DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview
DSIT AE 060
CPT Randy B. Tate
Battery C, 2d Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery
Task Force 2-1
Interview Conducted 10 February 1991 at Logistical Base CHARLIE, Northern Province, Saudi Arabia
Interviewers: MAJ Robert B. Honec, III, and SSG LaDona S. Kirkland (116th Military History Detachment)
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1990 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 060
MAJ HONEC: This is an Operation DESERT SHIELD/Operation DESERT STORM tape. This interview is being conducted on 10 February 1991 by MAJ Robert B. Honec and SSG LaDona S. Kirkland of the 116th Military History Detachment at Log[istical] Base CHARLIE, [Northern Province], Saudi Arabia.
Okay. For the record, could you state your full name, rank, social [security number], unit and duty position, please?
CPT TATE: Yes. My name is Captain Randy B. Tate. I'm the battery commander for Charlie Battery [Battery C], Task Force 2-1, HAWK.1 My social security number is ***-**-****.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. [INTERRUPTION] Duty position?
CPT TATE: My duty position ... I'm the battery commander for a HAWK Battery, air defense artillery, out of the 11th [Air Defense Artillery] Brigade.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. What ... kind of ... since you've left Fort Bliss, [Texas], could you go over in kind of chronological order how you came over to Saudi Arabia, how you set up the operations, what problems you ran into, what kind of equipment you have? Start with the very beginning and then move forward.
CPT TATE: Okay. The very beginning, we were at Fort Bliss. The Middle East is one of our contingency missions, so we were ... I was very familiar with the operation over here, if it ever happened to show up. Once we were notified through the 11th Brigade that we would be forming a task force to provide air defense for maneuver forces during Operation DESERT STORM, we immediately then began collecting supplies that we needed. A lot of those supplies were from the Fort Bliss area. We tried to plus up on everything possible ... tentage, PLL [Prescribed Load List], anything we could get our hands on that we thought that we would need.
MAJ HONEC: Were you full up on your vehicles?
CPT TATE: We were full up on vehicles.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
CPT TATE: By TO&E [Table of Organization and Equipment]. I brought every vehicle that I own over here. We ... one of the things that was good about it, once the DESERT STORM effort began to take place at Fort Bliss, supply lines were open. We were able to get just about anything that we ordered.
MAJ HONEC: What dates were these?
CPT TATE: The dates inclusive would be probably, September 10th through the time that we flew. Me going out last on 24 October 1990. Once we had our marching orders to go, we started doing training for movement. We did training by loading rail cars. We had a lot of people involved in that. We had a feeling ... we weren't sure how we were going to move. That stayed up in the air until the time we did move by rail. But our primary method of movement, we had always considered, it would have been by C-5A [Galaxy] and our people trained. They trained very hard to insure we were able to do that. Once we found out that C-5s were just not available--it would take an enormous amount of C-5s to move the battalion--alternate methods were looked at and one was by sea. Once we figured that out, we would railhead to the ports in Beaumont and Houston, [Texas], and then put our equipment on trucks ... I mean, sorry, on boats and pick them up at the port over here.
That's exactly what happened. We moved the ... our entire task force by rail from Fort Bliss--loaded every truck, every piece of equipment on rails--put people on the rails for security because of the classification of some of our equipment had at the time. We moved them to the port in Houston and the port in Beaumont. It took a matter of a couple of weeks to load those boats and to get them on the ship and get the ship out of the port. And after a three week trip, they arrived in [Ad] Dammam.
Prior to that, once we loaded all of our equipment on to the rail, we were unable to train any more for our wartime air defense mission, so our efforts were put into administrative projects that we needed completed: the palm boards, wills, taking care of any unfinished business, any financial business any of the soldiers had. We gave some people leave that ... I did. I gave people leave that I felt was necessary after I was told no one could go on leave. I went out on a limb, if they went out on leave, they made it back. Everything worked out there. And it enhanced morale. I'm still feeling the fruits of that over here because I can always go back to that person and go, "look, I went out on a limb, I let you go, you did the right thing, you know, you told me you took care of these things and now you're telling me you need to do this and that again. What exactly happened?" And usually it comes the truth and they just wanted to go somewhere.
But anyway, getting back to the question. Manifests were an ever-changing problem. At Fort Bliss because we just continually, the task force grew and grew and grew and I started getting people in that just strengthen up the battery. And constantly, every day, we would have to type up new manifests and change them.
It was always up in the air exactly what day we would leave. It was one of those things. You have the window for these two days, and the next week a window for these two days. So it was very difficult to tell the soldiers, you know, they could give their spouses and families a firm date on the day they would leave. And as it happened, each plane that left, you were notified the day before to be on the tarmac ready to go at this date and this time.
