On the 18th, another 2400 sorties were flown against Iraqi positions. Air attacks were being conducted in increasing numbers on Iraqi ground troops. B-52s, A-10s, Harriers, F/A18s (pictured here), and F-16s pounded the Iraqi Army from the air in preparation for the ground defensive.
Task Force IRON was replaced by security elements of the 1st and 2nd Brigades. 2-34 of the 1st Infantry Division started patrolling the attack area. The patrols continued to stay well south of the Iraqi defensive line. General Rhame wanted to ensure that there would be no chance of the Iraqis determining the point of attack.
The 24th Mechanized Infantry Division sent two Apaches from the 1st Battalion, 24th Aviation Regiment into Iraq to recon the combat trail YANKEE. Both TF 2-7 and TF 2-18 also sent patrols into Iraq on the ground to recon border posts that had been occupied by the Iraqis.
At least seven separate XVIII Corps Artillery Battalions fired salvos into enemy positions in the Corps' sector, including 24 MLRS Rockets. The Corps commander, Lieut. Gen. Gary E. Luck, had commenced his battlefield preparation in earnest.
Around noon, five Apaches and a Black Hawk (both pictured here) from 2nd Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment flew a daylight aerial recon deep into Iraq for the Screaming Eagles. They discovered an Iraqi battalion-sized, fortified position about 60 miles north of the border. The Iraqis were dug in right in the path of the planned Main Supply Route (MSR NEWMARKET). One hundred Iraqis and fifty vehicles were seen in the area. The Screaming Eagles could not leapfrog this unit and leave their supply trains vulnerable to attack. The Iraqis had to be swept from the area. Airborne commanders met to consider how to best clear the area. A combined-arms air assault was planned for the 20th and, additional airborne recon was ordered. The 2nd Squadron of the 17th Cavalry returned to the area around 1600 and engaged some of the 50 vehicles.
While patrolling north of the Saudi berm, a unit from the 1st Cavalry's Task Force 2-8 Cavalry was attacked by enemy artillery. They quickly withdrew through the breaches in the berm. Moments later, A-10s pounded the Iraqi artillery, silencing the barrage. Meanwhile, a 1st Cavalry CEV destroyed another observation post with its 165-mm cannon.
I don't think I mentioned this yesterday, but four recon teams from 2nd Marines were sent into Kuwait. The 2nd Recon Battalion moved these teams to the berm on the night of the 17th. Each six man team traveled in two Humvees. One of the vehicles had a 50-caliber machine gun and ammunition and the others carried the team's communication gear. Today they proceeded deeper into enemy territory, while two more teams crossed the berm and headed east. The two additional teams would act as a radio-relay for the four forward teams. Two overwatch teams remained at the berm and the 6th Marines stood by with an extraction force in case the prowling Marines got in to trouble.
The Lieutenant's Fate
With less than a week remaining until the start of the Ground War, all of the units of the XVIII Airborne Corps stepped up their activities. Dozens of helicopters swept deep into Iraq. Most just searched for the enemy while others conducted deliberate attack missions. Nine Apaches from A and B Troop of the 5th squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment attacked the French OBJECTIVE WHITE at 0200. They destroyed 15 trucks and numerous bunkers. Almost simultaneously, eleven AH-64 Apaches, three UH-60 Black Hawks, and four OH-58 Kiowas from the 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment struck another French objective, As Salman (OBJ ROCHAMBEAU). The attack helicopters engaged tanks, artillery pieces, and mechanized infantry near the town. There is an airstrip at As Salman where our Iraqi Lieutenant, whose diary we are following, was positioned.
From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:
"My illness is getting worse. I am short of breath. I hurt. I have begun taking medicine; I don't know what it is for, but the main thing is to take it because I know the medicine can't cause me any more pain than I'm already enduring. The air raids have started up again."
