Office of the Program Manager
Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program
A 1973 agreement signed by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and the U.S. ambassador established the mission of the Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program [OPM-SANG]. In 1975 Vinnell Corp., since 1998 a subsidiary of TRW, was awarded the National Guard Modernization Program contract. The most recent five-year contract, awarded in 1998, has an estimated value of $831 million and involves 280 US government personnel and 1,400 Vinnell staff at various locations. In 1998, the Carlyle Group sold its controlling interest in BDM, including Vinnell, to TRW International. With the 2002 TRW acquisition, Northrop Grumman Corporation became America's second-largest defense firm, with $26 billion in annual revenue, rivaling No. 1 Lockheed Martin Corp.
The United States has a large Foreign Military Sales program in Saudi Arabia, including the F-15, AWACS, missiles, air defense weaponry, military vehicles, and other equipment. A U.S. Military Training Mission provides training and support for these weapons and other security-related services to the Saudi armed forces. A similar program assists the Saudi Arabian National Guard. In consideration of declining personal strengths in the US Army, it was necessary to use contractor-hired, retired military to assist in training the Saudi's in modernized procedures.
On 13 November 1995, a 220-pound car bomb exploded in a parking lot adjacent to an office building housing the Office of the Program Manager, Saudi Arabian National Guard, in Riyadh, causing five U.S. and two Indian fatalities. After the bombing, the security situation in Saudi Arabia became a matter of greater concern to U.S. officials. A Department of State Accountability Review Board investigated this attack and made recommendations to improve U.S. security in the region. The DoD also conducted a departmentwide review of anti-terrorism readiness following the November 1995 bombing. The Anti-terrorism Task Force report made recommendations concerning enhancements to the security posture of deployed forces, education and training, intelligence sharing and interagency coordination. On 22 April 1996 Saudi authorities televised the confessions of four Sunni Saudi nationals who admitted to planning and conducting the bombing. Three were veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. The four were executed on 31 May 1996 in accordance with Saudi law.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed a strong, close relationship since the establishment of diplomatic relations in November, 1933. Saudi Arabia's huge oil reserves, one quarter of the world's known supply, form one important basis for our close relationship. US geostrategic interests in Saudi Arabia are equally important. Located between two of the world's most critical waterways, the Arabian/Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia is pivotal to controlling the movement of a major part of the world oil trade and a large amount of commercial and military traffic, both on the water and in the air.
Saudi Arabia is a monarchy without elected representative institutions or political parties. It is ruled by the descendants of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who unified the country in the early 20th century. There is no written constitution nor a concept of the separation of religion and state. The government enforces adherence to the precepts of a rigorously conservative form of Islam, a position that enjoys near-consensus support among Saudi citizens. Any citizen, from the lowest, desert-dwelling, poor Bedouin on up, can attend the weekly Majlis (a kind of open-door policy) and present his petition directly to the King. At lower levels, this means that there seems to always be a court of higher appeals, and there is a great deal of freedom to subject decisions for multiple interpretation.
Three independent Saudi bodies are charged with security duties. The Ministry of Defense and Aviation uses four uniformed services to protect against external military threats. The Saudi Arabian National Guard [SANG] is responsible for defending vital internal resources (oil fields and refineries), internal security, and supporting the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, as required. The Ministry of Interior is charged with internal security, police functions, and border protection.
His Majesty, King Fahad is the present ruler, while His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah is the Crown Prince. They are half brothers, sons of the famous Abdul Aziz Al Saud. Since 1963, His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has commanded the SANG. In 1982, he became the Crown Prince and also the First Deputy Prime Minister. As such, he is heir to the throne of King Fahad.
SANG is embarked on a major force expansion initiative that will eventually create a nearly 75,000 man modernized force. Eight brigades are formed or forming. The mobile brigades are stationed in Riyadh and in Hofuf. In Riyadh, one brigade has been equipped with modern Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs), similar to those used by the USMC, and a second brigade is in the process of transitioning to LAV. In Hofuf, the brigade is equipped with V150 armored vehicles. These brigades also have a variety of heavy weapons. Other active duty units are more lightly armed and are stationed near population centers, eastern shore oil fields, and along oil pipelines. Additionally, SANG has an irregular force (Fowj), primarily bedouin tribal volunteers, organized into 26 battalions with a total strength of approximately 25,000.