MAJ HONEC: So I detect swings in morale, going up and down?
CPT TATE: Yes, swings in morale were definitely going up and down. It was difficult to ... I'm very fortunate. I've probably got the best unit with the best soldiers in this task force and I'm not saying that just because I'm their commander, I've just got really good NCOs [noncommissioned officers] and officers and a First Sergeant that make things happen. We were fortunate enough--my First Sergeant had done his homework long before we got this mission--that we had chaptered out [discharged] every undesirable soldier that we had in our unit, and when we came over here, we came with the cream of the crop. All the dead weight had been left behind and had been discharged from the military.
MAJ HONEC: This task force being built, was it from reserve or was it all active army?
CPT TATE: All active duty stationed at Fort Bliss.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Good enough.
CPT TATE: This task force just consisted of putting HAWK and Patriot ... interfacing them together, which has never been done before. Both missile systems compliment each other extremely well. The Patriot has a less than 360 degrees, about 120 degree coverage and to get 360 degree coverage with Patriot, you have to position those units in positions that would be ... they would be back-to-back to cover each other. But by putting a HAWK unit in the vicinity of each Patriot unit, you have ... they no longer have to worry about their flanks or their rear. They can continue on with the mission they have. Right now, they'll be shooting down the popular and infamous SCUD missile.
We, on the other hand, are unable to do that at this time. HAWK, however, software is in the program in the mix and should be out in a month or two and we'll be able to do the same job at a cheaper price.
MAJ HONEC: Can you engage FROGs [Free Rocket Over the Ground]?
CPT TATE: Yes, we can engage FROGs. Will we engage FROGs? I doubt it. For the simple fact that we'll probably never be ... we won't know they're coming until it's too late--when we can turn on our radars. Once they use FROGs and once FROGs inflict any casualties or damage on the MSR [Main Supply Route], Log Base CHARLIE, equipment over here, suddenly someone's going to say, "Turn on your radio--radars--and get ready for the next batch." And that's when it'll happen. This is a CPT Tate personal feeling.
Getting back to Fort Bliss.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
CPT TATE: One thing that we did there that was a ... it took a lot of my time and a lot of effort on my part, is the family support groups that we got together throughout the battalion. Normally mine at Charlie Battery, it's run by wife, Teresa. LTC [Walter F.] Kilgore's wife is like over-all in charge of the [battalion's] support groups and the liaison between the post and the rest of the units in the task force. It was a lot of work and we are still bearing the fruits from that work that we did back there, too, because of the information that my wife extends to those spouses that were left behind at Fort Bliss and families and fiancees and girlfriends. It's made it a lot easier on everyone that was left behind and my soldiers feel a lot more secure that their families are being cared for. I know that my wife has personally provided money and food for different families because of their LESs [Leave and Earnings Statements] were screwed up or they didn't get a paycheck that month because they had just moved there and they had taken out travel pay. Things had happened that would cause a soldier to have zero balance riding on his LES. So those things really worked out well.
After we got on the airplane, we flew directly to Dhahran at the [King Abdul Aziz Royal Saudi] Air Force base.
MAJ HONEC: That's commercial contract or MAC [Military Airlift Command]?
CPT TATE: It was a commercial contract for my battery. Some of the task force flew MAC, but the majority flew commercial contract. After we arrived on port, I could tell, I knew personally what we would be experiencing in the weather, because I had spent a couple summers in the Persian Gulf before, and by the time we got here, the heat was really not that bad. It was ... by noon, it was a little warm but after that it wasn't too bad. So my soldiers became acclimated rather quickly. The reason that happened was because the weather had ... the severity of the heat had dissipated towards the end of October.
It was rather, I felt, [a] well-organized reception we had. However, by just the layman's standing on the street corner, it would appear to be very, very confusing and people not knowing what they were doing, but we managed to get on to port and down to tent city.
They were provided an area, we set up. We immediately started operations as far as chain of command on my soldiers. Some of them had been strung out for ... I had sent an advance group six weeks in advance, so I gathered those people back together, got a chain of command, got directions from the colonel as to what we would be doing and the type of training that we should need to be doing. And then we just waited for about four or five days and our equipment started arriving at port.
Once the equipment got there, our mission was in full swing. It was to get the equipment, make it operational, do whatever we had to to make it operational, interface with Patriot. And as soon as we got the interface ... . At the meantime, our S-3 were getting our fighting position ... initial fighting positions off the Kuwaiti border set up and we moved as soon as those positions were solidified.
