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 110
Brigadier General Dennis Kerr
Assistant Division Commander for Support
82d Airborne Division
Interview Conducted 19 June 1991 at 82d Airborne Division Headquarters, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Interviewer: MAJ Dennis P. Levin (Commander, 130th Military History Detachment)
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1990 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 110
MAJ LEVIN: [This is an] Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM oral history [interview]. I am Major Dennis Levin, commander of the 130th Military History Detachment. Today I am interviewing--sir, if you would first identify who you are and your duty position for the tape?
BG KERR: I am BG Dennis Kerr, Assistant Division Commander for Support, 82d Airborne Division.
MAJ LEVIN: Thank you, sir. Sir, can you tell us a little bit about what the support mission was like when the 82d first deployed to Saudi Arabia?
BG KERR: Support in that--you know, what my responsibilities were, or how the division got support as it deployed? I never actually got to Saudi Arabia until January.
MAJ LEVIN: How it was supported.
BG KERR: Oh, okay. Well, the 82d Airborne Division is organized to be light when it deploys, and as such we normally count on deploying with 72 hours to 15 days' supplies to sustain us for whatever operation we are on. And as the mission started unfolding, it was quickly apparent that this was going to be a division operation and not just a DRB or deployable ready brigade operation, and that we might be involved in this thing for more than 72 hours to 15 days.
We still deployed to fight, so in deploying to fight you still have to go light on your backup support and you go heavy on ammo, water, fuel, rations and things that your soldiers need to go right off the aircraft and right into whatever they are going to face. So we initially had some trouble because, with the numbers of airplanes we have, in the fact that we wanted to take the majority of the division (once we were sure the division was going to be deployed), and when we finished our deployment everybody expected us to have the majority of the division there. We had to then figure out how to resupply with what you would need more than the 15 days of supplies, or our combat POL [petroleum, oil and lubricants], ASL [authorized stockage level] and so on, to sustain the division. So we had to come up on line pretty quickly for additional assets to get our stuff from Fort Bragg to Saudi Arabia.
Now we got help from [XVIII Airborne] Corps in getting pieces of aircraft, after we finished our basic deployment of approximately 600 C-141 equivalents. We got, you know, ramp space on some aircraft. We got [entire] aircraft. We got the DC-10s, and support that we were able to put additional supplies that we did not initially deploy. We were able to get additional people, but mostly the supplies were the thing.
And we started using ships. For the first time, the 82d went through the wickets of getting our vehicles, our heavy equipment in particular--HEMTTs [heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks], tank and pump units, ASL vans, odd-size cargo--to the Port of Wilmington and then to the Port of Charleston and then to the Port of Jacksonville, to ge into the queue to get deployed. So as soon as possible our follow-on equipment (transportation, MHE [materiel handling equipment]) would arrive in time to support the division.
Now I can tell you when the division got to Saudi Arabia, being the first unit there, it took a while for the automated logistics system to take over. I don't know what the problems were that they had, because I did not deploy initially. I stayed here actually until the first week in January, and kept supporting the division the best I could from here with people and repairing equipment.
You know, when we got the word that we were deploying, we had certain vehicles that were in direct support maintenance and general support maintenance. We had helicopters that were in phase maintenance. We deployed a hell of a lot of helicopters, but we didn't deploy any that were very close to going into their scheduled maintenance phase. We kept them here and were able to get them into phase here, get them repaired, and we deployed most of those prior to the war starting.
For example, the first C-5s [Galaxies] that came to the division--we got eight of them--we loaded up 38 helicopters, and that was a pretty hefty package which amounted to about 600 people. We had 15 [AH-64] Apaches, 15 [UH-60A] Blackhawks, four [OH]-58Ds [Kiowas with mast-mounted sights] and four [OH]-58Cs [Kiowas] that had a similar capability. We onloaded them and they went fully mission-ready, all ready to go to war, would have been able to do the mission.
We had five other Apaches that were back here, a couple of which were in maintenance for one reason or the other; one of which was in phase maintenance and one that was very close to going into phase maintenance. Now during the deployment, we repaired and pulled the phases on four of those aircraft and got them to Saudi Arabia by Christmas-time.
Then we had another one, the last one we finished the phase maintenance on, and this maintenance was pulled not by active-duty soldiers, because they were all deployed. We had a civilian team that was hired by AVSCOM (Aviation Systems Command) to work on those aircraft. And so we deployed all but one Apache. The last one could have gone, but we didn't get the airplane. It was, I guess, decided that other priorities were there.
We did the same thing with Blackhawks, we did the same thing with [AH-1] Cobras, and so on and so forth. So we kept getting equipment deployed that couldn't go initially because it wasn't ready to go, and on top of that we didn't have the assets to move it anyway.
Now once we got in-country, I mentioned the automated supply system was not functioning. It took months to get that going. The 82d had just converted to the SARS system. The Corps was working on their CTACS-2 system, which is the interface from the SARS, and it took a while to get that going. So what basically happened is, for months we didn't have a system that was working, and we would get called here at Bragg, and then we would go to the G-4 and talk to people, and we would in to the NICP and get the requisitions approved and get the stuff: some of which went straight to Saudi, some of which came here. Then we would then palletize those lots and ship them to Saudi Arabia.