In August 1990 a group of U.S. civilian and military advisors stood side by side with Saudi Arabian National Guard soldiers along a 60-kilometer "line in the sand." Iraq had invaded Kuwait. The Saudi Guard's King Abdul Aziz Brigade was the first Saudi armed force to mobilize for the Gulf war. Its U.S. advisors, who had helped the Guard modernize its equipment and training, mobilized as well.
The Saudi Guard has come a long way since that agreement. The Saudi Guard's modernization and expansion has continued at a rapid pace since the Gulf war. The modern descendant of the Bedouin "white army," whose warriors rode horses over towering sand dunes into battle, Saudi Guard mechanized infantry brigades now crest the dunes in specially designed General Motors light armored vehicles. Trailing them, also in LAVs and Austrian-made Styer and Pinzgauer vehicles, are motorized combat support and combat service support elements.
The Program Manager's office was established by US/Saudi MOU in 1973 in response to a request from then, King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, to modernize the National Guard. From 1975 to 1982, OPM helped the SANG to organize, equip, and train a separate infantry brigade. It consisted of four combined arms battalions mounted in Cadillac Gage V-150 armored vehicles, an artillery battalion, a direct support Logistics Support Battalion (LSB), an engineer company, and a signal company. Additionally, a general support logistics base, Logistics Base Command (LBC), and the National Guard Military School (NGMS) were established. From 1982-1987 OPM modernized a second infantry brigade and continued efforts in the NGMS and LBC.
In 1981, under a second MOU, OPM began a medical modernization program. From 1982 to 1987, OPM directly supervised the contractor, Hospital Corporation of America, in the operation of the SANG hospital, a 500-bed acute care facility located in Riyadh. Beginning in 1987 a SANG management team assumed responsibility for supervision of the operating contractor, with OPM acting in an advisory capacity.
During the period 1988 to 1990, OPM managed the sustainment of the two motorized brigades while continuing to develop the logistics base and school system infrastructure. OPM began advising the SANG National Headquarters and organized a new signal battalion and three new field medical companies. OPM also advised the SANG Special Battalion, facilities engineers and data processing activities during this period.
Through OPM-SANG, the United States provides technical and contract supervisory assistance to this force through functions such as organization, training, equipment, procurement, construction, maintenance, supply, administration and medical programs.
OPM-SANG personnel are directly involved with all aspects of SANG's force expansion and in helping develop a total army. OPM priorities include forming LAV-equipped brigades and upgrading SANG artillery. The Imam Mohammed Bin Saud Brigade, stationed in Riyadh, was the first unit to become LAV equipped. The Prince Saad Abdul Rahman (PSAR) Brigade, also in Riyadh, was designated the second LAV-equipped unit. Actions to acquire an advanced mortar system for the LAV and to select a LAV mounted assault gun system are underway. Additionally, a wide range of advice and support is being provided to SANG Health Affairs. Supporting both the LAV and Medical program is a robust construction program that is jointly managed by OPM and SANG personnel.
The Program Manager (PM) exercises principal authority over the planning, direction, execution, and control of the modernization effort, which covers all elements, missions, functions, and requirements of the SANG. He facilitates increased SANG participation in all aspects of the Program, whose goal is the SANG's eventual capability to unilaterally initiate and sustain modern organizations and systems.
The mission of the Eastern Region (ER) is to provide a broad range of military advice and assistance in the modernization of SANG's Eastern Region Military Agency. The Agency currently consists of the following units: the Eastern Region Headquarters; the Prince Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud Light Infantry Brigade; the Eastern Region Training Center; the Region's logistical, military police, and service units; and several irregular Fowj elements located throughout the Region from Al Khafji to Abqaiq. The Eastern Regions Advisory Team's (ERAT) permanent party military advisors, along with administrative personnel and interpreter/translators, form the ER's modernization team. The ERAT officers are co-located with the ER SANG staff. Augmentation teams of active duty commissioned and non-commissioned officers and contractor trainers are periodically assigned to the ERAT to provide in-depth training assistance. The Eastern Region Advisory Team operates in the Dammam/Al-Khobar/Dhahran area along the Arabian Gulf approximately 275 miles from Riyadh. Dammam is the Saudi Arabian National Guard's ER garrison and military city, and has an active naval and commercial port.