We made the convoy. The trucks I have, the majority of the trucks, except for a couple, are extremely old, very, very old, very rusted. Operationally, they run very well but it requires many, many hours of hard work from operators and mechanics alike to keep them on the road. We convoyed 140-something miles through the desert and never lost a truck. The only problem we had was that the fuel guy ran out of fuel. He forgot to fill up his own vehicle at the fuel point. But he fueled everybody else and those things are going to happen.
Once we got on site, like a well-trained unit, in no time at all, our equipment was operational. Our communications, which is a very involved and high-tech, for a better word, operation, utilizing relays, CRGs, for data-link radio link and voice, was in operation within 24 hours and we were under the command and control of our FDC [fire direction center] at the battalion.
All this worked better than any of us had ever dreamed back at Fort Bliss. It all just came together. Problems that we faced then, once we were on sight, was getting our logistics points identified, getting signature cards to all these logistics points for all classes [of supply], and then getting vehicles on the road and started getting our water and our food. Excuse me, our water, our food, ammunition, like I said, all the classes.
MAJ HONEC: How many points did you have for this HAWK Battery? What sort of ... did they vary?
CPT TATE: They varied in size and in distances. Some items when we first got there could only be procured from a 300 mile round-trip haul. Some of them were just across the street. It depended from Class IX to Class I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII. Class V [ammunition], we had been given a basic load back at Fort Bliss, so we already had that. It needed to be plussed up and do the S-4 and the PDO. It's done a tremendous job backing up the S-4. Managed to plus up things that I felt we would need given the mission we were at at the time. We weren't really ... we weren't going to be shooting at anyone but we needed more flares, more trip flares. They gave us [M-72A2] LAWs; they gave us Claymores; things that we had not picked up back at Fort Bliss just to enhance our survivability and security at the sites.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Okay. It sounds like you needed a strong perimeter and strong defense. Was there a terrorist threat? Could you expound upon that if there was?
CPT TATE: Being in air defense since 1982 and I've been a tactical patrol officer and platoon leader in Germany and had my site blown up by terrorists at Delta Battery 3/59 [Battery D, 3d Battalion, 59th Air Defense Artillery]. I was very aware that air defense units are very difficult to secure and ... which makes them quite a readily target for terrorist activity. All of the intelligence we were getting from our S-2 indicated that the area that we were at at An Nariayah was very much a focal point for data collectors for the Iraqis, if not terrorists in the vicinity. I had tried to train my soldiers that at night that we were--since the site was so large and so hard to defend--that when they had to maintain a vigilance that they were more of a vigilance than they would if we were on a training mission back in the desert in Fort Bliss.
One of the things that we did ... we never put out Claymores. I felt ... I didn't think the threat at that time was valid enough to utilize Claymores. I didn't want to kill any bedouins, camels, all those things. My people knew ... they knew their positions and bunkers very well. They were trained very well. They processed many people in and out of our gates that we had never seen before and never had any problems in that respect.
After we had been there for about five or six weeks, we began to feel--and it's hard to keep the feeling from coming over anyone--that this is a completely secure area, and there is really no reason to be overly concerned. I fought that every day, trying to instill in them that every day that we're there, the threat becomes greater, not lesser. Soldiers were fairly receptive to that. At one point, I decided that just to keep their interest up and to insure that people weren't outside our perimeter. Since we were in a desert and it's quite some distance from any other units, that we would start patrolling soldiers. I think they tend to enjoy that. You know, it was their ability to get off the site and actually do something overt instead of just waiting covertly. It tended to help morale. I had people, soldiers, NCOs, volunteering every night to go on these two to three hour patrols around our perimeter which would take us a good three miles in circumference around it. Never did we see any elements that would have been a threat to us. However, the training value was very significant. Every night I had them check out a Bedouin tent shed that was about one click [kilometer] off to the northwest of our site. And they would always do that by popping a flare and then going in and check and see what was there. Soldiers really tended to enjoy it. You know, they were actually doing something other than sitting and waiting and waiting.
MAJ HONEC: Did you run into any incidents during the time that you were doing these checks?
CPT TATE: Never.
MAJ HONEC: Never?
CPT TATE: Never. Not once.
MAJ HONEC: Did they clear out the area when you went in?
CPT TATE: Probably. The ... like I said, the benefit from the patrolling was the fact that the soldiers were doing something. And I discovered that keeping soldiers busy over here is very difficult to do because of the availability of things to do. The volleyball net and ball was the greatest source of physical activity that we had. And it was just ... they played volleyball every time I said, "Okay, you can bring out the volleyball." They played until it was too dark to see every night.
Working on a HAWK site is ... you have a mission. There are shifts that you have to pull keeping equipment up. Someone's always in the van monitoring the radar scopes. Someone's always in the van with our CP [command post] monitoring our verbal communications. People are always at the bunkers and roving guards at the site we work.
