• Chapter 51: Mustard Seeds

    February 15, 2016
  • Warthog Day

    Coalition air forces flew another twenty six hundred sorties today. The United States Air Force, 8th Special Operations Squadron dropped more Daisy Cutter bombs on Iraqi front line positions. Other aircraft began dropping Fuel Air Explosives (FAEs) on the Iraqi minefields.

    Two weeks after America observed Groundhog Day, American pilots of the A-10 Warthog were making their presence known. First Lieutenant Robert J. Sweet and his wingman flew across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq at approximately 1600. They were headed toward a Republican Guard target eighty miles inside Iraq. This target was farther north than any A-10 had ventured to date. The Two A-10s dove in on Republican Guard tanks and dropped their bombs. As Lieutenant Sweet was pulling away, the Iraqis fired a SAM. It missed, but the lieutenant saw where it came from. Instead of turning and running, he dove back in "to hammer the guy that launched it." His aircraft was hit by antiaircraft fire, setting the right wing on fire. Within 30 seconds, his aircraft spun out of control. As he was passing through sixty five hundred feet he realized, "It's time to get out cause this plane isn't going to do anything." He ejected and, despite his efforts to avoid the Iraqis below, he landed within fifty yards of one of the T-72 tanks he had been bombing. The Iraqis were on him in an instant. The angry men kicked and beat him until an Iraqi officer pulled him away from the mob. He was taken to Baghdad and held with the other prisoners of war.

    A second A-10 was shot down today in a separate attack. The pilot, Captain Stephen R. Phillis, was officially listed as Missing-In-Action (MIA) but later changed to Killed-In-Action (KIA) when his body was recovered in 2002. Warthogs were not just victims on the 15th. Captain Sheeny, another A-10 pilot, scored an air-to-air kill when he shot down an Iraqi Mi-8 helicopter (pictured here) with fire from his plane's cannon.

  • Berm Buster II

    1st Marine Division was positioned near the "elbow" of Kuwait. The Tiger Brigade had been assigned as a support group for the 2nd Marine Division. They were positioned directly behind us near the top of the the "heel" of Kuwait. The Tiger Brigade added the needed armor punch to the 2nd Marines' attack.

    Just after 1600, the 1st Cavalry Division charged forward again. 3-82 Field Artillery pounded the area just north of the berm, destroying another observation post. 1-32 Armor moved to the breach in the berm. Alpha Company's Abrams tanks and Charlie Company's Bradleys raced forward and secured the breach. Then 8th Battalion's engineers came forward and blew six more lanes through the berm. "Berm Buster II" was intended to give the impression of a full-scale attack. Troopers moved north of the berm and set up dummy tanks, while psychological warfare teams played loud recordings of vehicle noises. 1– 32 Armor waiting in ambush concealed behind the berm. The Iraqis did not take the bait so 1st Cavalry's troopers withdrew at 2000, leaving a surveillance team at the site.

    As 1–32 Armor headed south, that Division's artillery, along with the 42nd Field Artillery Brigade, conducted a massive raid, pounding 28 targets in the Wadi. Finally, 11th Aviation Brigade Apaches went forward to finish the job.

    The 1st Infantry Division initiated their attack plan when Task Force Iron moved to the berm. CC Carter had been organized primarily as a screening force to protect the Division as it closed on FAA Junction city. The 1st Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment and portions of the 1st Squadron of the 4th Cavalry Regiment provided TF Iron with its fighting punch M1A1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. 1st Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment provided overwatch airborne recon. Platoon 181 provided chemical recon on the ground. The 317th Engineering Battalion rounded out the TF Iron with its Combat Engineering Vehicles (CEVs) and Armored Combat Earthmovers (ACEs pictured here). They would clear the breaches in the Saudi berm.

    317th ACEs plowed forward and bulldozed more than 20 paths through the Saudi berm. As the Bradleys stood south of the berm in overwatch and Cobra helicopters hovered overhead, M-1 tanks and CEVs raced north through the breaches. The Task Force penetrated five kilometers into Iraq, encountering only light resistance. They found and quickly destroyed a communication outpost and a sand fort.

    Once the breaches were cut, Task Force 2-34 (2nd Battaltion, 34th Armor Regiment-the "dreadnoughts"), commanded by Lt. Col. Gregory Fontenote, started to intermittently patrol the area between the Saudi berm and Iraqi border, and the Division began moving artillery to positions north of the berm. In preparation for artillery raids, 2-34 conducted recon patrols to familiarize its troops with the terrain along the invasion approach and to capture any forward Iraqi recon teams. The recon soldiers took great pains to not approach the Iraqi fortified positions along the "Saddam Line." The army had convinced the Iraqis that the attack would come to the east, up the Wadi-al-Batin where the Marines were positioned. The command group of the Big Red One wanted the Iraqis to continue to believe that the attack would not come from the sector west of the Wadi.

