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Desert Storm Memories

Story Article by Mark O. Williams on Jan 17 2011

20th Anniversary of "Operation Desert Storm"

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The 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait started off for me when I was stationed in Ansbach, Germany as a 26-year old buck sergeant in the US Army.  I was an Electronic Warfare Signals Intelligence Analyst (98C) and the NCOIC of the Electronic Warfare section, 1st Armored Division G-2 (Intelligence).  We were on a command post exercise in Nuremberg at the time -- pretty much just going through the motions without troops -- when the news hit.  I remember the division G-2 telling us to find as many maps of the Middle East, Iraq, and Kuwait as we could, as covertly as we could.  I don't think the post librarians ever forgave us for that little adventure!  In any event, we started following the events as they occurred, and simultaneously started preparations to deactive the 1st AD.  Remember, the Berlin Wall had recently fallen, and we won the Cold War.  In fact, the signal battallion had already deactivated -- or at least I remember they had transferred all their vehicles.  As the troops from the USA started deploying to Saudi Arabia, I recall one night getting a phone call from my dad in the states asking if my unit would deploy.  I said, "Hell no Dad!  We're NATO!"  Within days we were alerted for deployment.  You could have heard a pin drop at PT the next morning after we all watched that announcement on the news.

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HHC, 1st AD (my unit) left for Saudi Arabia on Christmas Eve, 1990.  When we finally got out of Dharhan, and into the desert proper, we never stayed in one spot for more than three or four days as we the maneuver brigades trained for the sure to come battles.  Following the Battle of Khafji, and subsequent interrogation of some of the prisoners, we were led to believe that the Iraqis were afraid of the soldiers in the "green" uniforms because they were trained to kill Russians.  You see, there was no stockpile of desert "chocolate chip" uniforms in Europe, so we deployed with what we had -- traditional woodland green, brown, and black BDUs, and of course the Iraqis knew that's what we wore down there.  (It was in all the papers!)  The news showed the USA based troops deploying with desert uniforms.  When our division commander, MG Ronald Griffith, heard about the "trained to kill Russians" bit, he ordered the entire division to stay in our woodland BDUs for the duration, which we did.  Well, at least that's how I remember the story.  You can see them under my chemical suit in the attached photo.  We were not issued our desert chocolate chips until a few days before we redeployed.  I recall a few guys did get some early, but only if their woodlands were completely wore out.  By the way, MG Griffith always wore pressed BDUs during the war! 

The 1st AD G-2 during the time was LTC (now General) Keith Alexander.  (He is currently the Director of the National Security Agency, and commander of US Cyber Command.)  I remember LTC Alexander calling the entire G-2 section together the afternoon prior to the ground invasion that he expected numerous casualties in the division, and might even lose some of us in the division headquarters.  I looked around the shelter, and thought, "I sure feel bad for some of you guys."  Ha!  We charged over the border early the next morning fully expecting to drive through trenches of burning oil.  Nah, it was actually pretty easy.  Amazingly fast, but pretty easy.  Of course I write that with twenty years of hindsight, but I do recall it was quite a rush.  We in the electronic warfare section really didn't have much to do during the actual battles as most of our work doing electronic preparation of the battlefield was done prior to the beginning of the ground assault.  We did keep busy with collection and dissemination of SIGINT reports however.  Of course, within hours we were told the final assault would occur, as President Bush had called a cease fire.  Since our job in the G-2 was essentially done, we actually broke out the remainder of our British non-alcoholic beer (something like $24 a case at these little Saudi stores) we had been saving, sat in lawn chairs, listened to Wilson Phillips on our boom box, and watched the MLRS, and artillery barrage!  Within a month we were issued our chocolate chips, and flew back to Germany.

Mark O. Williams

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Photos and text by Mark O. Williams

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