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Amphibious Forces: The Gulf War (A Study In Quick Response And The Versatility Of Amphibious Forces)

Amphibious Forces: The Gulf War (A Study In Quick Response And The Versatility Of Amphibious Forces)

 

CSC 1992

 

SUBJECT AREA Warfighting

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Title: Amphibious Forces: The Gulf War (A Study in Quick

Response and the Versatility of Amphibious Forces)

 

Author: Major Charles M. Herndon, United States Marine Corps

 

Thesis: Although ground forces were the key to our success

in Southwest Asia, Amphibious Forces were activated,

deployed, and provided a variety of options to the CINC

including quick response to contingencies that require the

flexibility only Amphibious Forces can give.

 

Background: Since the cessation of hostilities in Southwest

Asia, many articles have been written lauding the

performance of U.S. ground forces during Operation Desert

Shield/Storm. To date there has been no mention of the

contribution of amphibious forces deployed to Southwest Asia

in support of operations in the Persian Gulf. This account,

as seen by one who participated with these forces, is an

endeavor to tell their story, highlight their contributions,

and validate the use of Brigade size amphibious forces in

future contingency operations where the respective combatant

CINC's require capability and flexibility of force to turn

the tide in any given situation.

 

Recommendation: Marine Corps planners consider the

deployment of Brigade size forces, as the only MAGTF potent

enough, to provide a viable deterrent option to the CINC's

in future regional conflicts.

 

AMPHIBIOUS FORCES: THE GULF WAR

(A STUDY IN QUICK RESPONSE AND

THE VERSATILITY OF AMPHIBIOUS FORCES)

 

OUTLINE

 

Thesis: Although ground forces were the key to our

success in Southwest Asia, Amphibious Forces were activated,

deployed, and provided a variety of options to the CINC

including quick response to contingencies that required the

flexibility only Amphibious Forces can give.

 

I. Activation and Embarkation

A. The Lack of Mission

B. Problems of Task Organization

C. The Lack of Amphibious Lift

 

II. Transit to the North Arabian Sea

A. Development of Transit Groups

B. Communications

C. Logistics

D. Intelligence Requirements

 

III. On Station Masirah: The Challenges

A. Helicopter Utilization

B. Force Sustainment

C. Command Relationships

D. Employment Options

E. Integration of the 13th MEU

 

IV. Reconfiguration of MSC Vessels

A. Port Selection/Utilization

B. Alternative Shipping

C. MPS Utilization

D. The Port Operations Group

 

V. War Preparation

A. Rehearsals and Landings

B. Integration of 13th MEU and 5th MEB

C. Maritime Interdiction Force Operations

 

VI. Operation Eastern Exit

A. Warning Order

B. Assignment of CATF/CLF

C. Aviation Operations

D. Successful NEO

 

VII. The Gulf War

A. ATF Participation

B. Amphibious Firsts

C. Operation Sea Angel

 

Although ground forces were the key to our success in

Southwest Asia (5:22), Amphibious Forces were activated,

deployed, and provided a variety of options to the CINC

including a quick response to contingencies that required

the flexibility only Amphibious Forces can give. There have

been many articles written in the aftermath of the Gulf War

relative to ground operations. The following account

details how amphibious forces were tasked, organized,

deployed, and employed to carry out the CINC's campaign

plan.

During July and August of 1990, the 4th Marine

Expeditionary Brigade prepared for a major deployment and

training exercise in Norway and Denmark known as

Teamwork/Bold Guard 9O. The Brigade's plans pointed to the

upcoming exercise in northern Europe. These plans would

eventually prove to be of utmost importance when the Brigade

would get the word to "move out" in support of operations in

Southwest Asia.

Even with the ongoing planning for the NATO operation,

 

the Brigade G-2 kept close tabs on the rapidly deteriorating

 

situation in Liberia which might require the Brigade's

 

participation in an evacuation of Americans from Monrovia.