So it was cumbersome for the first two or three months. We weren't trying to go around the system; we were just trying to make sure that the unit was taken care of in [spare] parts in Saudi Arabia, and doing what the unit is supposed to do when you're here, and that is support the unit that is deploying and take care of the families and parts of the unit that haven't deployed from here. So we supported the forward part of the division for a couple of months--not 100 percent but those key items, and we continued to re-deploy or to deploy things that they didn't initially think they needed to take.
For example, we went to fight a war. We didn't go to build up and then train, but after we were there for a while, the word came back that we needed to send the Hoffman devices for the [M-551] Sheridans, we needed to send MILES [multiple integrated laser engagement system] equipment, we needed to send training equipment to Saudi Arabia. And we did that, you know.
So on the support end of it, once they got the CTACS-2 working and once the automated systems started working in-country, then we could back out of the parts business and concentrate then on fixing things and trying to get those trucks and other things on ships or on aircraft to get them over to Saudi.
MAJ LEVIN: Was there any change in the priority of supplies for the 82d throughout?
BG KERR: From my understanding--again, not getting there until the first week in January--initially when we started the alert and N-Hour Sequence [division notification and deployment standard operating procedure] and the deployment, the 82d enjoyed the priority that we normally get: being the first unit deployed, pretty good priority. But we only had a window that was this big, and it is understandable. I mean, this was not just a division operation. This was the largest operation in peacetime in quite a while, so the 82d very quickly started competing with the 101st [Airborne Division], the 24th [Infantry Division], the 3d [Armored] Cav[alry], the 1st Cav[alry Division], and so on, for Air Force [Military Airlift Command] assets, for ships, ports, and whatever. And that is understandable.
So the priority, from being high because we were the only ones going and we were the first going--that changed, and we started moving down on the priorities. By the time I got to Saudi Arabia in January, it was clear to me that the priority in the XVIII Airborne Corps did not have the 82d first, and rightfully so. Our mission to get ready for the ground attack was a follow-and-support mission behind the [6th] French [Light Armored Division].
We had one brigade that was OPCON [under the operational control]--the 2d Brigade--to the French, and it was great working with those guys. They were a lot of fun, and they were very professional and very concerned with doing things right. They were very, I don't want to say over-protective, but they were very cautious and slow in their procedures and so on. But I can appreciate their not wanting to be responsible for a bunch of 82d guys getting hurt, you know. We have been working with the French since World War I, not to mention World War II and so on, and there was a good chemistry there with the French.
But anyway, the 82d had a follow-and-support mission. You know, the 101st, the 24th, the 3d Cav--those guys were all in the attack, so someone had to be the lowest in priority, and it made sense that it appeared after a while that we were. Now that hurt us in some areas. For example, in [INAUDIBLE] parts, the corps had the 12th Aviation Group that was attached to the corps, and it was a unit from Europe. The 12th had two attack [helicopter] battalions and a general support battalion, and their own AVIM [aviation intermediate maintenance] company and so on, with their own [CH-47D] Chinooks. They had a higher priority on aviation parts than the 82d.
Now that kind of hurt me a little bit because, you know, we needed APUs [auxiliary power units] and other things, and we would requisition them and they would come in and I didn't know where they were going, until I ran it down and found out that we were last in priority. Now we finally got some understanding that last doesn't mean nothing, see. Last should mean that if there is ten of something, maybe you only get one or two of them instead of eight of them if you are first, but I mean, there has got to be some equal distribution.
So yes, we did change in priority, and what people back in the States didn't understand, you know, we come back from the Saudi Desert and we have broken helicopters for APUs and things we ordered two, three or four months ago and never got them. And that is just a fact of life. So now we are in a recovery stage. We are trying to get that all back together again so that ...
MAJ LEVIN: So that has had an effect on the recovery phase?
BG KERR: Oh, yes. Yes, because if you didn't have the parts coming to you when you were over there, because other people had a higher priority ... and again now, this was a unit going back to Europe. It wasn't a unit coming back to Fort Bragg.
MAJ LEVIN: Right.
BG KERR: But, again, it was a brigade-size unit. It mission was reserve for the division, which in many cases was a higher priority mission than a follow-on support mission. You know, someone has to take the back of the pole. It was us, and that has caused us some recovery lag.
We are trying to track down--our biggest problem with recovery, of course, has been the SeaLand containers, because everybody in good faith thought we would be here before the ships, and we still think there are about 26 to 28 of them at the Port of [Ad] Dammam that we need for mission assumption. So we are jumping through the apex here trying to get some help on getting those containers identified and shipped to us by air, because we'll never get them in time by sea.
MAJ LEVIN: Well, we're getting ahead of ourselves, but we are here in the recovery phase, were the ships with the 82d equipment, were they administratively loaded or combat loaded?
BG KERR: Coming home?
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, sir.
BG KERR: Oh, they were administratively loaded.
MAJ LEVIN: So it is all a hodgepodge coming back?
