We did a lot of embarkation drills before we realized that we were not going anywhere right away. So it was off to the desert for training and acclimatization.
Finally in December of 1990 we departed California as part of the largest naval armada to leave the US since the Vietnam War. We passed through Pearl Harbor for a couple of days then sailed off to the Philippines. Prior to arriving in the Philippines we were told that the entire Regiment was going to conduct an amphibious assault on the beaches of Kuwait. Not a pleasant thought when you think of the images from D Day in W.W.II. The ships chaplain had everyone on board make a cassette tape to give to loved ones in case we did not come home. After leaving the Philippines we were told the truth about how we were getting into Kuwait. The idea of telling us about an amphibious assault accomplished what it was meant to. Loose lips slipped info to wives, girlfriends and eventually all the way to Baghdad. The Iraqi's fortified the beaches of Kuwait and especially Kuwait City. This tied up troops which made an assault into Kuwait through the desert easier.
My unit arrived in Saudi Arabia by helicopter from our ship the USS Tripoli. After debarking from the Tripoli the ship hit an underwater mine that blew a 40' x 40' hole in her side. We had one day in Saudi Arabia before the ground war started. Our ships stayed in the Persian Gulf conducting maneuvers like an amphibious assault was still going to happen. The entire Regiment reinforced with artillery, engineers, and other support elements loaded on trucks and headed into Kuwait following the front line troops. We were right behind the artillery supporting the infantry and tank units. The big 105 mm guns were making a lot of noise. The oil fires were burning strong when the ground war started and visibility at times was almost zero. My uniform shows the stains from the thick soot in the air from all the fires. We had to have a Marine walk in front of each vehicle to keep them from running into each other.
By the end of the first day we made it to a Kuwaiti Air Force base. Every hanger bay had been bombed to destroy any Iraqi air craft hiding in them. We had passed thousands of Iraqi POW's who surrendered faster then they could be processed. Most of these men were civilian troops that were forced into service. They were hungry and thirsty, not to mention worn out from the air attacks. We spent the night at the Air Force base.
The next day we headed off to Al-wafra Forest. A small Kuwaiti town in the middle of the desert. Pine trees made up the forest that the town was enveloped in. We were told that there were Iraqi troops hiding in the town and that our regiment of three thousand plus men were here to extract them. Before I go to far I need to clarify that there were never any Iraqi troops in the forest and most of the men with us knew that. It was felt that this was our regiments way of being part of the war since we were not on the front lines heading into Kuwait.
My sniper partner (Brian) and I were dispatched to a water tower the first day. We could see from our vantage point the infantry units marching on line through the forest like British troops of the Revolutionary War. If there was an Iraqi troop hiding in there we were going to find him.
The next day Brian (he was the sniper) and I were sent on a patrol. We were told there were no friendlies in the area we were going into. Thus we were free to shot on site any one we came upon. Thankfully our understanding that there were no Iraqi's in the forest saved the lives of 5 men from our unit. After departing on the patrol we turned off our radio so as not to give our position away in the case we were wrong and there were Iraqi's out there. I do not remember how long we were out on patrol when we could see a small patrol of 5 people on the other side of a metal fence. All we could see was there feet and they were not standing still long enough to tell the type of boots they were wearing. Brian and I got down into position and prepared ourselves for the possibility of contact with this unknown patrol. After several tense moments Brian let it be known in a not so nice way who he finally could see in his scope. Our Staff Sergeant, who was attached to our sniper platoon just for the Gulf War, had decided to teach 4 cooks how to patrol in our kill zone. Thankfully Brian caught a glimpse of his face as he was trying to look over the metal fence. I could not imagine what the reaction of the families of these cooks would have been had they been killed by friendly fire. That was the closest I came to firing a shot in the Gulf War and I am so thankful that Brian and I were in no hurry to do so.
The next day we headed back to the Saudi border as the War was over. We mulled around for a while as the troops who were in country from August were shipped home. Our sniper platoon was picked to run Thunderbolt Range in the heart of the Saudi Arabian desert. Apparently all the ammunition that was never used in the war had to be expelled. It was to dangerous to ship it back to the states. We spent about 3 weeks in the desert supervising the dispersion and firing of all this ammunition. After the 3 weeks in the desert eating burgers that were 50% beef and 50% sand we made our way back to the port and loaded up on ships to head home.
Now all that was what I did. Now here is what my opinion of the war is. I believe our cause was just and necessary. I wish that those who suffered with Gulf War Syndrome had received appropriate attention when they first came home. I know without any doubt that there were chemical weapons used in the gulf by the Iraqi's. The smoke filled with oil soot was bad enough. This experience was one that I will never forget and one that I am so grateful to have gone through without firing a single shot.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. It is good to hear from other Gulf War vets.