 

This situation coupled with the outbreak of hostilities in

 

Kuwait kept the Brigade's intelligence personnel up to their

 

"ears in alligators." Of the two ongoing problem areas, the

 

Brigade was leaning towards possible involvement in Liberia

 

by virtue to its close proximity to LANTFLT forces. They

 

were soon to find out that their focus would change

 

drastically and their efforts would be redirected,

 

accordingly.

 

On 9 August, the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic

 

Command, directed the Brigade, in concert with Amphibious

 

Group Two, to deploy to the Gulf region as soon as feasible

 

in support on the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command

 

(USCENTCOM).(4:2) With the haste to assign combat power to

 

the Gulf region, the CATF/CLF were assigned but not with the

 

amphibious lift required to get the forces there.

 

Nonetheless, planning between the two staffs led to the

 

embarkation and deployment of 10,500 Marines and sailors

 

with their associated equipment and supplies within 12 days

 

of notification. Such a feat had not been accomplished;

 

since the dark days of Korea in the summer of 1950.(4:3)

 

Even with the quick "get-out-of town" plan, the Brigade

 

deployed without a mission. The open-ended guidance--be

 

prepared to conduct amphibious landings and sustained

 

operations ashore--was as close to an Initiating Directive

 

the Brigade ever received. This guidance forced the staff

 

to review any and all possible missions, enemy capabilities,

 

terrain and weather, troops, time, space and logistics

 

(METT-T-SL) that might impact the Brigade. Major General

 

Harry W. Jenkins, Jr. as the Commander Landing Force and

 

Admiral Laplante as the Commander Amphibious Task Force

 

(1:46) set their staffs to work with direction from CLF

 

deciding what the Brigade should be tailored to meet.

 

Priorities of anti-armor weapons, water production

 

capability, fuel storage capabilities, water and fuel

 

line-haul, engineer equipment, mobility and counter-mobility

 

assets, medical, air command and control, anti-air

 

capabilities, aviation assets, communications, and NBC

 

clothing and equipment comprised the "shopping list."

 

While these items were being sourced, II MEF and its

 

MSC's were assembling the force to go along with the

 

equipment. Every moment was now critical as the Brigade had

 

been directed to sail from Norfolk, Virginia, no later than

 

19 August. The task organization took shape as follows:

 

GCE, 2d Marines commanded by Col. T.A. Hobbs. ACE, Marine

 

Aircraft Group-40 commanded by Col. G.F. Burgess. CSSE,

 

BSSG-4 commanded by Col. J.J. Doyle. To this MAGTF was

 

added the additional combat power of a company of tanks, two

 

companies of LAV's, a battalion of artillery, a 20-plane

 

squadron of AV-8B Harriers, and a squadron of Cobra attack

 

helicopters. (4:5)

 

One of the many evolutions ongoing at this time was the

 

CATF/CLF staff's working feverishly to obtain enough

 

amphibious lift to move the Brigade. A Brigade of this size

 

has a lift footprint of 20-23 amphibious ships: the Brigade

 

was working with only the nine that were authorized to

 

support Teamwork/Bold Guard 90. After much "arm wrestling"

 

over ships' maintenance schedules, ships' conditions, and

 

recent deployments, the CATF/CLF staffs managed to negotiate

 

four more amphibious ships in support of the ATF. The

 

number, nine or thirteen, vacillated for four days as the

 

planning continued. Finally, with considerable efforts by

 

all concerned, the 13 ship mix was authorized and assigned

 

to the ATF.

 

Even with the assignment of the four additional ships,

 

the Brigade's lift footprint was still significantly larger

 

than the ships assigned. Work with the Military Sealift

 

Command (MSC) was at maximum speed to ensure the required

 

lift could be obtained. On 16 August, the issue culminated

 

in the assignment of the first MSC vessel in support of the

 

Brigade. The MV CAPE DOMINGO was the first of five MSC

 

vessels assigned to support the lift requirement. This

 

selection would become more and more significant as the

 

deployment progressed. (4:6)

 

All of this planning to move the ATF was not done in a

 

vacuum however. Due to the size of the ATF, the loading at

 