BG KERR: No, it is not a hodgepodge. What it is, is based on the configuration of the ship. Now when the 82d deployed, we deployed over 90 percent of our equipment by air, so the [C]-141s [Starlifters] and the C-5s primarily had things on them, not people, although we got max[imum] ACL [allowable cargo load] of all those aircraft, pretty close to it.
The ACL on the C-5 was 130,000 [pounds]. We probably got 129,000-plus on every one, so you had some people. If you had helicopters, you probably had over 70 people up on the top of the C-5. If you had Sheridans, you probably had three or four people on the top, because you had the gross down low. Where the helicopters cubed out, the tanks very quickly grossed out.
So the majority of our people deployed by commercial and leased aircraft, and our equipment went by Air Force air[craft]. About 10 percent of our equipment went by sea. That was on about 28 ships, and we went from three different ports: the Ports of Wilmington, Charleston, and Jacksonville. It got to be a nightmare, but we had to use what we could get to get the rest of the stuff over there. We learned a lot from that.
MAJ LEVIN: What did you learn from that?
BG KERR: The biggest thing we learned was that when there is a mission and it is apparent that the division is going to go somewhere, early on in the N-Hour sequence the division needs to come up on line and say we need a ship, and we didn't do that right off the bat. Then it came back to us, because we got out of the queue, other people got the ships, and we had to then beg for ships.
Now going over we took whatever we could get. Coming back, we came back on 12 ships as opposed to 28. Now the difference in coming back was, initially we requested to send our aviation, because all helicopters are deployed by C-5 ... we initially requested to send aviation, which would include the parts and the tools we need to put things together. And the DRB [division ready brigade] back by air. That did not get approved. We got a total, I think, of one C-5 and four [C]-141s, maybe five, to move some items in the division rack: the ECOT [?], the PCSCS, the LCSS (the DRAGON pro-test, that's what those were), some parachutes that we brought over, we didn't get to use but brought over.
MAJ LEVIN: Oh, I didn't know you had any in country.
BG KERR: Well, we had enough to do our jumpmaster refresher [training] and a little bit of refresher training. We did no jumping. This was just, you know, don the parachute, do the JMPI [jumpmaster parachute inspection] and that type of thing. And some air items. But that is all we came back with, so I would say we shipped back about half of 1 percent of the division's stuff by air and 99.95 percent by sea--a big difference than going over. All the troops came back by commercial air, except the few that went in the 141s and the C-5.
The difference, then, when loading up a ship was, we got most of those 12 ships--they were all small ships--most of them--they were all RO-ROs [roll on/roll off] of some type ...
MAJ LEVIN: So they are the fast ones?
BG KERR: No, no, no. One of them was so slow, I thought it was coming in reverse. Very small RO-ROs, most of the less than 100,000 [gross tons]. Most of them were like 45,000, 48,000, 58,000. I mean, names you never--the [SS] Strong American, which was a RO-RO but it was really a barge pushed by a tug. It shouldn't have been called the Strong American; it should have been called the Weak American.
And those ships were loaded based on what that ship could handle on what deck. For example, the Strong American had a bunch of helicopters in it because we could get helicopters in there and it was a pretty good little ship to load. The only trouble is, it was very slow.
So it wasn't a haphazard load. They were all loaded according to what they could take, but they weren't loaded by DRB. They were not loaded ... they were loaded mostly by type of vehicle, so if you had a big space for HMMWVs [M-998-series High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicles], then you put HMMWVs. Most of them were from one unit, but it could have been from any number of units.
We tried to get the 2d Brigade stuff out first, and I think we succeeded on that, along with some of the slice elements, pieces of the division. But the big difference here was, when you come back by sea as opposed to going over by air, you don't load--combat load--your trucks with ammo and radios and sensitive items (night mission goggle systems and mine detectors and the like, binoculars). That stuff has got to go somewhere else. You just can't leave it in the back of the truck. It will disappear, particularly if that ship gets downloaded in Spain or downloaded in Panama or somewhere else, and you never know that when you leave.
So that stuff we put in SeaLand containers, based on guidance we received, and those SeaLand containers were inspected, had a customs seal go on with the lock, and then they were shipped by commercial line. Some of them to Los Angeles, some of them to Houston, some of them I am not sure where the hell they are, but we are looking for them. That is the biggest missing link in our redeployment right now.
Well, the ships came in pretty quick; we got them offloaded; but we are missing parts, tools, radios. That is a hiccup for us right now.
MAJ LEVIN: Sir, when the division first deployed and you sent the DRB out, which is 2d Brigade--and the normal procedure for sending out the DRB is that all the other brigades plus them up as much as possible, with the idea that we can fill whatever those other brigades are going to need by the time they actually deploy--when did it begin to become very apparent that we weren't going to have the luxury of operating that way, and how did that affect the way the division normally operates?
BG KERR: Well, first of all, what we call our mission-essential equipment ME. We identified their ME needs early on for the 2d Brigade and we actually took some stuff from the DRF-9 [ninth priority division ready force], but then once the division commander [MG James H. Johnson, Jr.] realized that this was going to be a division fight, he stopped that.
