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by LTG Tommy R. Franks, Commander, Third U.S. Army
COL Ron Williams, Public Affairs Officer, Third U.S. Army, and
LTC Sean MacFarland, S-3, ARCENT, Kuwait

In the fall and winter of 1997, Saddam Hussein engaged in a series of aggressive acts which threatened regional stability. He violated no-fly zones, threatened to shoot down U2 reconnaissance over-flights, and interfered with United Nations weapons inspection teams. The ensuing operation - and the subject of this special CALL publication - was named Operation DESERT THUNDER.

Beginning in February 1998, General Anthony C. Zinni, Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command (CINCCENT), increased the number of bombers, strike aircraft, and Tomahawk land attack missiles deployed in Southwest Asia. At the same time, he requested deployment of a potent ground force. The message was clear - this would not be business as usual - as more than 35,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, as well as coalition forces, deployed to the Gulf.

Building the Force

In support of this powerful multi-service, multinational ground force, Coalition/Joint Task Force-Kuwait (C/JTF-KU) was established in 1998 under the command of Lt. Gen. Tommy R. Franks, Commander, Third U.S. Army and U.S. Army Forces Central Command (ARCENT). The C/JTF-KU quickly became a professional warfighting organization. As the Army component of United States Central Command (CENTCOM), ARCENT, headquartered at Fort McPherson, Ga., was selected by General Zinni to form C/JTF-KU because of its significant forward presence at Camp Doha, Kuwait, and its capable planning and operational experience in the region.

As its name implies, C/JTF-KU was conceived as a multinational force designed to deter aggression against our allies, to assure our allies of U.S. commitment to defense of the region, and, if necessary, to defend Kuwait. The 11-nation C/JTF-KU received forces and force pledges from America's longstanding allies including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. It also received forces from other military partners including Argentina, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Completing the C/JTF-KU was the host nation of Kuwait, along with Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine forces from the United States.

One of the benefits of establishing the C/JTF-KU was greatly enhanced U.S./Kuwaiti military coordination and cooperation. Another positive aspect was the integration of coalition partners into U.S. regional contingency planning efforts. Such planning and mutual support had not been accomplished to this extent since the Gulf War. The deployment of these forces, coupled with the creation of C/JTF-KU, sent an unmistakable message to Saddam Hussein and his political and military followers: a worldwide coalition defends Kuwait.

Advances in command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4I) technology and prepositioned equipment sets, ashore and afloat, enabled the C/JTF-KU to precisely tailor forces to be deployed. The C/JTF-KU stood-up as a predominantly fully operational land task force, although each of the other services was represented as necessary to establish a truly "purple" organization.

The selection of Camp Doha, Kuwait, as the forward staging base and headquarters site for Operation DESERT THUNDER, proved to be a critical element in success of the operation. Superb facilities, command and control infrastructure, logistics base, and prepositioned equipment allowed air and ground forces to quickly deprive Iraq of preemptive options.

The rapid deployment of more than 7,000 soldiers and Marines into the theater gave the C/JTF-KU the combat power and support forces necessary to deter Saddam Hussein's aggression and provide assurance to U.S. allies in the Gulf that Kuwait would be defended as necessary. In less than 15 hours from landing in Kuwait, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division drew prepositioned equipment and had established their battle positions in the desert. The Division Ready Brigade reported an impressive 99.7 percent of the 1,700 vehicles they drew from Camp Doha as fully mission capable. These vehicles included Abrams tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, howitzers, and support vehicles of every type. This capable force clearly demonstrated the resolve of coalition forces to accomplish the mission.

Third Infantry Division soldiers double check their gear on an M1A1 Abrams to ensure
that everything is securely fastened before moving out for Operation DESERT THUNDER.

Command and Control

Among the more important challenges addressed during the operation were the integration of disparate coalition forces and the synchronization of war plans and decision cycles. The establishment of liaison and the conduct of a number of joint exercises and rock drills were key to the growth of the C/JTF-KU.

Two critical liaison elements were the Air Support Operations Center (ASOC) supporting the C/JTF-KU and the Battlefield Coordination Detachment located with Joint Task Force South West Asia (JTF-SWA). Their contribution to the C/JTF-KU operation ensured all resources in the region were ready and available to stop any aggressive action within the theater.

Another key team was the Maritime Prepositioned Force (MPF). These sailors and Marines provided the linkage between the Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) afloat and the Marine Prepositioned Squadron (MPS).

From the Unified Command perspective, General Zinni had three forward, functioning joint task forces (JTF) - C/JTF-KU, JTF-SWA, and JTF-Maritime, the task force primarily responsible for defending the Persian Gulf. These JTFs were designed to support each other. Based on the operation, one always served as the supported JTF, while the other two were in supporting roles. During the deterrence and assurance stages of DESERT THUNDER, JTF-SWA was CINCCENT's main effort. Had Kuwait been threatened, C/JTF-KU would have become the main effort - the supported C/JTF-KU.