Norfolk and Morehead City, North Carolina, (MHC) had to be

 

staggered so as not to overcrowd the ports by the numbers of

 

personnel and equipment to be loaded. This plan worked well

 

with the first five "grey-bottom" gators departing MHC on 17

 

August; the second transit group departing on the 20th; and

 

the third transit group departing on the 21st. The five MSC

 

vessels assigned in support of the Brigade were loaded from

 

two weeks to one month after the Brigade's departure. This

 

schedule made knowing exactly what was loaded and how it was

 

loaded nearly impossible, even with the excellent assistance

 

provided by the Strategic Mobility section from Fleet Marine

 

Force, Atlantic. Even though a portion of the Brigade's

 

Assault Echelon (AE) and its Assault Follow-On Echelon

 

(AFOE) were loaded on "black-bottoms" and the ATF ships were

 

not optimally loaded, the ATF sailed with a full capability

 

to conduct an assault in accordance with its mission

 

guidance. (4:9) This evolution prompted the CLF to spend

 

much of his first three months at sea, devoting much of his

 

concern to how the Brigade was deployed, and forcing him to

 

dedicate as much as 75 percent of his time to logistics

 

issues. (4:11)

 

Development of the transit groups presented problems in

 

itself. With the physical separation of the three groups

 

and the CLF from his commanders, the CG decided to split the

 

Command Element into an "Alpha" and "Bravo" group so that

 

planning could continue with the maximum effectiveness.

 

This separation turned out to be a blessing in disguise as

 

radio communications became almost non-existent and message

 

traffic routed through the Naval Communications Area Master

 

Station (NAVCAMS) became so back logged with messages that

 

NAVCAMS Mediterranean was 20,000 messages in arrears by 2

 

September. The breakdown in the communications network and

 

the lack of face-to-face communication between commanders

 

caused by the two to three-day steaming separation between

 

the transit groups forced the Brigade CommO to some drastic

 

actions.

 

The communication problem was addressed in two ways.

 

The first was the use of the World-Wide Military Command and

 

Control System (WWMCCS) terminal installed on the USS NASSAU

 

to provide communications to CONUS and to the theater of

 

operation. The second was to establish a command

 

communication channel over which the CG could communicate

 

with his commanders. When this channel was established,

 

communications between elements of the MAGTF could be

 

conducted in the evening hours with the other transit

 

groups.

 

Although this effort to communicate helped, it by no

 

means eliminated the problem. The two areas hardest hit by

 

the lack of continuous communication were the personnel and

 

logistics sections of the Brigade. Accurate personnel

 

counts from the separated units became more and more

 

difficult to sort. The G-1 could not provide accurate

 

accountability, either by unit or ship, nor could he

 

transmit with any regularity notifications of deaths, births

 

or emergency as they were received. This problem was not

 

solved until the Brigade rendezvoused in the North Arabian

 

Sea.

 

The problem of logistics was far greater than that of

 

personnel. The MAGTF was embarked, but the requisite data

 

required to evaluate its full capabilities was being lost in

 

the communication system. The logisticians understood at

 

the time of embarkation that the Brigade would be capable of

 

a full-scale amphibious assault upon arrival in the AO based

 

on the loads aboard and the information available at the

 

time of embarkation. However, they also understood that as

 

the transit groups pushed east additional missions were

 

being developed and that the ATF would most likely have to

 

be reconfigured to support them once the ATF reached their

 

destination in the North Arabian Sea. The "kicker" was that

 

the logisticians also understood the importance of the five

 

MSC vessels sailing with the remainder of the AE and the

 

AFOE. Information obtained from Embarked Personnel and

 

Material Reports (EPMR) gleaned from WWMCCS indicated that

 

the vessels assigned were not self-sustaining ships. This

 

inability to download ATF equipment in-stream would hamper

 

the flexibility inherent to amphibious forces. A

 

reconfiguration would have to be planned and conducted soon

 

after arrival on station. This evolution would not take

 

place until several weeks after the ATF arrived in the North

 

Arabia Sea on 16 September 1990.