The showers were a big source for morale. I made sure that every day every soldier had a hot shower. We had to work very hard at that to keep the water. We had to haul water every day. A lot of times we had to do it by five gallon cans. We had cut holes in our showers and put in our immersion heaters to insure that people got warm showers.
I insured that every soldier wrote his family at least once a week. That wasn't really a problem. With a couple of people it was, but mainly everyone had plenty of time to write letters every day and everyone did that.
I insured that at least once a month that every soldier got to a telephone. He could call home and let his family know how he was doing.
I insured they had their LESs. I insured that any problems with those LESs were scrutinized first by the First Sergeant or myself. If there were problems there, we made sure the soldiers got to finance offices and had those things taken care of.
Any Red Cross message ...
CPT TATE: ... just by following up on that, all the hard work that the senior leadership in the unit put into the soldiers paid off in many dividends through morale. I haven't had ... I've had very, very little problems. Zero Article 15s [Non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice]. Everyone has worked as a team. We keep insisting that no one person can do this alone and everyone realizes that.
I've heard a lot of horror stories since I've been over here about Commanders and First Sergeants that have gotten bullets in their beds with their name on them and things like that. That's never been a fear or concern of any senior NCO or any officer in this unit which I think pays tribute to the hard work that they've all done to insure that soldiers are well cared for.
MAJ HONEC: Certainly, certainly. Okay. Now, back at the port. Back at your first position during Phase I [Operation DESERT SHIELD], coming forward, could you expound a little bit about the move, the change: you know, [how] you got here to Log Base CHARLIE; your problems. You had mentioned having to leave a piece of equipment back there because you had no transport on that. Could you expand about your equipment? The short, the types of equipment just by ... concerning by TO&E, etc. like that?
CPT TATE: Sure. Prior to our even coming to Dammam, we had sent pallets after pallets of supplies and equipment that we did not have the room on to move with organic transport. We had no idea how that would be moved once we got over here, but the plan was that a transportation company or whatever vehicle available, even if we had to take part of it, come back and get the rest of it, kind of move. That's what we would do. We were fortunate. Once we got to the port, they were able to contract for the lowboy truck support. A lot of items that I couldn't haul organically we had put on those vehicles to include a scoop loader. That's part of my TO&E issue. We have a scoop loader. There's no provision for organic transportation for that thing and it can't be driven over so many miles ...
MAJ HONEC: Long distances?
CPT TATE: ... any long distance at any speed whatsoever. But we were able to get everything that we had up to our initial fighting positions near An Nuariyah. We knew that from jumpstreet that whenever the air war kicked off or ground war (whichever came first) kicked off, that we would move once again to fighting positions 280 miles northwest from the current position we were in to provide air defense support for Log Base CHARLIE and maneuver elements that were assembling within our sector of interest.
We had to ... word came down from the colonel that we could not get that truck support. Once again to move anything, I had to make a lot of decisions on things to leave behind because I knew that we would have to go light. We left behind ... I had a complete functioning orderly room in the field, to include computer. We did ... we processed every piece of paper work that we would have if we had been in the United States. I just didn't have room to haul that computer. That was something that had been put on a pallet and sent to Dammam. I had to box it up and put it in the Conex [military container] and leave it with personnel to watch over it at the time.
MAJ HONEC: You had to leave the ... the computer was a Zenith 248?
CPT TATE: Right, right.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
CPT TATE: Standard issue for orderly rooms. I had to leave all my files that I brought. I had to leave my scoop loader. I had to leave two water buffaloes. I had to leave, I didn't have the towing pintles to pull them with. I had to leave ...
MAJ HONEC: Good point.
CPT TATE: ... see, an MKT. I didn't have the towing pintle to pull it because ...
MAJ HONEC: MKT?
CPT TATE: Mobile kitchen trailer.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Got it.
CPT TATE: I had to leave my mobile kitchen trailer. The ... my head chef took enough burners and pots that he could set up a temporary kitchen once we arrived at the site which we would have been able to have two hot meals or MOREs [Meal, Organizational, Ready-to-Eat] every day that we've been here so far. He had the forethought to do that. It's been tremendous for morale. I know there are a lot of units that came up here in this task force that did not have the room or where unable to bring articles to heat those MOREs with and their soldiers have been eating MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat] cold for the last 21 days. So my people have been really glad. Looking at that, they've had it very good since we've been here.
