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Army Intelligence Soldiers post Iraqi positions on one of the large-scale maps used during Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. (US Army photo)

Buildup for Operation DESERT STORM

On August 2, 1990, the Iraqi Republican Guard invaded the neighboring country of Kuwait. Within 48 hours, the military force had established a defensive line along the Saudi Arabian border. The United Nations (UN) issued a warning to Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, to remove his troops from Kuwait by January 15, 1991, or face a full attack by a multi-national force. Tension in the region remained high as Saudi Arabia anticipated an Iraqi offensive on its oil fields and ports in the Persian Gulf.

Within days of the invasion of Kuwait, President George H. Bush announced the commitment of American forces to the region to counter any Iraqi attack into Saudi Arabia. Operation DESERT SHIELD, a six-month buildup of troops and equipment in Saudi Arabia, represented an unprecedented projection of the US Army—the largest force assembled so quickly over so great a distance. Eventually, more than 500,000 troops from all services would serve in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM.

Because the immediate need in the region was a combat force to counter potential Iraqi movements, the deployment of support forces, including intelligence, was a secondary priority. While combat units first arrived in late August, the majority of intelligence assets did not deploy until September. By the end of the year, however, the US Army had fielded the MI battalions of seven Army divisions, two Corps’ MI brigades, and a third MI brigade in support of the Field Army.

To mask US intentions, once in the region, intelligence assets were kept far behind the front lines, hindering their ability to develop a comprehensive picture of Iraqi intentions and capabilities. According to Col. Richard Quirk, the 24th Infantry Division’s G2, “we were primarily consumers of national and theater level intelligence, and were unable to execute the tactical intelligence cycle. …Higher headquarters prohibited us from moving the division’s intelligence collectors to the Kuwaiti border area in order to collect. We had received very little of the technical data needed by some collection disciplines, and we were unable to collect the information ourselves because we were too far from the border.” Furthermore, the G2 staff was unable to rehearse the collection management mission or test and develop its communications and reporting system. “The division intelligence structure was idling in neutral and losing a critical opportunity to prepare itself.”

In addition to being kept from the front lines, intelligence faced several other challenges trying to assist with both defensive and offensive planning. Not only was the region poorly mapped but the maps that did exist were in short supply, contributing to a lack of terrain intelligence. The lack of maps was compounded by the lack of imagery.

Reconnaissance aircraft could not fly over the Area of Operations until the airspace was secure from Iraqi air defenses. The Army’s only aerial intelligence capability, III Corps’ 15th MI Battalion, arrived in mid-October. Unfortunately, the Joint Imagery Processing Center, the only facility available for producing annotated hard copy photographs, did not arrive until December.

Consequently, the Army’s Intelligence and Threat Analysis Center, a core component of the DoD-level Joint Intelligence Center in Washington, DC, used overhead systems to prepare 1:50,000 scale maps of the region overlaid with the locations of enemy firing positions. To the best of their ability, the deployed G2 sections also assembled terrain overlays, distributed on acetate or mylar, that showed lines of communication and transportation, gas and oil pipelines, water sources, and obstacles constructed in Kuwait by Iraqi forces.

During this preparation period, Division G2 analysts kept busy providing answers to questions about enemy mines, radar and air defense artillery. Counterintelligence assets integrated their efforts with Military Police and established contacts with locals to keep abreast of suspicious activities and locate Iraqi agents. The 24th Infantry G2 also built and shaped the capability of the Long Range Surveillance Detachment for eventual employment in combat. Intelligence personnel monitored media broadcasts from Iraq and Saudi Arabia to develop an appreciation of the political context of the conflict.

Terrain analysts published “TripTiks” with road conditions and checkpoint coordinates to aid truck drivers traveling on desert routes. Finally, higher-level intelligence sections distributed intelligence to subordinate S2s at brigades and battalions. On January 17, 1991, after Iraq’s failure to meet the UN deadline, a coalition force from 34 nations, led by the United States, moved in to force Iraq to retreat. Operation DESERT STORM started with a month-long air war, followed by a ground offensive that lasted only 100 hours. The intelligence effort over the previous six months, while fraught with challenges, had accomplished much to prepare the US for combat.

[This article was written by Lori S. Tagg, USAICoE Command Historian, in December 2015 for the Moments in MI series.]

History Project

If you are a veteran, contractor, or civilian worker with involvement in US National Security-we need you! The Lint Center for National Security Studies is committed to the preservation of histories of people involved in the shaping and development of US. National Security history as we know it today. The experiences of veterans, contractors, and civil service members involved in US N.S. are needed to not only to help us better understand our own history but to carry that knowledge forward for future generations.

If you would like to add your experiences to the archive, please Submit Your Story!