The approach of "mutually supporting functional task forces" enabled CINCCENT to rapidly build components into joint force functional commands (Joint Forces Land Component Command, Joint Forces Air Component Command, Joint Forces Maritime Component Command) should DESERT THUNDER evolve into a unified operation under a full-blown theater of war scenario. The arrangement worked very well and is still in practice today.

As a side note, it was during DESERT THUNDER that CINCCENT delegated land component (Joint Forces Land Component Command) responsibilities to the Army component commander. The delegation of such responsibility by a CINC had not occurred previously in the post-World War II era.

Operational Support

Throughout Operation DESERT THUNDER, the C/JTF-KU had good transportation and communications infrastructures, two deep draught ports, two large airbases, and an international airport less than an hour's drive from Camp Doha. The Kuwait government provided civilian trucks, drivers, stevedores, and contractors which were at the disposal of the C/JTF-KU commander.

This special contribution by the Kuwaitis was directly responsible for the timely and efficient operation by coalition forces as the C/JTF-KU conducted reception, staging, onward movement, and integration (RSOI) operations into the AOR. On an average day, more than 20 aircraft-loads of passengers and cargo were rapidly off-loaded and moved by buses and trucks to bed-down locations across Kuwait. Arriving equipment spent mere hours at the Ports of Debarkation, and passengers were processed equally as quickly through the combined reception station.

A Combined Logistics Command (CLC), composed of elements of the 24th Corps Support Group and the ARCENT-Kuwait Directorate of Logistics, was established early in the deployment. The staff of 122 officers, noncommissioned officers, soldiers, and civilians provided a quality support structure for the force that deployed. Currently, the 377th Theater Support Command is reviewing staffing requirements for larger deployments.

C/JTF-KU Force Protection

Force protection measures were coordinated under the Joint Rear Area Coordinator (JRAC). The ARCENT-KU Provost Marshal and safety offices merged under the direction of the CENTCOM JRAC who deployed forward to take control of JRAC operations. All aspects of critical force protection were implemented, including protection against terrorist acts, convoy movement security, and theater missile defense. Defense against chemical and biological agents, area security, and vital safety programs were also initiated.

The operation also marked several "firsts" for NBC defensive operations. It was the first application of biological detectors in an operational theater with the employment of the mobile Biological Integrated Detection System (BIDS) and the static Portal Shield Biological Detection System. It was the first time the U.S. Army Technical Escort Unit (TEU) was employed in a tactical environment to transport samples to laboratories for analysis. The TEU also brought the capability to react to, and render safe, weapons of mass destruction. Most importantly, this was the first integration of all of these capabilities into a unified NBC defense coverage and response capability.

In addition to these assets, the 3rd Infantry Division Chemical Company was present, along with a team from the U.S. Marine Corps Chemical/Biological Incident Response Force. Additionally, the 520th Theater Army Medical Laboratory (TAML) was instrumental in performing biological analysis of samples brought in from forward detection systems. Having the TAML on the ground ensured that whenever there was an indication of possible biological presence by the BIDS, elevated force protection response measures lasted hours instead of days.

A number of the coalition forces also supported the NBC defensive effort. The United Kingdom provided a unit that had biological detection capability similar to the Portal Shield system and a response team like the TEU; Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania offered NBC defensive organizations as well.

Another key first in the force protection posture was protection from weaponized anthrax. The C/JTF-KU served as the "tip of the spear" for the Department of Defense with its anthrax vaccination program. The command provided the first three shots to 100 percent of the more than 9,200 personnel from all four services that were assigned to Kuwait.

Lt. Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander, Coalition Joint Task Force-Kuwait,
talks to 3rd Infantry Division soldiers who took part in Operation
DESERT THUNDER during a visit to the Kabal, Camp Doha, Kuwait.

The 32d Army Air and Missile Defense Command was another key force protection asset. The command controlled all Patriot units in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, and successfully integrated new Kuwaiti Patriot batteries into the air defense structure. This marked the first time that a coalition theater missile defense (TMD) architecture had been established anywhere. These efforts were extremely beneficial, as U.S. air defenders were able to work with their coalition counterparts to improve TMD interoperability.

All in all, DESERT THUNDER provided a tremendous learning ground. This special newsletter discusses the ways in which this unique C/JTF-KU was formed and the lessons learned during the operation. The establishment of C/JTF-KU clearly set the right conditions for success during future operations. The observations and procedures discussed in this issue can be used as a model to build future coalition task forces, if needed.

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btn_prev.gif 1.18 KForeword
btn_next.gif 1.18 KSetting the Stage

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