    VII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Fredrick M. Franks, was the largest armored corps ever assembled. The Corps was now moving its thirteen hundred Abrams and Challenger tanks into attack position. The Big Red One faced the Iraqi's westernmost fortifications. The British 1st Armored Division was positioned directly behind the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. On the left flank of the 1st Infantry, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment was preparing to race into Iraq. Its mission was to find the Republican Guard. The U.S. 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions would follow the 2nd ACR and smash Iraq's best units.

    The XVIII Airborne Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Gary E. Luck, had two functions. In the far west, the French, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) would isolate the battlefield. They would race to the Euphrates River Valley and stop any attempt to reinforce the Iraqis in and around Kuwait. More importantly, they would stop any forces attempting to escape from Kuwait. The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment would protect the Airborne Corps' right flank and maintain contact with the Armored VII Corps. The 24th Mechanized Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Barry R. McCaffrey, would make a mad dash north to the Euphrates River, and then swing east to further reinforce the 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions, in the battle against the Republican Guard.

    From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:

    "I went to field hospital number [redacted] because I was very ill. I heard that Iraq has decided to withdraw from Kuwait."

  • The Almost Answered Prayer

    Today's raid along the border involved Romeo Four, their first raid opportunity. And guess who was there? Lance Corporal Montero. I hadn't seen him since leaving the Port of Al Jubayl. When he saw me, he quickly came over with a smile on his face. He said, "Man you were right on the money!" I responded, "What are you talking about?" He replied, "I heard today that Saddam had agreed to pull out of Kuwait and end the war if we would stop the bombing." I hadn't heard this news yet. And I have to admit, it had me thinking really hard about the prayer that I had started praying. I think I prayed that God would end the war by February 15th for about a week before I stopped. Montero continued, "If only we would have agreed, the war would be over today!"

    The Allies refused to stop the bombing until after all Iraqi forces were out of Kuwait, so of course, the war did not end today. But I took the near-ending of the war as a sign from God. It was like He was telling me that I started to believe He would end the war on this day, but lost faith. He showed me that it was indeed possible, but stopped short of doing it, just as I stopped short of believing it.

    I pondered upon this throughout the day. I had mixed emotions, as you can imagine. I really believed that I was growing in faith, but God showed me I had much more growing to do. I was tested, and I failed the test. But God is a patient, loving God. He knows we will fall short every now and then. The important thing, is to keep growing in faith. We grow, only by having our faith tested. And so, even though my faith fell short and I had failed the test, I could feel my faith grow in spite of it.

    I decided to test my faith again. I went up to another Marine, I can't even remember who it was, but I asked him to pick a month. He asked me why. I wouldn't say why, I just asked him to pick any month of the year. He picked April. I asked why April. He said, "That's when my girlfriend's birthday is." I said, "Okay." So I prayed once again. I decided to stick with the 15th and prayed, with a renewed, stronger faith, that God would not only end the war, but that we would be going home by the 15th of April.

    Not long ago I saw a movie titled Little Boy where a boy's father had to go to war during WWII. He thought he suffered from a growth disorder because he was not growing as tall as his classmates, but a doctor told him that there was nothing wrong with him. He was just a "Little Boy." And he was known by that nickname throughout the movie. Little Boy used to play imaginary games with his father where the odds were stacked against them and each time his father would ask, "Do you believe you can do it?" The boy would answer, "Yes, I believe I can do it." After his father went to war, he heard a sermon on the faith of a mustard seed, and how one can move a mountain if he truly believes. He began trying to use his belief to end the war and bring his father back home. Although many made fun of him and ridiculed him, even his older brother, the boy never gave up believing. His older brother one day even challenged the boy to move a mountain that was in plain view of them. He turned to the mountain, pointed his hands toward it, and began trying to move the mountain. Suddenly, the ground shook. Everyone there was astonished. It was reported that they had experienced an earthquake.

    Near the end of the movie, as he was riding his bike home, crowds began to gather in the streets celebrating that war was over. The U.S. had dropped two atomic bombs over Japan, the first one called "Fat Man" and the second one, "Little Boy." One person held up a newspaper with the headline "Little Boy Ends The War!" They all were yelling, "You did it, Little Boy!" And of course he felt like he was the one responsible for ending the war. In reality, it was something much more powerful.

    I had to believe that I wasn't the source of strength that could end the Gulf War, but that a much more powerful source could. I believed that God could end the war by the time that I had requested as long as I was faithful to Him and kept my faith in His power. And so it begins, once again. A testing of my faith. All I needed was faith like the mustard seed.

    "For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed,
    you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’
    and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you."
    Matthew 17:20