*If you are interested in conducting an Oral History interview, or have any questions about the program, please contact our historian at LC-VANS-Hist1@lintcenter.org.

513th MI Bde

513th Military Intelligence Brigade in Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM

Vigilant Knights in the Desert

On 2 August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia. Four days later, the Army alerted the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade for eventual deployment as part of Operation DESERT SHIELD. By the end of the month, its first elements arrived in Saudi Arabia. Eventually, the brigade’s deployed strength ballooned to over 2,200 Soldiers. With these Soldiers, the 513th MI provided multi-disciplined collection, all-source analysis, and widespread dissemination of theater-level intelligence to LTG John Yeosock’s US Army Central Command (ARCENT).

Deploying from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, the 513th MI Brigade consisted of four battalions that operated at the echelon above corps level. The 201st MI Battalion conducted signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations. The 202d MI Battalion provided counterintelligence (CI), interrogation, and document exploitation support. The 297th MI Battalion supplied imagery analysis as well as ARCENT’s Intelligence Center. Finally, the Foreign Materiel Intelligence Battalion (FMIB) performed technical intelligence operations. In addition to these four subordinate battalions, the 513th later assumed command responsibilities for elements from six other MI battalions.

To follow its initial deployment, the brigade sent Task Force 174, under LTC Robert Butto, to Saudi Arabia. With elements from each of the 513th MI’s four battalions, the task force laid the ground work for the rest of the brigade’s arrival. Butto’s advanced party landed in Riyadh on 1 September. Within 24 hours of its arrival, it had established an Intelligence Center for ARCENT’s G-2 and begun to provide essential intelligence support. One of the center’s earliest studies provided an analysis of the terrain to the west of the Iraqi forces which stated that the ground could support movement by the Army’s armored forces. Briefed to the Central Command’s senior leadership, this assessment helped shape the eventual American ground campaign.

As TF 174 continued its shoestring operations, the rest of the brigade waited for transportation into theater. The need to build up combat power to counter the Iraqi forces meant that intelligence and other support assets were left behind. As it waited, the brigade received a new commander, COL William M. Robeson, on 12 September. Faced with a painfully slow deployment, Robeson traveled to ARCENT headquarters to provide senior on-the-ground leadership and try to push for the deployment of the rest of his brigade.

When Robeson arrived, the 513th MI had just under 200 Soldiers in theater. Although still constrained by limited transportation, he was able to gain approval to bring much of his brigade’s staff to Saudi Arabia in the fall of 1990. The staff was able to make the most of the brigade’s limited assets, establishing limited collection facilities and planning for integrating new equipment—such as the SANDCRAB jamming system—into brigade operations.

By early November the brigade had deployed 500 soldiers—about one-third of its assigned strength—allowing it to enlarge its operations including aerial SIGINT operations and increased CI coverage. Moreover, COL Robeson received permission to call forward the balance of his brigade. At the end of 1990, the brigade’s strength was approaching 90 percent and it received important reinforcements to enhance its theater imagery capabilities.

At the same time, BG John Stewart became the ARCENT G-2 and quickly moved to prepare his staff for more active operations. Not only did he enlarge the staff, he infused it with senior MI leaders from throughout the Army. Both actions benefited the 513th MI Brigade. The experienced leaders supplemented the hard work and enthusiasm of younger Soldiers in the ARCENT Intelligence Center with insight and practical knowledge. Within a few weeks, the brigade almost doubled in size as its battalions finished their deployment and readied themselves to support ARCENT’s offensive.

In January 1991, COL Robeson oversaw the development of key theater intelligence organizations. The 201st MI Battalion coordinated the SIGINT efforts of its ground and aerial assets through the Integrated Ground Operating Facility. Shortly afterwards, the 202d MI Battalion established two joint interrogation facilities and later a document exploitation center. Meanwhile, the 297th MI Battalion provided much of the manning for the Joint Imagery Production Center, which garnered tactical support from theater and national imagery systems. Finally, the FMIB organized the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Center for in-theater technical intelligence. Through these operations, the Soldiers of the 513th MI Brigade provided effective multi-discipline intelligence for Army and theater decision makers, greatly assisting the successful ground campaign.

Despite the challenges of a slow deployment to an undeveloped theater, incorporation of almost one thousand augmentees and the integration of new equipment, the 513th MI effectively linked the corps and divisions to intelligence information from the national agencies. It also produced its own intelligence through its various joint facilities and organic collection assets. As BG Stewart noted in his after action report the 513th MI Brigade was “the” key MI capability at the Army level during Operations Desert SHIELD/STORM.

[This article was written by Michael E. Bigelow, Command Historian, US Army Intelligence and Security Command, in February 2016 for the Moments in MI History series.]