In fact, we have talked about doing that even in the future, when we are even hesitant, or I shouldn't say hesitant, but when we think it might be a division operation. I mean, the 8th and 9th [DRF] is needed as much as the one and two when we deploy the division. So once we knew this was a division operation, we cut back on that, and it took us a little while to get that fixed. I don't want to say this because it hasn't been briefed by the CG, but I would think that we're almost going to get away from that ME and changing stuff on a routine basis from the nine to the one or from the nine to the three or whatever. I see that as maybe going away, and that you have really got a "come as you are" unit, and if the brigade commander wants to flip-flop some stuff, he can.
I don't know if that answers your question?
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, sir.
BG KERR: I can tell you what happened to us when we started deploying, is the 2d Brigade was the DRB-1. That was the mission brigade. [In] the DRB-2, the training brigade, the brigade headquarters and a battalion was the JRTC [Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas]; COL [Glenn W.] Hale. And how do you stand up the [DRB]-2 if the headquarters is in Chaffee?
The CG [Commanding General] decided then he would have to take the [DRB]-3, this was COL [Jack P.] Nix's 1st Brigade that was in support, and have them stand up as the [DRB]-2; take two battalions from the [DRB]-3, I mean one battalion from them and two battalions from the third brigade [1st Brigade] that were back here, and build the DRB-2 while they tried to get permission from Forces Command and so on to pull the 3d Brigade and their battalion and slice back from JRTC. And while that was going on, and we were moving and bobbing and weaving, the CG decided that he wasn't even going to try to straighten that one out until we got to Saudi Arabia, so that is what we did. It made some people unhappy, it made some people happy, but it was the right thing to do--at the time.
MAJ LEVIN: Once the full division got into Saudi, the mission was ... the perception of what the mission would be when they first stepped off the plane ... in other words, they stepped off the plane ready to fight immediately, and then after a while it became apparent that we had to really get a feel for what kind of operation this was going to be and how the division was going to be employed. Can you talk a little bit about how the shifts in mission in Saudi affected the support role?
BG KERR: Well, again, I wasn't there right off the bat but I worked with BG [Richard F.] Timmons, who was there--who is the [Assistant Division Commander for] O[perations], but he had to do both jobs until I showed up. You know, initially we went up [north] to the [Al] Jubayl area to secure that place. We went up with part of the 2d Brigade and the Aviation Brigade and a slice. Then we worked to get ready for the Marines. Then when the Marines came ashore, we welcomed with them. Then we pushed the 2d Brigade down [south] to Ab Qaiq to protect the oil fields down there. It is the largest known oil reserve in the world around the Ab Qaiq area.
Then while all that was going on, we were orienting on protecting, defending the main access from the north into Dhahran, and so the focus was on that. Then while that was going on, we got word that we had to go provide a force to support Riyadh--terrorist threats and so on and so forth. So we had a lot going on. We were spread out over pretty big distances, and our helicopters got a good amount of work in trying to just get the troops around.
MAJ LEVIN: I understand trucks were a real problem.
BG KERR: Well, this division has only got one light truck company, which isn't bad when you go into an airhead and you are looking for a 72-hour operation. But when you are working across the large, extended ranges we were--hundreds of miles--and COSCOM [1st Support Command (Corps)] is being tasked by all these other units that are not normally part of COSCOM, the truck support becomes very scarce. You have got to beg, steal or borrow trucks to make things happen, and of course we were able to do a lot of that to make things happen, absolutely make things happen.
MAJ LEVIN: Where did the "make happen" trucks come from?
BG KERR: Well, some from the National Guard. We got a bunch of National Guard companies--one from New Jersey, one from Ohio, one from Virginia, one from Alabama--I think that was all there were. These were good National Guard-trained folks. They have newer trucks than we've got, by the way--newer 5-tons. And they did a very good job for us. We got, you know, we got some HETs [heavy equipment transporters] for a while; we got some lowboys for a while. You know the 46th [Support] Group gave us a bunch of vehicles with drivers, some without drivers, that we were able to hand receipt [for]. We needed 350 more trucks than the division had just to keep us flowing and resupplied, and we got pretty close to that. We got pretty close to that.
So we had our own, another company that was ours, that would keep up from having to lean so heavily on corps and being so dependent on corps. Corps plug was good, but not when you are trying to play in that kind of a theater, you know.
MAJ LEVIN: Was there ever a problem of any sort with working with the reservists?
BG KERR: Well, we didn't get what you would call our habitual ... habitual reservists.
MAJ LEVIN: You mean you didn't get CAPSTONE units?
BG KERR: No, and that is sad, because you ought to get to war with who you train with. So, I mean, MPs [military police] for example, we got the 810th [Military Police Company]. I don't know who the hell they were, but they were okay. Our MP unit did a good job, but they handled mass. Counter-intelligence wasn't too bad. Civil affairs wasn't bad. As a matter of fact, civil affairs was pretty good, even though we never worked with them before. Our normal, friendly unit from Waterville [?] that helps stock the RAOC [rear area operations center] went to [XVIII Airborne] Corps, and we got pieces of RAOCs but we never got a whole RAOC.