 

With all going so negatively, a bright spot

 

existed. The normally small cadre of G-2 personnel assigned

 

to the Brigade had been augmented by a contingent from the

 

newly established 2d Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and

 

Intelligence Group (SRIG) from Camp Lejeune.(4:14) Composed

 

of The MAGTF All-Source Fusion Center(MAFC) detachment,

 

imagery interpreters, interrogator-translator and

 

topographic detachments, this unit manned the Joint

 

Intelligence Center with the Navy, providing both CATF/CLF

 

staffs with an intelligence production center for the ATF.

 

Conducting all-source fusion of collections efforts and

 

target intelligence, this combination would mark the first

 

time that a MAFC had been deployed afloat in support of

 

contingency operations. (4:14-15)

 

With this as a start, the Brigade Marines had

 

thoroughly settled into ship-board life and even through the

 

daily training evolutions, they were beginning to see places

 

and parts of the world many of them never thought they would

 

see: the Straits of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal with its vast

 

Sinai peninsula and abandoned Israeli watch towers; the Red

 

Sea and movement through the Bab El Mandeb that separates

 

Yemen and Djibouti.(4:15) Finally, on 16 September after

 

the transit of the Gulf of Aden, the ATF took up its

 

position off the tiny Masirah Island in the North Arabian

 

Sea, a place that would become home to the ATF for the next

 

eight-and-one-half months.

 

At last, the transit groups could come together as a

 

complete ATF once off the island of Masirah. In modified

 

locations (MODLOC), the ATF reported opcon to COMUSNAVCENT

 

for operations. The time had come for detailed planning and

 

the major challenges of force sustainment, component

 

relationships, employment options, intelligence support, and

 

the biggest challenge of all: helicopter utilization.

 

As had been the concern of the ATF throughout the

 

transit, logistics and sustainment of the force became of

 

paramount concern. Masirah Island, the site of past small

 

scale training evolutions, had an airhead that could serve

 

as the through-put hub for the ATF. Military Airlift

 

Command (MSC) established the pipeline and COMUSNAVCENT

 

worked out the details of airhead utilization with the Royal

 

Air Force of Oman. The problem was the lack of the Navy

 

Combat Logistic Force (CLF) ships and their organic

 

helicopter support to work the airhead. With force

 

sustainment the top priority, Marine helicopters took on the

 

mission of providing repair parts, mail, cargo, and fresh

 

fruit and vegetables to the ATF. MAG-40 and Navy aviation

 

planners (TACRON-22) came to a deadlock on the utilization

 

and employment of the helicopter assets. The navy planners

 

committed helicopters without regard to their efficient

 

utilization and the combat training requirements

 

yet to be met. Eventually, the planners agreed to the use

 

of a consolidated air tasking order (ATO).(4:17) This effort

 

allowed for the support of the ATF and provided centralized

 

control of the helicopter assets so as to maximize training

 

of air crews and pilots.

 

With the air tasking system in place, sustainment of

 

the force became an all consuming task. Navy and Marine

 

planners calculated the requirement for at least three CLF

 

ships to support the ATF. This requirement would allow for

 

movement of the ships on and off station to provide fuel,

 

passengers, mail and cargo (PMC) throughout the force. Only

 

two were provided, which put the "monkey" square on the back

 

of the ATF. To provide the needed support, the ATF would

 

have to provide at least one dedicated ship to work the

 

airhead in conjunction with the CLF ships assigned. With a

 

consolidation day, airhead operations day, and a

 

distribution day, the ATF dedicated six out of every seven

 

days to consolidating, receiving, and distributing

 

sustainment to the force. This effort was to severely

 

impact the rehearsal and exercise schedule of the landing

 

force, as almost always at least one ship had one or more

 

units missing during rehearsals.