History Project

If you are a veteran, contractor, or civilian worker with involvement in US National Security-we need you! The Lint Center for National Security Studies is committed to the preservation of histories of people involved in the shaping and development of US. National Security history as we know it today. The experiences of veterans, contractors, and civil service members involved in US N.S. are needed to not only to help us better understand our own history but to carry that knowledge forward for future generations.

If you would like to add your experiences to the archive, please Submit Your Story!

*If you are interested in conducting an Oral History interview, or have any questions about the program, please contact our historian at LC-VANS-Hist1@lintcenter.org.

Operation DESERT OWL Provides Linguists for First Gulf War

By USAICoE Command History Office, (Published with permission.)
[This is an updated and expanded version of an article previously published in the Fort Huachuca Scout in January 2013.]

With the outbreak of the first Gulf War, the US Army realized it had a shortage of Soldiers proficient in Arabic. The US Army’s 267 Arabic linguists, trained in Syrian, Egyptian, and other Persian Gulf dialects, had already deployed to Saudi Arabia in late 1990 to serve with the XVIII Airborne Corps. When the Army committed a second corps to the conflict, it faced an additional requirement for more than 900 linguists. The 142nd MI Battalion (Utah National Guard) deployed its Arabic speakers as reinforcements, but the need for more linguists could not be satisfied, even partially, until the middle of the following year.

To help mitigate the shortage, Col. William Lipke, from the office of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence, dealt directly with the government of Kuwait to establish Operation DESERT OWL. The Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington, DC, recruited volunteers from Kuwaiti college students already in the US to provide language support for the military efforts in the Persian Gulf. The 300 students chosen spoke fluent English, as well as the Iraqi dialect of Arabic. Their understanding of American customs and traditions eased their adjustment to serving side-by-side with American Soldiers.

The DESERT OWL volunteers enlisted as sergeants in the Kuwaiti Army and then reported to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for training and equipping on January 6, 1991. The span of time between identification of the requirement and the arrival of the students at Fort Dix was approximately six weeks.

The US Army Intelligence School at Fort Devens, Massachusetts (USAISD), served as executive agent for DESERT OWL. The Electronic Warfare Department quickly developed a training package to ensure these native speakers could provide language support to tactical intelligence and electronic warfare ground system teams in Saudi Arabia. On January 4, USAISD’s 40-person Training Task Force (TTF), directed by Lt. Col. Donald Manchester, traveled to Fort Dix to prepare to provide the accelerated intelligence training. The Combat Intelligence Training Course (CITC) began on January 7.

The CITC focused foremost on teaching the Kuwaitis to recognize enemy communications and to extract essential information for intelligence purposes. The students learned military terminology, the structure of military communications, US and Iraqi order of battle, and the recognition of Iraqi military communications. Students also learned the basics of the US Army’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) equipment in use at that time.
The CITC also incorporated combat skills, such as basic rifle marksmanship, M-16 familiarization, nuclear/biological/chemical training, and gas mask confidence. These skills were taught by drill instructors from Fort Dix’s 3/26th Infantry Battalion as well as drill sergeants and non-commissioned officers from Fort Deven’s 306th MI Battalion and NCO Academy.

Although all the students were expected to arrive at once, they actually arrived in four groups over the course of the week. Because they had a fixed deployment date, the training for the later arrivals had to be curtailed to fit the time available. On January 14, just eight days after their arrival at Fort Dix, 287 graduates of the CITC to Saudi Arabia.

On January 15, the TTF returned to Fort Devens. Less than a week later, it received a new task to train an additional 40 Kuwaiti soldiers. By the time this class started on January 27, an addition 20 trainees had been identified specifically for the interrogation mission. While the SIGINT students worked with Devens instructors, the interrogators trained with a two-person MTT sent from the US Army Intelligence Center and School at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The 59 graduates of the late January course deployed from on February 6. A final class of 63 Kuwaitis trained in interrogation skills from February 20-26 at Fort Dix. The Fort Huachuca MTT also conducted this accelerated course, artfully condensing a 9-week program of instruction into just 28 hours.

M915 tractor with M113 Armored Personnel Carriers waiting for the convoy to move out.

Eventful Convoy in Desert Storm

Boring convoys would be nice, but can get over exciting quickly. (Where is the ammo truck?)
During the convoy, at about 2am, on this super highway in the middle of the Saudi wasteland, there’s nothing but pitch blackness except for the dim illumination of our trucks headlights and the occasional passing motorist. Our vehicle intervals are stretched out to about 100 meters and we can barely make out who is ahead of us or who is behind us, except again, for the faint illumination of the lights of the trucks and our convoy manifest. We are tired and sleepy, having been driving for 20 hours or so.