something.
In my letter I mentioned getting a care package from the church youth group back home, but hadn't had time to open it yet. Now you know I was too busy or too tired if I had a box of goodies and hadn't opened it yet. The curiosity alone of what was inside would drive me crazy. I also mentioned getting a tape from my grandmother three days ago but just got around to listening to it today. When my grandmother and my aunt (who were living together at that time) would get into their little "arguments" it made me laugh as I would listen to them. It was almost like being back home sitting in their living room going at it. They weren't yelling matches or anger or anything like that. It was more of my grandmother trying to tell my aunt how to do something and my aunt trying to tell my grandmother that she's just being a "senile old woman." They loved each other, no doubt, but it was comical listening to the two of them go at it.
I ended my brief letter to Robin by saying, "Well I gotta go to the bathroom so I have to dig a hole." (Isn't that terrible?)
A Major Retirement
Major "V" (Major Mike Vontungeln, Battalion Executive Officer), left today. We called him Major V because no one could properly pronounce his last name. His retirement orders came in today. We hated to see him go, and especially at a time like this. I know he would have wanted to stay, but the wheels were put in motion long ago and fate would have it that he would not be joining us for the fight ahead of us. Everyone liked Major V. He was one of the finest men and a top leader. He would be missed by many.
From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:
"The enemy air raids continue and I am in a shelter. The top of it is only tent canvas. God protect us all. After sunset, a flock of sheep came up to us. Apparently the owner of the flock had been killed in the air raids. The enemy with his modern planes has launched air strikes on a shepherd. Maybe the enemy took the sheep for nuclear or chemical or petroleum sheep. For shame."
I don't believe any Scuds were fired today. I missed the briefings today so I don't know for sure and never asked, to be honest. My mind was elsewhere. I know one thing, Saddam's finest, the RGFC (Republican Guard Forces Command) was getting hammered hourly with Rockeyes. The MK-20 Rockeye, also known as the CBU-100 Cluster Bomb, is primarily used against tanks. It carries tiny bomblets within the large bomb-like casing. Once the Rockeye is dropped, the casing splits open and all the tiny bomblets spread out. These bomblets, which to me looked like a bunch of fat darts, were deadly against troops and would destroy or badly damage armored vehicles with a direct hit. I saw hundreds of unexploded bomblets as we moved into Kuwait. It was like moving through a minefield, and we would have already maneuvered through two minefields just to enter Kuwait. More on that next month.
Even if the Iraqis were dug in, and I'm confident that they were by now, they could only take so much of the pounding. B-52s were carpet bombing and I know it had to be affecting their morale. I tried not to focus too much on them as normal people. They were my enemy and I had to keep a fighting mentality. If I come across them in a firefight, either I go down, or they go down. And I sure wasn't going down without a fight.
"Our strategy to go after the Army is very, very simple.
First we are going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it." General Colin L. Powell