I was unable to bring all my camouflage. I just couldn't get it on the trucks because we had to put so much water and MREs and those essential items that we would need to survive once we got here. And after the ground war kicked off we were going into Iraq. I would have loved to brought all those items if I would have had the transportation to do it but we had picked up extra pallet trailers for missiles. We had been, once again, plussed up on all the Class V and we had taken considerable amount of room to move those items that I had at An Nuariyah up here. Once we got on the road, we traveled ... we left in the late evening--the 1700, 1800 time frame. The convoy was in two serials with my Charlie 1 platoon which included my motor pool and all the mess truck and the supply trucks and all those things that are adjacent to that platoon and my Charlie 2 platoon which travels a little bit lighter. We traveled 280 miles.
Once again, I lost one vehicle on the way. For the first time, I had lost a vehicle and it wasn't due to PMCS [preventive maintenance checks and services] problems or anything. The transmission just finally gave out of the vehicle while it was going down the road. Something that had given no indicators prior to the trip. Every other vehicle made it here on its own power. Once again, they're very old and requiring constant maintenance and quite a few Class IX repair parts.
After we arrived on site, once again, my personnel are extremely well trained. We were up in the air war within, or providing air defense coverage for Log Base CHARLIE, within the hour that we arrived on site. Our communications came in much quicker.
[END OF SIDE ONE]
MAJ HONEC: Okay. We were talking about the move up here and the vehicles. You lost your transmission ...go ahead.
CPT TATE: And that vehicle we had to send our wrecker back to recover. Within five or six hours it made it back to the site. Everyone had made the trip without loss of life or injury or anything. People had driven approximately 23 hours trading off at rest areas with their shotguns to relieve the drivers. People were extremely tired. Once again, the fear of the unknown. We didn't really ... couldn't see where we were because of the low cloud coverage. We could only see approximately maybe a kilometer at best. So it was hard to tell what was around us where we were. People came up as we came, got equipment back into the air defense modes quickly as possible.
All the HAWK system--we have Phase 3, which is technologically is the most advanced HAWK system in the world. It's very compatible with the Patriot system. It's basically got the same software, same symbology, same data that we can talk. The computers can talk to each other between HAWK and Patriot. We will be able to ... we will have ... we can do the anti-ballistic missile defense as soon as that software is made available to us in HAWK. Like I've mentioned earlier on in the tape, but I think I did, it's a ...
MAJ HONEC: Yes, you did. But the subject ...
CPT TATE: We'll be able to do that much, much cheaper than the Patriot system. That's a little plug for HAWK. I think it's an outstanding system. We had to renew and redo all of our supply logistics contacts, once again, once we got up here.
MAJ HONEC: To Log Base CHARLIE.
CPT TATE: To Log Base CHARLIE. I had to distribute a chain of function command orders once again to these units. I had to sign signature cards for all these units. And we found out that we had managed to get here well before a lot of the logistic bases were completely set up and ready to provide us with those supplies that we needed. However, once again, good prior planning on my senior NCOs' and leaders' parts, we had enough supplies to take us into at least ten days. And that was one of the reasons that we had to leave so many things behind that are good-to-have things like camouflage, MKT and all that. We had to bring those supplies needed, knowing that they wouldn't be available once we arrived up here.
MAJ HONEC: Good tie in there.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, could you have flown in those supplies?
CPT TATE: Yes, if we could have got the air support, we could have flew everything in here. A [CH-47D] Chinook helicopter is very capable of picking up a scoop loader, a MKT or anything else and bringing it up. It doesn't make me angry, but I'm curious as a bat when I drive by the 101st Brigade Aviation on the side of a road and I just see numerous aviation equipment sitting out there really not doing anything. It's like the stuff could be used ... utilized if we could coordinate it to pick up a lot of the things we left behind.
Coming up this highway [the Trans-Arabian Pipeline Road] was an extremely long, tedious drive and very, very dangerous given the fact that it was a very narrow, two lane road with a lot of extremely oversized trucks and equipment traveling on it in both directions at a high rate of speed. It would have made a lot of sense to me to try to coordinate with these aviation units once they came this way. They had to pass within just kilometers of where we were located. And it would have been nice to coordinate with them and have them brought some of those things up.
MAJ HONEC: They were here at the time you were coming up? No, no.
CPT TATE: They had just set in the landing areas up there with tents ...
MAJ HONEC: With tents.
CPT TATE: ... and there was some equipment out there and one or two helicopters but it was like seven, eight days later, after the ...
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
CPT TATE: ... air coverage, I mean the cloud cover had cleared and they were able to fly in their helicopters.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, okay. Just to clarify.
CPT TATE: Yes, once we identified and got all the paperwork distributed to the logistics bases, getting supplies once again was really no problem. There are always problems with certain spare parts that are problems throughout this theater. Things like globe floats for the diesel engines, alternators, batteries. It's not just this unit but I believe every unit over here has had problems and it's created a very, very large demand on the supply system for things, once again, like food, water, all the necessities are readily available and very easy to procure.