The mission of the Western Sector (WS) Branch is to advise and assist the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) in the Western Sector. SANG's mission includes defense of the two holiest Islamic sites located in Mecca and Medina. The SANG WS currently consists of a Region Headquarters, two Light Infantry Brigades, a separate Light Infantry Battalion, a Military Police battalion, the Guard Battalion, a Signal Unit, logistics support elements, 8 irregular Fowj elements, and service units. In addition to the four officers, two NCOs, and two clerical positions, the OPM advisors are assisted by one OPM Language Specialist and seven contractor interpreter/translators.
The King Abdul Aziz Brigade (KAAB) is located within the Eastern Region but is under the command and control of SANG Headquarters in Riyadh. The brigade is stationed in Hofuf, approximately 130 kilometers southeast of the coastal city complex of Dammam-Al Khobar-Dhahran. Also referred to as the 2nd Brigade, the unit consists of three combined arms battalions; the 2nd Artillery Battalion, the 2nd Logistics Support Battalion, the 2nd Engineer Company, and the 2d Signal Company. The brigade is equipped with the V-150.
A small but highly skilled and diverse group, the US soldiers and Department of the Army civilians who make up OPM-SANG execute this multi-billion-dollar program throughout Saudi Arabia. Training is the backbone of this program. At the National Guard military schools, OPM-SANG advisors and contractor trainers help develop programs of instruction and specialty skill training courses.
In addition to OPM-SANG's military and civilian contractor advisors and trainers, tailored training packages are arranged through the U.S. Army Security Assistance and Training Management Office. One such recently concluded training program was a three-month Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Course. Also, a battalion- and brigade-level command course was presented for the first time in March 1994.
The King Khalid Military Academy in Riyadh annually graduates more than 400 young officers destined to lead the Saudi Guard into the 21st century. Training and administrative assistance go beyond armored vehicles and battle tactics. At the King Fahad National Guard Hospital, OPM-SANG medical advisors assist the staff at one of the most modern medical treatment facilities in the Middle East. Patient administration, staff training, medical specialty and nursing practice are among the health care challenges being met.
OPM-SANG field medical advisors are also assisting in the training and fielding of combat medical units to support the expanding Saudi Arabian National Guard. SANG field medical support is a relatively new and evolving program. It includes both combat medics assigned to maneuver units, and the Falcon Peninsula Field Hospital, which provides general field medical support for all of the SANG.
The OPM-SANG's assistance has made a difference in the capabilities of the Saudi Guard. During the Persian Gulf war, the Saudi Guard forces played a key role in the battle of Al Khafji, regaining the town after it was occupied by Iraqi forces in January 1991. As a result, the U.S. ambassador, Charles W. Freeman Jr., presented the U.S. Army's Valorous Unit Award to OPM-SANG in recognition of its accomplishments during the war.
While members of OPM-SANG are taking care of business, the U.S. government is taking care of the members and their families. The quality of life is among the best in the Army, say those assigned there. Every family is provided a decorated and spacious villa. Children attend one of the finest DOD-accredited international schools in the world. OPM-SANG is especially proud of its recreation and morale support activities, which offer a full range of youth and adult athletic, recreation, travel and educational programs.
A series of huge explosions rocked the Saudi capital at approximately 2330 on 12 May 2003, heavily damaging three residential compounds in the eastern Gharnata, Ishbiliya, and Cordoba neighborhoods. Those compounds mainly house expatriate workers. The methods reportedly chosen for the attacks -- cars packed with explosives and detonated by suicide bombers testifies to the involvement of Al-Qaeda. The suicide bombings killed at least 29 people, including seven Americans and nine suspected bombers. Almost 200 others were injured. The main attack targeted the al-Hamra compound, whose residents are divided between Westerners and Arabs. Another targeted the Granadaa compound, with residents including employees of a British aerospace company. The third attack targeted the premises of Vinnell, the Al Hamra Oasis Village compound.
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