This was the last and final entry in the Lieutenant's diary. I don't know what happened to him but I can imagine that he was killed in the raid he just mentioned at As Salman. He talked about an illness (perhaps an injury) that prevented him from getting into the trenches. He had to remain standing in the plain open desert without protection of any kind while the Allied forces dropped bombs on his position. It's very likely he was killed by the raid of Apaches and Black Hawks.
I have to admit, I find myself feeling sorry for this guy. I don't know him, yet I feel a certain connection with him that I can't quite explain. Although our lives are so different, I feel I can understand him and sympathize with him as a fellow veteran like no one else can. We were born in different countries, yet we are not that different. He served his country; I served mine. He was separated from loved ones at home that consumed his thoughts; I was also. He had a faith in Allah; mine was in Jehovah. He lost his life; I survived.
God is Great!
I got a letter from my aunt, Linda. She has sent me several care packages with lots of goodies in them. In her letter, she talked about how everyone back home had the usual complaints such as the weather was too cold, or too hot. People don't realize that it gets cold in the desert too. There were days it was freezing cold and there were days it was burning hot. There were days it was dry with sand storms and there were days it was wet and rainy. In fact, the weather was turning worse as we got closer to the Ground War. It was cloudy and rainy almost all the time. And guess what? We have no stinking doors on our Humvee. Lucky me!
Linda went on to say, "Oh, and the major complaint: 'I'm too fat, but I'll start my diet tomorrow.' I think Robin is the only one losing weight, but she blew that diet here. We had chips, dip, and ice cream Sundaes . We miss you and one of the ways we deal with it is think about what we're going to do when you come home. One thing is have a big party, the kind where we bring lots of gifts; you're going to need them for your new home when you get back. Maybe a group of us can get together and have a pizza party and go to a show. What do you think?"
"At work they put a big flag up on the wall, and everyone talks about the war. So many people have someone over there, and six people from work are there." My aunt used to work for Boeing. "We've gotten some letters from them and have them posted on the bulletin board. Sometimes late at night when we're working, someone will start to whistle the song, the Halls of Montezuma, and before it's over, a lot more people join in and you can hear it through the building; and it's a big building." The Halls of Montezuma is the Marine Corps Hymn so that makes me proud. "We'll be glad when its over and the Nuts gone and you're home. Well, gotta go. Remember we love you and think about you all the time, even in our dreams. Oh, if you need anything or want anything, just say the word and you got it."
As you can see from my letter, I have a special aunt. She grew up a Christian, but when she went to college, as many young Christians do, she began to lose faith in God. She had questions and could not find the answers, or could not accept the ones she found. I prayed for her all the time and wanted to encourage her to turn back to God in faith once again. I wrote the following letter to her today at 6:30 pm:
"Hi Linda. How is my favorite aunt? I hope you're doing really good. I got another package from you today. I have five packages from you now. Every time I eat something from one of them, I think of you and how blessed I am for having you. You've always been my favorite aunt. That's why I'm writing this letter. I'm concerned about you. I've always hoped that you would go back to church and live for God once again. It would mean more to me than any care package you can send. You see, its not what's in a package that makes it a care package, its what's in the heart. I would like to see God in your heart. That would be a perfect care package for me right now. But don't do it for me. Do it for yourself and for God. You may not think so, but God needs you. Yes, He needs you to work for Him. He has a future plan for you if you would just commit to His will. Unfortunately, Satan also has a future for you. It would break my heart to think that you might go to Hell. I hope and pray that you will allow God into your heart and then the rest can be summed up into four words-listen to your heart. I'm going to pray a special prayer for you every single day from now on. I don't care how busy I get, I'll never forget. How can I? Like I said before, I think of you every time I eat from your care packages. Which by the way, could you send more Fritos and bean dip please? I love you and grandma so very, very much. Remember everything that I said. I still believe that someday you will turn back to God. I know it!"
I share this with everyone because my aunt has such a good heart and I know she has struggled with a lot of things in her life. But there is a happy ending; she did eventually regain her faith in God. And so why wouldn't I share something that, although is so personal to us both, is so inspiring. God is great!