MAJ HONEC: Fuel?
CPT TATE: Fuel has not been any problem whatsoever since we've been in this country. There's always been more than adequate supply. We've never been turned down anywhere we've gone. I have extended that same privilege to other units that have come by my area needing fuel. I've topped them off from my tankers because, you know, it's all part of the same army fighting for the same cause. Fuel doesn't cost the unit anything through budgets or funding. So, there's not been a problem there.
MAJ HONEC: Well, one thing I picked up from the 56th Med[ical] Battalion was that the Jet-A [fuel] was attacking the parts on their tactical vehicles. The ones that used to run on diesel, now they're running on Jet-A. They had the rubber parts. Did you experience those problems? The rubber drums were being eaten away.
CPT TATE: So far, I haven't. My motor sergeant hasn't alerted me to that fact. He's under the auspices that these vehicles can run on anything. I haven't had a down vehicle since I've been to this country other than for batteries, flat tire, alternators--those high use parts. We haven't had any real catastrophic failures on vehicles due to the type of fuel we use or the roads that we've had to travel on.
Once again, this area is not unlike the area that we trained in weekly back in the deserts near Fort Bliss. So we were very accustomed to the desert. The Fort Bliss area had a little more greenery and some shrubs in the desert than this area, but the sand, the rocks, the heat, all those things have not been a big contributor to problems that we had faced. Unlike, I'm sure, people from the VII Corps. that have come out of Germany, are seeing a whole new terrain, whole new weather patterns. And we'll see problems arise in the equipment based on those things.
Once again, same thing for the soldiers. They didn't go through some big cultural shock when they got here because they were in a desert area. They came from a desert area. That's where they had been training, for most of those soldiers, for the past year or two years or three years. With the 11th Brigade there. And in our two month test, it was not a shock to anyone when we got off the plane to see sand. Our success that we have encountered so far with our equipment, with our ability to provide security for ourselves, our ability to acquire logistics through the battalion, these things didn't happen by chance. They came about by very thorough and good planning back in the United States on exactly what we'd need. And once again, by living and training in the desert area, we knew a lot of the secrets or lessons learned that were coming back to us from the area on how to drive in sand. On how rocks can tear up your tires, and ...
MAJ HONEC: Tires.
CPT TATE: ... and heat can destroy batteries without proper PMCS. Things like that. So we were probably one of the best groups prepared to come over here and survive. The deserts in El Paso can get up to 110, 115 degrees throughout the summer almost daily. Dehydration, water consumption, those things were commonly practiced ... or the prevention of those were commonly practiced back in the States. I didn't have to go through a lot of extra training with soldiers to insure that they knew how to take care of themselves.
Hygiene, once again, back in the deserts in Bliss, people knew that you had to practice good hygiene because of the heat there. Also, the deserts around El Paso in the winter become bitterly cold and warm during the day. Exactly like it does here. People knew how to dress. We had the proper clothing. My First Sergeant and I made sure that every soldier brought every piece of issued gear that he had gotten through our CIF [central issue facility] and I've noticed--to include cartons of mittens--all those things have been worn one time or another since we've been here.
MAJ HONEC: Good planning.
CPT TATE: I haven't had any problems in that area. And once again, I believe it was due to the good planning of the NCOs and my officers had put into this move.
One of our weakest points, I don't mind saying it, we had gotten an influx of second lieutenants and I've gotten seven second lieutenants within a month of each other. And I had lost the only senior lieutenant I had had to the battalion as the adjutant. It was a little more difficult on me and the battalion--it just wasn't my unit, it was all the units--to get these young officers trained and to the point that they could do their mission once they got in the country over here. We trained round the clock back in the States to insure that that would happen.
We had gotten ... we have the ability with the HAWK system to train air war scenarios on a computer and we went to the S-2. We got the type of aircraft that the Iraqis would be flying against us, if they did: their capabilities, how well their pilots were trained, their typical bombing runs, typical interdiction scenarios and we had incorporated those into our training computers. And the lieutenants were in the vans night and day learning everything they possibly could about the opposition that they could meet once they got over here. That tended to be a real plus on our side. It was a lot of late night hurry-up to get them trained but we got a lot of bright, intelligent officers and they've done a superb job since they've been here. I'm very confident and they're very confident that they will be able to walk in the van and shoot down anything that Saddam Hussein and Iraq can fly against us. Once again, air defense [is] "if it flies, it dies." If you can get if off the ground, we can kill it.
MAJ HONEC: A plug for air defense there.