 

While trying to sustain itself, the ATF was also

 

working on the command relationships that would be required

 

to function in the AO. The Brigade on arrival in the AO had

 

reported to CINCCENT who then passed the force to

 

COMUSNAVCENT, the naval component commander. The Brigade

 

was retained in this command relationship throughout its

 

time in Southwest Asia. At no time was the Brigade, Landing

 

Force, or the ATF under the OPCON of COMUSMARCENT, even;

 

though much of the contingency planning was done in support

 

of MARCENT requirements.(4:19)

 

MARCENT requirements drove the Brigade staff to look at

 

any and all possible missions that could be tasked in

 

support of ground operations. Their work produced the

 

following employment options:

 

OPTION 1: MEB level surface-heavy assault with

 

helicopterborne forces used to reinforce and expand the

 

beachhead. The 13th MEU (SOC) was now on station and was

 

integrated into the Brigade planning in order to maintain

 

their unique capabilities and training.

 

OPTION 2: MEB level combination surface and

 

helicopterborne assault with the same mix as Option 1. This

 

option would be used if the AAA/SAM threat was such as to

 

let the helo forces go deep inland to conduct a link-up.

 

OPTION 3: MEB level surface/helicopterborne assault

 

with 13th MEU as an advance force and then revert to the

 

landing force reserve.(4:20)

 

OPTION 4: MEB level heavy raid with two BLT's landing

 

by helo and surface means. The 13th MEU would be retained

 

separately for possible supporting mission. (4:20)

 

OPTION 5: MEB level raid with one BLT reinforced and

 

a GCE command group landing by helo.(4:21)

 

OPTION 6: MEB level raid with BLT reinforced with

 

mechanized assets (LAI and AAV) and a command group from the

 

GCE. The 13th MEU would be retained for an independent

 

mission. (4:21)

 

OPTION 7: MEU level raid reinforced with one

 

battalion. Landing by helicopter and surface means would be

 

controlled by the MEU.(4:21)

 

OPTION 8: MEB level artillery raids supported by both

 

MEB and MEU assets.(4:21)

 

OPTION 9: MEU level raids. This option encompassed

 

the standard 18 MEU (SOC) missions.(4:21)

 

OPTION 10: MEB level airfield take-down by helicopter

 

and surface means. MEU would be retained as a separate

 

entity for this option. (4:21)

 

These missions once forwarded to COMUSNAVCENT indicated

 

very clearly that the amphibious force was capable of either

 

tactical or strategic missions. This capability would not

 

have been possible without the integration of the 13th MEU

 

(SOC). The CLF's decision to integrate and not "composite"

 

the MEU added greatly to the capability of the force as a

 

whole and allowed for the prudent use of the MEU (SOC)

 

inherent with its training and capabilities.

 

While the development of employment options was being

 

considered, the logisticians were busy doing port surveys in

 

the area to ascertain their capabilities and limitations.

 

The five MSC vessels still had to be down loaded and

 

reconfigured to support the ATF. Additionally, an effort

 

had to be made to obtain self-sustaining ships that could be

 

utilized for in-stream down load should an amphibious

 

mission have to be executed. Both COMUSNAVCENT and Commander,

 

Military Sealift Command, Southwest Asia (COMSCSWA)

 

contributed greatly in helping to solve these two problems.

 

In early October, all five MSC vessels arrived in the North

 

Arabian Sea. COMSCSWA returned two MPF vessels, the MV

 

BONNEYMEN and MV BAUGH, from the common-user lift pool, and

 

designated them as withhold ships in support of the ATF. By

 

9 October, the port of Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia was obtained

 

for the reconfiguration project.(4:25) From October 13

 

through December 5, the Port Operations Group (POG), made up

 

of 397 Marines and sailors, down loaded the five MSC

 

vessels, conducted inventories, reconfigured the equipment

 

and supplies to support the ATF. The MV BONNEYMAN loaded

 

with sustainment became the ATF's "floating warehouse." The

 