MAJ LEVIN: I understood that was a problem, too, because whatever RAOC functions had to come out of hide?
BG KERR: We worked with three [US Air Force] MAPSs [mobile aerial port squadron] over at the airfield [Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina]. On a routine basis we deploy with an Air Force mobile--what do they call it--mobile port services or something like that, and they are active duty people, and they help us offload and load up troops and equipment. Before I turned around one day, they were gone and there was a Reserve MAPS, 53d MAPS from the mountains. They have got their own SOPs. You know, its okay to bring those guys on, but if they had talked to us beforehand or worked with us beforehand, that would have been a smooth operation over there.
MAJ LEVIN: So was there confusion as a result of, say, units not being attached on to the division and working with the division or trying to?
BG KERR: Yes. What would happen to these units, they ought to be CAPSTONEd, they ought to be affiliated, and it ought not to be some guy from, you know, Utah that is part of this division; it ought to be some guy from Raleigh or Greensboro or, you know, Charleston or somewhere, but not, you know, Sky View, Utah. That is the wrong place to send someone over to here.
MAJ LEVIN: We are re-looking at the way the military history detachments are deployed. All but one is active ... [correction], is [Army] Reserve or National Guard, and right now we have three detachments that are CAPSTONEd to XVIII Airborne Corps. Each one of them was tasked with covering two divisions, or at least division-size units, and that got to be a little hectic.
BG KERR: Yes, because the divisions were strung out.
MAJ LEVIN: I worked with the 82d (and went with the 2d Brigade), and also the 6th French. And what we are hoping to do in the future is to get them CAPSTONEd to the ... to get my unit CAPSTONEd to the 82d Division rather than to corps.
BG KERR: And how many folks do you have under you?
MAJ LEVIN: Three, so we are real burdened.
BG KERR: Three? Okay.
MAJ LEVIN: Once there is the shift that went to the north and we prepared for the attack, corps or COSCOM normally functions on an area basis but they de facto ended up breaking up into division support elements. Could you discuss that a little bit, about how that worked?
BG KERR: Yes. Well, our normal support brigade [group] from COSCOM is the 46th. COL West [COL Eugene E. Wilson] has got the command of that. And they had difficulty getting released from where they were to go north to join us, and that had to do with the way that everybody had envisioned the war working. With us in a follow-on support role, we would eventually locate in Iraq almost due north of where the 46th [Support] Group was set up.
So I think the feeling was, why move up to the west 60 or 70 kilometers just to support the 82d, when in three or four days they are going to be out here and we can go up this way instead of, you know, a big long trip. Well, as it turned out, we were waiting in the tactical assembly area [TAA] for a month, not a week or two or whatever, so that was a problem. It was a problem because we didn't get all the support we were normally used to getting, from trade goods to total repair parts. You know, that was tough ... a tough business and when they did it, it upset a lot of people.
Now there was great competition for the transportation in the corps, particularly from the 24th, you know, and the 3d Cav. They needed help, so they got help from COSCOM across the board, not just in whatever direct support that was set up for them, and that caused us a little anguish. There was nothing we could do about it. That is just the way it was.
MAJ LEVIN: Was there any complication in working with the French?
BG KERR: No, no. I mean, minor crap. They were very jovial, friendly, cautious. They wanted to do things right. You know, it was a good product after this ... good friendship. I am just sorry I couldn't break out a bottle of wine to celebrate with them. One of them did give me a near beer, though, but horrible tasting stuff, that near beer.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, sir. They liked ... i can't think of the brand right now. [Laughter].
In moving north ... well, before we went north, the division support area was in a really bad, dusty area, as I recall.
BG KERR: Do you mean our tactical assembly area, or Dhahran?
MAJ LEVIN: No, I meant the TAA. Did that have any effect on how the support went, or that you couldn't work well?
BG KERR: No, the equipment worked well. It was just a pain in the ass. I mean, we put in little helipads and so on, but it still was dusty as hell. But that one worked. The only thing that didn't work was that the through-put was tough, from the 46th, because a lot of their trucks were tied up getting ready to do other things. And that is the nature of one of those transportation units, anyway. So again, I don't think the dusty conditions did anything except make us pull a little bit more maintenance, and the discomfort of the traficability problems.
MAJ LEVIN: On the assault itself, there was a tremendous line of support that came up MSR [Main Supply Route] TEXAS from the division. Was there a problem with movement?
BG KERR: On MSR TEXAS? Oh, yes. I mean, everybody tried, but it was screwed up. I mean, I didn't see it from the ground. I saw it from the air, from an [OH]-58, and it was screwed up, I mean screwed up. And when I say that, it was gridlocked--too many people trying to get on that MSR. I think the corps had had a plan and tried to get it regulated, but it was out of control, it really was.
And I know that I don't have to talk too much about that, because most of the people at corps are aware of that and they are working on trying to get that settled. But MSR TEXAS was awful; people called it "the road to hell." I called it disorganized confusion, and confusion is normally, you know, bedlam in the dark. It was the pits, it was absurd. But we succeeded in spite of ourselves and we were able to figure all that stuff out.