CPT TATE: Yes. It's true. We had trained ... one of the missions that he had trained on back in May where we had for the first time--HAWK and Patriot had worked together, not as close as they have here but the idea was there--was the joint training exercise, ROVING SANDS 90 that was billed as the world's largest air defense exercise up to that date. My unit, Charlie Battery, had been selected by the commander to be the unit that was hauled or transported by air to Silver City, New Mexico, and then from Silver City, New Mexico, we were transported by air once again by sling load with helicopters and every piece of equipment that we had had been ... we had sling loaded by helicopter trucks, HAWK equipment, everything I owned. It was a great training. It provided my soldiers with real opportunity for hands-on because most of those things that you train like that, you take a wrecker, you put a sling on the piece of equipment and then your wrecker just picks it up. And then sets it back down. They really got to see the guys come in. They got to stand on the equipment, hook it to the support hooks on the helicopters and then let those people take off. And then guide them in on the other end and emplace equipment. We air loaded ...
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Getting back to ROVING SANDS 90.
CPT TATE: Also, it forced my battalion, it forced our brigade, to have to supply us in the areas where we were--and we were several hundred miles away from Fort Bliss. And we seen and they seen how difficult that it is to provide logistics to units that are so far placed or replaced from the, for a better word, the home base.
Those logistics trainings were very slow in coming. It took coordination on our part, in the battalion, in the brigade part, to make them happen. Once we got into the exercise things tended to flow a little bit better. We had high volumes of papers of lessons learned. That exercise ended with or culminated with a live fire exercise by my unit on McGregor Range where once again we had been picked up by C-130s and taken back to Biggs [Army Air]field at Fort Bliss. All of my people had been ... plus the road convoys that we had done with a couple of the platoons. We had, other than rail, we had practiced every form of transportation that the Army could possibly provide for us. And every soldier I had was extremely well trained to do that.
We had made it, once again, through ROVING SANDS 90 with the same trucks traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles by air or on the ground with the equipment and we had not lost one vehicle along the side of the road due to the exercise. Once again, good motor stables, good PMCS, good operator functioning, and my motor sergeant is really a superb guy. Those people aren't just handed to you. You have to train them and you've got to know what you expect and they always work to meet those standards. It's never failed.
But, all the lessons learned that we had gotten from the ROVING SANDS 90 exercise, by August 2d, by August 5th, when we really felt like we are going to go. You know, if the Army goes, we're going to go. That's when we started planning, long before we got the official word that we would go. Planning, once again, is paramount to any successful operation. And this had taken many months to plan and now we're executing it flawlessly.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. You had some questions, SSG Kirkland?
SSG KIRKLAND: Yes, I do. Sir, how many people did it take to move this site here to be fully operational?
CPT TATE: Okay. This site here consists of a HAWK platoon. A HAWK platoon, to be functional, takes approximately 35 to 36 people. I'd have to get out the book and look. I mean, it fluctuates. I've never seen it fully manned. Now, we've always got losses. Right now, on this site, I've got 67 people. But I've got extra equipment here, communications equipment. I've got people from 34th Ordnance [Company] that live and work here to help keep my system up.
MAJ HONEC: Can you identify that?
CPT TATE: The one thing that the colonel had done that I ... it's a concept that I think has worked very well. Since some of these units are displaced, I'm now the closest to 34th Ordnance and the HHB [Headquarters and Headquarters Battery]. At An Nuariyah I was 63 miles away. It made gathering mail and things like that very difficult. Also getting maintenance support from the ordnance company was a pain in the butt. It required a lot of hours and a lot of driving.
What the colonel decided to do was; I can make more money and do it quicker if I will take slices of the ordnance company and stick it with the units and let the units care for those soldiers while those soldiers care for the unit's equipment needs. So that's been extremely successful and I highly recommend any future operations that those ordnance personnel are looked at. The needs are estimated and then personnel assigned based on those plans. It's worked well for us and I can see it could work well for any unit. There's no reason to have your most advanced mechanics displaced from where they're needed to work. It never made sense and putting them with the line unit seems to work best.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay, sir, have any of the HAWK missiles been engaged toward any of the enemy equipment or missiles or are you still waiting for something to happen?
CPT TATE: Currently, we have not fired a HAWK missile since May of 1990. The HAWK system has been proven in combat with Israelis, with the Iranians. It's a very good air defense system. We, right now, there has not been a threat. There just has not been aircraft that we could engage. We are ready. As we set here and speak our missiles have umbilicals hooked to them. People are in the vans that are monitoring the system and I can get a ... if one popped up on the scope, we could get a missile in the air within seven to eight seconds. So, we're ready.
SSG KIRKLAND: All right. Sir, what does HAWK stand for? Is this an acronym for something?
CPT TATE: It is an acronym. It's "homing all the way killer."
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay.
MAJ HONEC: Interesting. These ...
CPT TATE: Or, as some of the old guys say, 'home weekend killer.'