MV BAUGH was loaded tactically, with equipment of the AE

 

needed for the assault and the required lighterage to

 

transport that equipment from ship-to-shore. During this

 

period the drivers, engineers, landing support, material

 

handling, ammunition techs, military police, food service

 

and medical personnel turned over 90 percent of the ATF's

 

fortification material to I MEF, reworked some 124

 

containers of ammunition, and 748 containers of supplies,

 

and embarked all of this material aboard the two MPF

 

vessels.(4:29) These POG personnel had done what many had

 

thought impossible in the time allotted. They reconfigured

 

these ships in record time, back loaded the two MPF vessels

 

and turned the port over to First FSSG personnel in just

 

short of six weeks. The most important result was the

 

Brigade now had the ability to augment the amphibious

 

capabilities of the Navy by allowing the in-stream discharge

 

capability of the MPF vessels to be utilized. This

 

Herculean effort should be remembered as one of many

 

logistical feats accomplished during the Gulf war.

 

Time did not stand still while the POG and ATF planners

 

were performing so well. The current operations folks were

 

busy planning a series of rehearsals and exercises that

 

would test the employment options that the future plans

 

folks were putting together. These plans resulted in the

 

SEA SOLDIER series of exercises conducted in southern Oman,

 

off Madrakah, that would acclimatize the units, test and

 

hone their skills in the desert, and make them ready for

 

what everyone knew was the inevitable. SEAS SOLDIER's I-IV

 

were conducted from September through January with a show of

 

force exercise in the Gulf (IMMINENT THUNDER) in mid

 

November that put a total of 15,500 Marines and 2600

 

principal end-items of equipment ashore in a four month

 

period.(4:33-44) This effort had transformed a hastily

 

loaded, rough-edged unit into one fully prepared and ready

 

for war. Their readiness forged in the desert of Oman

 

prepared this task force for things to come.

 

This readiness did not come easy. The integration of

 

the 13th MEU (SOC) and the 5th MEB during this time was a

 

major accomplishment. Their understanding of the situation

 

and their willingness to work with all involved epitomizes

 

the MARINE philosophy. Throughout the rehearsal and

 

training evolutions, these units were integrated as a full

 

and contributing entity of the task force. Their

 

contributions to the accomplishment of the overall missions

 

assigned to the ATF can not be overstated. These

 

contributions were to prove valuable as time progressed, and

 

the ATF provided the flexibility the CINC required in

 

support of operations in and out of the Gulf.

 

One of those tasks that was to present itself was that

 

of Maritime Interdiction Force operations being conducted by

 

the Allied Navies patrolling the North Arabian Sea and the

 

Gulf. When United Nations' sanctions had been levied, the

 

maritime forces were charged with enforcing the sanctions

 

and the consequent embargoes. As ships carrying contraband

 

to Iraq continued to press their way to the Gulf region,

 

resistance to the boarding process increased. As a result

 

of this resistance, COMUSNAVCENT, put out the call for the

 

ATF to muster a Helicopter MIF capability (HMIF). This

 

mission fell within the preview of the training and

 

capabilities of the 13th MEU (SOC). Their first target was

 

the Iraqi merchant vessel AL MULTANABBI to be hailed and

 

boarded for search on 13 October. On 22 October, 13th MEU

 

boarded the Iraqi merchant vessel AL BAHAR AL ARAB, and on

 

28 October boarded the Iraqi tanker AMURIYAH. In all cases,

 

the 13th MEU proved the special operations capability of our

 

MEU forces is viable and vital to operations in a maritime

 

environment. Their training, sound judgment, and judicious

 

use of minimal force ensured the success of these boarding

 

operations.(4:44) Because 13th MEU was scheduled to depart

 

the AO in November, the HMIF mission had to be assumed by

 

units of the 4th MEB to continue to provide this capability

 

to the CINC. The exchange of "play books" and the training

 

began immediately. This effort proved to be the consistent

 

thread throughout the process. Units of the MEB studied,

 

trained, and conducted a boarding of the Iraqi merchant

 

vessel IBN KHALDOON on 26 December 1990. This vessel billed

 

as a "peace ship" loaded with milk and medicine and crowded

 

with women peace activists, proved to be one of the most

 

highly visible boardings conducted by HMIF forces. Although

 

highly visible, the boarding was conducted without a "hitch"