It was COL [Freddy E.] McFarren trying to figure out how to get his [18th Field] Artillery [Brigade] moved; COL [Boyd C.] Bryant trying to move his DISCOM [82d Airborne Division Support Command]; COL [Gerald R.] Harkins [Officer in Charge, XVIII Airborne Corps Rear Command Post] is fighting because the COSCOM units started getting on the roads so they could get up with the, you know, the [Logistical Base] ROMEO [package], I guess ... they would build the log[istical] base show up there. It was a mess. And the poor combat arms guys, they couldn't get forward at all. I mean, we made it happen, but it was just--that was a mess. Yes, I had nightmares about MSR TEXAS.
MAJ LEVIN: Well, it was a pretty vulnerable route.
BG KERR: It was, except we beat the hell out of the enemy. I mean, we beat him up so bad with the Air Force, and then we went out with our Apaches on two deep raids, and what the Air Force didn't destroy, we did. So the French and the 2d Brigade took very little fire or anything on that track.
MAJ LEVIN: Was there ever concern about the [Iraqi] 54th1 [Infantry] Division, what they were going to do? They were ...
BG KERR: I didn't get out [to the west] and get real hard-core intel[ligence]. And the only hard-core intel we could get was our Apaches using their FLIR [forward-looking infrared sights] and [video] taping it and coming back and debriefing us. Now we wanted to be careful not to send a signature across the border that we were up there, for guns, I mean, and enemy equipment, so we didn't report that we were now getting ready to launch an attack. We restricted ourselves. We didn't put up, you know, all these assets to gather intel for us.
MAJ LEVIN: Was that a matter of intention or was that ...
BG KERR: It was a matter of they wouldn't let us do it.
MAJ LEVIN: It was a priority?
BG KERR: And it was the right thing to do, so we tried to gain as much as we could by peeking over the border but not running across the border. So we did a good job, and the information we found out was tremendous.
MAJ LEVIN: So the 54th never really was a factor ... ?
BG KERR: No, we shut down most of the 54th. I mean, it was still there. It was close to being a division, although some people say it was just two brigades, but at this stage I can't argue that. I can say it was at least that big, though.
MAJ LEVIN: Were they shot up primarily by 82d air assets or by tac[tical] air?
BG KERR: A combination. A combination. I don't know the exact facts on it. The Air Force did a pretty damn devastating job with [INAUDIBLE], and then our HELLFIREs took care of the rest. Devastating.
MAJ LEVIN: Once the 82d had passed the intersection with TEXAS and VIRGINIA and they moved to the east, the mission shifted at that point. Did that have an effect on the 82d? There was a time when you were bumped up against the back end of the 24th, and I know that some of the trucks were trying to get through to support the 82d or the 82d was trying to move forward, and I think probably the 24th was prey to the same kind of gridlock type of thing.
BG KERR: Was the 24th on the MSR or were they just--are you talking now just AO [Area of Operations] COBRA, and all those types of places out there?
MAJ LEVIN: No, COBRA was more in the 101st sector.
BG KERR: Yes, that is right. That was over, and that is correct, it is over on the west side. The 24th was on the east.
MAJ LEVIN: Around [Objective] GOLD, I believe.
BG KERR: Yes.
MAJ LEVIN: That was sort of the limit of the advance of the 82d?
BG KERR: I don't really know. I don't remember that being a problem. It might have been at a higher level, but it wasn't at the level I was at.
MAJ LEVIN: Once the two brigades of the 82d, the 1st and the 3d, moved north to the [Tallil and Jalibah] airfields, was there a problem in supporting them?
BG KERR: No. We used the heck out of our helicopters, and any helicopters we would get from corps. Through all levels of logistics. So that wasn't a problem. I mean, we had to get innovative with trucks, and all that stuff, but we figured out how to do it.
MAJ LEVIN: What kind of innovations came about with the trucks?
BG KERR: Well, we had National Guard enlisted [soldiers] who were attached to us. We had rental trucks we got. I am not sure where BG Timmons got those. What were they called? I don't know whether they were Mercedes. I forget what they were called, but they were mail trucks. We had civilian water trucks, 6,000 gallons. We got the smithey [?] collapsible drums we put on the load list. Actually that gave us bulk water. We found the water wasn't too bad in a lot of places, which was a pleasant surprise, although we still used APUs tremendously. Not APUs--I forget what they are called--ROWPUs [reverse osmosis water purification units]. We used a lot of APUs. That is the auxiliary power units to start the helicopter. We used a lot of those. But we used our water purification teams a lot.
MAJ LEVIN: To what extent were you involved with working with the Saudis? Can you provide us some ...
BG KERR: Well, once I got to the country ...
MAJ LEVIN: Which was about when?
BG KERR: The first week in January, I went to CHAMPION [MAIN, the division main command post north of Dhahran], and then my division rear team, which is made up of a number of people in the division, we moved to the TAA, tactical assembly area, and then moved the division forward from CHAMPION, Ab Qaiq, Dhahran ... lets see, we moved from also protecting ... I said Ab Qaiq ...