MAJ HONEC: I heard the term I-HAWK. Are these I-HAWKs?
CPT TATE: No. The I was an acronym, a letter put on there to show improved. This is beyond improved, so they really dropped the I. You hear I-COR or I-HAWK and people still recognize that. I don't go around correcting them but the I is not part of the system any more.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, how many HAWK missiles do you have at this site? Can you say?
CPT TATE: I have a full complement of HAWK missiles which is 18 for a platoon.
SSG KIRKLAND: And if you run out of these?
CPT TATE: There are ... we have HAWK missile resupply sources that is run by the S-4 and battalion. They have the remainder of our HAWKS. They will put them together. There's a lot of, you know, like the old Christmas things, 'some assembly required.' When you get them you've got to take them out of the cans, put the wings on them, and torque them down, pick them up and put them on the launchers and that takes about an hour per missile.
MAJ HONEC: But you do have to assemble it. That's something I didn't know.
CPT TATE: Yes. You have to assemble them. My problem is, once again, I could ... if I had the organic transportation, I could haul those missiles with me. I'm only limited by the amount of missiles I have by my ability to pick them up and move them. Okay. If I could haul 54, I could have 54. There's usually 54 missiles to a unit.
SSG KIRKLAND: Okay. Sir, is there any way to detect a bad missile so that you can replace it?
CPT TATE: Oh, yes. There are checks and services that you do on the missiles like you do on the rest of the equipment. We've got a nine step status checks. And there are other checks. And if any of those checks don't come out correctly, that missile is recanned and sent back to the manufacturer. But it is a no-maintenance missile. Once you assemble it and put it together, it's there.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
CPT TATE: And you don't have to do anything to it. You can't repair it. If you find it's bad, it's bad. So ... used to, before the I-HAWK missile, there were things that you had to do with the missile.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, that's all the questions I have.
MAJ HONEC: I can't think of anything else in the train of thought except for ... can you ... how many more assets, transportation assets, would you suggest would be reasonable for your situation here?
CPT TATE: Not to be unreasonable, I would like to have about five five-tons and about five more deuce-and-a-halfs [5-ton and 2.5-ton trucks]. And that would be a tremendous help. One of the issues being the towing pintle. A lot of the equipment we have is all towed. And if you fill up every towing pintle on a march order and that vehicle goes down and the vehicle is pulling a critical piece of equipment and then you have to make a decision on what to leave behind or you untie another towed load and put that towed load on. So, you know, you don't want to go down the road with every one of your towing pintles completely full. I've got a wrecker but it can only pull one thing at a time. So, I'd like to have one vehicle, a tractor-trailer to haul a scoop loader with, to provide my own engineer support which has been ... engineer support is very, for some reason for us, has been extremely difficult to attain.
MAJ HONEC: Yes, I noticed that the concertina is the ... the perimeter's concertina'd, but it's not the usual berms in the desert where you build up a berm around it also. That's probably, you could do that with your engineer equipment.
CPT TATE: The initial site I had ... with the initial sites. This is the two-platoon concept always displays no more than 15 kilometers. I was able with my organic engineering equipment to berm everything: berm each launcher; each radar; the vans; the CP. Bermed around the complete perimeter plus the concertina wire. I've just not been able to do that here. We're still waiting for the engineer support after twenty days.
SSG KIRKLAND: Sir, is there anything else you'd like to add to this interview that we haven't covered?
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Just one more thing. I understand that you had prior experience in the Middle East. Could you elaborate on that quickly?
CPT TATE: The experience I had in the Middle East. I spent a year in Turkey and I spent better than a year in the United Arab Emirates, the lower Saudi Arabian Peninsula. I felt that my experience with these two Moslem countries had given me an edge on a lot of people that came to this area not knowing what to expect. I had absolutely no culture shock like the first time I arrived in one of these countries. I seen my soldiers experience the cultural shock and they were pretty much in a daze for a while. They couldn't understand a lot of the arabic customs. The way the people drove, things like that. But one thing that I've had several of them talk to me about is that once they've gotten here and they have experienced a lot of things, they came back to me and said, "You know, it's just like you had told us, you know." And I had helped them have an edge.
The other thing that I did was after reading a lot of brochures, lessons learned, and things about customs from Saudi Arabia that came to us at Fort Bliss before I handed those down, I read each and every one of them and kind of put a blessing on them and told them what I didn't think was right and what I knew was right, and it helped them. And only reading the parts that I had experienced and knew about. So in that sense, it was ... every one should have been able to spend a couple of years over here before this operation started. It can make their lives a whole lot easier.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Well, I guess this concludes this interview. Thank you very much.
[END OF INTERVIEW]