 

as contraband was identified and clearance was sought to put

 

the ship into port in Oman to prevent its cargo from

 

arriving in Iraq. On 30 December the HMIF forces of the 4th

 

MEB conducted another boarding of the Iraqi tanker AIN

 

ZALLAH. This ship was boarded, inspected and allowed to

 

proceed as no contraband was found. Throughout this process

 

of training and conducting intercepts and searches, HMIF

 

operations was under close observation and scrutiny by both

 

higher authorities and world opinion. Of all who

 

participated in these operations, COMUSNAVCENT praised their

 

efforts and success. The efforts insured the continued

 

success of the U.N. embargo. (4:47)

 

On 2 January 1991, as preparations for a full scale

 

conflict in the Gulf loomed in the future, the Secretary of

 

State requested the President order an emergency evacuation

 

of the U.S. Ambassador and his staff from the American

 

Embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia. "EASTERN EXIT" was to take

 

form and take form quickly. The CG and the Admiral wasted

 

no time in designating CATF and CLF in what was to become a

 

Special Purpose MAGTF. Col. J.J. Doyle, aboard the USS

 

TRENTON, and Capt. A.B. Moser, aboard the USS GUAM (Capt.

 

Moser was recalled from a port visit with PHIBRON-6 in

 

Dubai), were named CATF and CLF, respectively. The two

 

ships assigned in support of the operation (TRENTON/GUAM)

 

possessed the requisite infantry, CSS, and helicopter

 

support to make the 1600 mile trek to Somalia. On 3

 

January, COMUSNAVCENT took OPCON of the SPMAGTF, and their

 

staffs began to plan and calculate the requirements for the

 

Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO). This work determined the

 

requirement for multiple refuelings for two CH-53

 

helicopters to launch and get the initial elements of the

 

NEO force to Somalia. The launch distance was to be 466

 

miles out, using dead-reckoning link-up, and flying in night

 

vision goggles under the cover of darkness. Once the ships

 

were close enough, the rest of the NEO force could be landed

 

by CH-46 to assist in the removal of the civilians and

 

diplomats. The Commander of the NEO force, LtCol. W. D.

 

Oates, once entering the embassy compound and preparing for

 

the evacuation, said it seemed "Everybody in town. . .came by

 

and took shots at us."(2:A2) Even though there were tense

 

moments throughout this operation, it was conducted

 

flawlessly. In the end, one of the most dramatic rescues

 

ever conducted insured the safety of 282 evacuees, including

 

a baby boy born during the five-day ship transit to Muscat,

 

Oman. The 31 countries represented by various diplomats

 

seeking refuge included; the Soviet Union, Kenya, Great

 

Britain, U.A.E., Germany, and the United States, just to

 

mention a few. The embassy that housed these people and the

 

vault in which they were to hide if their rescuers did not

 

arrive, were destroyed by rocket-propelled grenades shortly

 

after their departure.(3:A21) For the nearly 3000 Marines

 

and sailors participating in this daring rescue, this

 

operation was a perfect example of the capabilities inherent

 

in amphibious forces and the Navy-Marine Corps team. (4:51)

 

The preparations for war continued throughout January

 

with the early focus on the air war. Refinement of the 10

 

employment options was constant as elements of the ATF honed

 

their skills in preparation for what all thought was an

 

inevitable amphibious landing. Raid packages on AUHAH

 

ISLAND and FAYLAKA ISLAND were formulated and briefed to all

 

concerned. Main landings into Kuwait were refined and as

 

the time for the ground war approached, the ATF began to

 

focus on a strip of beach in Kuwait known as ASH SHUAYBAH.