MAJ LEVIN: ... Ab Qaiq ...
BG KERR: ... Al Hufuf, Dhahran ... to Rafha, south of Rafha. 2d Brigade moved north immediately for OPCON to the French. The rest of us moved about 30 miles south, 30 clicks [kilometers] south of Rafha into the desert and stretched out in a wide area so the enemy, if they used missiles or airplanes, they wouldn't have a mass destruction. That was complicated, to do that.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, sir. There were no roads south of Tapline [the Trans-Arabian Pipeline Road; also known as Main Supply Route DODGE] that were of any value.
BG KERR: Well, see, going south from Tapline out of Rafha wasn't bad, because we just cut a couple of trails, and there were some old camel trails. But the trouble was, the organic, the attached transportation still wasn't enough to move all that stuff.
So what we tried to do in the division is, we took stuff that was down in CHAMPION and other places and moved it as early as we could to a site up by KKMC [King Khalid Military City], and started building a forward base out there. So that when we deployed, then the majority of our stuff was in that base, and we could move it from there, only a small distance from there to where the RAA [redeployment assembly area] was--well, not the RAA, the TA[A]. Now coming back we didn't have that option, but the food, the ammo, the water, the things that we thought we would need, Class IV material that we couldn't carry organically.
MAJ LEVIN: But was there a problem with securing those things?
BG KERR: Uh-huh. We sent the security team out there, and our DISCOM ran it.
MAJ LEVIN: The 82d is normally pretty thin on those kinds of assets. Was that a problem, leaving the security team back?
BG KERR: Yes. Yes, but DISCOM was fatter than anybody, and they normally aren't, because it is not a, you know, it is not a combat unit. It is the combat service support role in the division. Now, some of the units aren't called combat service support.
MAJ LEVIN: When we were redeploying back, I noticed that there was a lot of equipment that we didn't use, and a lot of ammunition of course that was not expended.
BG KERR: Well, that is because we didn't shoot at anybody.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes. In fact, we apparently ...
BG KERR: I hope all operations go that smoothly.
MAJ LEVIN: ... we apparently brought out more equipment than we took in on this war.
BG KERR: I don't know if that is true. I know that this division shipped about 500,000 square feet of equipment by air and sea. We took home about 500,000 square feet. We actually took a little bit more home, like you said, than we shipped over, because we got some force mod[ernization] stuff over there. We came back with a few more tanks than we went over with because they gave us the Sheridan upgrade [M-551A1] when we went over there.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, sir. Was that a problem--getting the units trained up on the new equipment?
BG KERR: No, because they had a NET [new equipment training] team and there wasn't that much new. There was, you know, a night sight and a couple of other things on the Sheridan, but it was the same old Sheridan basically. If you have seen one Sheridan, you have seen all Sheridans.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, sir. They seemed to operate fairly well out there.
BG KERR: Yes, they did, but it is a light reconnaissance vehicle that needs to be replaced by an armored gun system that [INAUDIBLE]. Fairly tough, I mean, it's got a Shillelagh and it would have stood against T-72s [main battle tanks]. I wouldn't want to go toe-to-toe against tanks with it, but you can ambush tanks, and you can shoot tanks, and you can provide the infantry with some protection.
MAJ LEVIN: When the division came back, we anticipated in a worst case scenario going in, that there would be heavy casualties and things like that. Those casualties didn't happen, except on the Iraqi side primarily, and ...
BG KERR: The 82d didn't lose a soldier to the combat mission.
MAJ LEVIN: Right. Was there a problem in terms of planning to bring all the stuff back?
BG KERR: I don't understand the question.
MAJ LEVIN: Well, we brought the munitions in with the idea that we are going to shoot all of it.
BG KERR: Yes. We didn't bring that ammo home.
MAJ LEVIN: We left it there?
BG KERR: The 82d left it there. Now the Army brought some back, but not the division.
MAJ LEVIN: I see, so ... okay, so the Army is basically largely responsible for shipping all that ammo back?
BG KERR: I hope so.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay.
BG KERR: Yes. I am sure as hell not responsible for it. We turned it over.
MAJ LEVIN: Did you turn it in out of Iraq, or did you shift it over in-country?
BG KERR: We turned it over mostly to KKMC. Some of it moved to a place down in the Dammam area, Dhahran area. The name slips my mind right now.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. Well, sir, that is it or close to it. Is there anything else that you would like to add that ...
BG KERR: Yes, I would like to talk a little bit about moving the whole division. You know, if I mentioned the division, you know, it is late in the afternoon and it feels like it is about the fifth Monday in a row, so I am a little tired but, you know, I have tried to answer your questions.
The experience the division got in outloading ships is something that I hope we won't loose. So we have modified or we are in the process of modifying; upgrading readiness SOPs to talk about how you move the whole division. You know, everybody is talking about we won't have enough sealift. You didn't ask me about that at the start, did you?
MAJ LEVIN: No, sir.