 

Additional feint/raid packages were constructed and briefed

 

for BUBIYAN and the AL FAW peninsula. Intelligence reports

 

indicated that the mine threat at ASH SHUAYBAH was worse

 

than expected and that MCM operations would require six days

 

of MCM efforts in support of ASH SHUAYBAH to attain 80

 

percent clearance. Additionally, MCM operations in support

 

of the FAYLAKA raid would have to be just as extensive to

 

attain 60 percent clearance. The time line was becoming

 

compressed as the target dates for the raid was 19 or 20

 

February. With the mine strike of the USS TRIPOLI and USS

 

PRINCETON, MCM became overcome by events and reduced scope

 

raid and feint packages were created through an intense

 

rapid planning effort in support of operations ashore. The

 

outbreak of the ground war on 24 February changed the focus

 

even more with a series of feints against BUBIYAN/AL FAW,

 

FAYLAKA, and ASH SHUAYBAH. From 25-26 February, these

 

operations were conducted in support of the Ground

 

forces.(4:65) Combat operations for the ATF continued with

 

the first ever combat missions of the AV-8B aircraft flown

 

from an amphibious platform beginning on 2O February and

 

continuing until hostilities ended on 28 February. During

 

this period, a total of 242 sorties flew with an accumulated

 

flight time of 269 hours flown against enemy targets and

 

positions. On 26 February, an impressive total of 56 combat

 

sorties were flown by the pilots of VMA-331.(4:68) Only

 

superb coordination between air crews, ordnance handlers and

 

flight deck personnel of VMA-331, and the USS NASSAU made it

 

possible for naval aviation to shine. Their effort were

 

exemplary. With the cessation of hostilities, the largest

 

amphibious task force assembled in over 40 years was ready

 

to stand down and head for home. As 4th MEB steamed through

 

the RED SEA, planning for an additional NEO in Ethiopia was

 

on going. This operation never materialized. The 13th MEU

 

(SOC) provided additional security for sea-lines of

 

communication and MIF operations upon war termination. With

 

war termination, life started to take on a normal, business

 

as usual air about it.

 

Just when one thinks normality has returned, another

 

mission comes along. While in transit for home, 5th MEB was

 

called upon to provide disaster relief for the citizens of

 

Bangladesh. Ravaged by a fierce cyclone, some 150,000

 

people in Bangladesh were killed and hundreds of thousands

 

left homeless. Operation SEA ANGEL was in full swing with

 

5th MEB providing emergency and mid-term relief assistance

 

to those left homeless. Providing, over a nine day period,

 

nearly 7,000 pounds of relief supplies, the 5th MEB proved

 

once again the value of amphibious forces.(7:89)

 

Responding quickly, deploying in record time, preparing

 

for the worse possible scenario, yet capable of

 

accomplishing even the most tender missions, amphibious

 

forces render the flexibility and forward presence every

 

CINC needs as well as the capability that our allies have

 

grown to expect. Regardless of proposed reductions, Marines

 

stand ready to respond to any crisis in the future, just as

 

they did during the Gulf conflict. Capable, flexible, and

 

dedicated to any contingency mission assigned, amphibious

 

forward presence can give the various CINC's the "card up

 

his sleeve" to make the difference in any situation.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

1. Corporale, Louis, G. "Marine Corps Historical Notes

From The Gulf War, "The Marine Corps Gazette December

1991: 44-46

 

2. Dorsey, Jack. "A risky but unnoticed rescue; Gulf War

eclipsed escape from Somalia," The Virqinian Pilot And Ledqer

Star 18 January 1992: A1-A2.

 

3. Gellman, Barton. "Amid Winds of War, Daring U.S. Rescue

Got Little Notice." The Washinqton Post 5 January 1992: A21.

 

4. Gulf Deployment, Fourth Marine Expeditionary Brigade

After Action Report Published by 4th MEB June 1991.

 

5. Krulak, Charles, C. BGEN. "CSS in The Desert," The

Marine Corps Gazette October 1991: 22-25.

 

6. Munday, Jr., Carl, E., GEN. "Naval Expeditionary Forces

and Power Projection, Into the 21st Century," The Marine Corps

Gazette January 1992: 14-17.

 

7. Selvage, Donald, R. COL. "Operation Sea Angel:

Bangladesh Disaster Relief," The Marine Corps Gazette

November 1991: 89-97.



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