BG KERR: I told you we used about 28 ships going and 12 coming back, so that is about 40 different kinds of ships I got familiar with. The fast sealift ship type, class, in my mind, from what I have seen, is probably not in the right configuration for us to say we want more of those. Why do I say that? That is a big ship. It is fast ship, but it takes days to load and days to unload, and it takes RO-RO, it takes break-bulk and it takes containers.
What I think we need is the Cape Houston type RO-RO ship, which is about 220,000 square feet. It is all RO-RO. You can load in 24 hours and offload in 24 hours if you have got good crew and the weather is okay. It doesn't go quite as fast as the fast sealift ship. It goes more like 24 or 25 [knots], a opposed to 30, 32. But what good does it do to get there quickly, if it takes you three days to load it at one end and three days to offload it at the other end, when you can take one day to load it, make up the difference in transit, and then one day to offload it, turn around and come back. So I think that if there is a type of ship we need, it is the Houston class. That is kind of my bottom line on ships. Even though I didn't get to ship on the fast sealifts, I got on the one that was supporting the 24th and so on. We watched them.
The C-17, we need. Too bad we can't get the Air Force to buy about 500 of them, but I don't know if that thing is ever going to show up to help us. It will be such a critical asset.
I think that is the big thing I wanted to talk about, the ships. I can't think of anything else right now. I talked about the automated system being screwed up.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, sir. Is that ... has that been rectified now?
BG KERR: As far as I know, the CTACS-2 is still broke on this installation, so not only did we have trouble deploying it and getting it operational when we went to the theater, but redeploying it, it is still not operational.
MAJ LEVIN: What impact has that had?
BG KERR: It has cancelled requisitions. We had to hand-order requisitions for the last 80, 90 days. I found out those have been cancelled, so we have lost 80 days of practical time. I think it stinks. Soldiers have no confidence in the automated logistics system. Some parts clerks, TAMMS clerks, have had to order things for the eighth time because of different cancellations by other than us. It is tough to get that kind of belief in the system. I mean, how do you do that? You know, the proof is in the pudding, something like that? And then we redeployed [and] its broke. So it is commonly know that the stuff is right here, and we have got to deal with that.
MAJ LEVIN: One of the things that seemed to be a big issue, especially when I was coming through the post, was the issue of desert combat uniforms and equipment, and while I was working with the 82d at the front, I noticed that a lot of times they were the last guys to ...
BG KERR: Well, again it had to do with this priority, okay? And the decision was finally made in-country that now our uniforms are only going to the guys at the goddamn 1st because they came with two uniforms. They have been here since August. That is all they have been wearing. Most of them are funky, ripped, worn, so let's get them more uniforms.
That starting working towards the desert boots. We got a bad issue of sizes the first time around, so we are still dealing with thousands of boots, trying to figure out what is the correct way to do this. So that is the whole issue. And we just kept the Kevlar [helmets] and didn't wear the boonie caps and that kind of equipment. In fact, I got a cap they issued me, I don't know where it is. I hope I can find it by the time I have got to clear my account.
It had to do with priorities. The same thing happened with GPSs [global positioning systems] and LORANS, and we finally got folks to understand that just because we are last priority doesn't mean none; just give us some, that's all.
MAJ LEVIN: The GPS was really valuable.
BG KERR: Absolutely, even in the helicopters, you know, where you have a doppler [radar], it is tough to update your doppler as you fly along in Saudi Arabia because of the terrain features. You know, where are the bridges? Where are the road intersections? Where are the towns? Tough to do that. You know, where are the ponds, the lakes, the streams and everything?
MAJ LEVIN: Flat. And you can't get high enough to look down.
BG KERR: Yes, just so very tough for the doppler to do that. But now that GPS should keep that going. LORAN was okay, but there was a station missing up by Kuwait and that screwed us up the further north we went, so the GPS was the overall best basic equipment there, navigation-wise. You go and you get an azimuth and a bearing and all that kind of stuff off it, and distance. It was pretty good equipment. I still have one on the dash of my [OH]-58 to augment the on-board systems ... [GPSs] aren't very expensive. I'll keep it.
MAJ LEVIN: Do you envision that those things will be used a lot in the future for support?
BG KERR: Yes. I do. I wish we had more. I don't want to get caught in a situation where we have to buy hundreds of these damn things, but we have got to have enough to capitalize on the reliability of them, you know. I think at night you have assaults, and the guys not knowing where the hell they are is--he can jump out of his Blackhawk and he has got a pretty good indication of where he is, like he knows his grid coordinates.
MAJ LEVIN: Yes, that is pretty good.
BG KERR: You know, that is pretty damn good, particularly for artillery, close air [support] work.
MAJ LEVIN: Okay. Well, sir, I appreciate your time and your attention.
BG KERR: Right.
MAJ LEVIN: Thank you.
BG KERR: I have tried to stay alert for you but I am not doing so good.
MAJ LEVIN: That's all right. We muddled through very well, sir.
BG KERR: Okay.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
1. The Iraqi unit astride Main Supply Route TEXAS was actually the 45th Infantry Division; the 54th was further west than XVIII Airborne Corps' area of operations.