This interview was conducted 5 June 1991 at the Headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The interviewers were MAJ Robert K. Wright, Jr. (XVIII Airborne Corps Historian), Mr. Rex Boggs (Curator, Don Pratt Museum), and 1LT Cliff Lippard (101st Airborne Division Historian).
Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM vindicated the Army’s attention to training and readiness. This extensive interview conducted by Army historians provides one division commander’s view of how readiness helped achieve victory in the war against Iraq. It also contains insights into how a division commander dealt with the fast pace of the ground war. At the time of this interview, MG J.H. Binford Peay was nearing completion of his tour as commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Soon afterward, he was promoted to lieutenant general and assigned to the Pentagon as the Department of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans. In March 1993, he earned his fourth star and became the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff. In August 1994, he assumed command of the United States Central Command.
Throughout the interview, General Peay expresses confidence in the ability of his troops to overcome difficult challenges. He sees training and standards as two of the keys to the U.S. Army’s success against Iraq, helping create a force of ready professionals. General Peay discusses the 101st Airborne Division’s deployment to Saudi Arabia; its plans for a defense against an Iraqi attack; and finally the division’s role in the coalition offensive.
This transcript is offered as a most worthwhile addition to the growing
body of knowledge on the Persian Gulf war. We hope that it will generate
additional work by those interested in warfare in this century.
United States Army
General J.H. Binford Peay III was born in 1940. Upon graduation from the Virginia Military Institute in 1962, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. He later earned a Master of Arts from George Washington University. His military education includes completion of the Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College.
General Peay’s initial troop assignments were in Germany and Fort Carson, Colorado. From December 1964 to September 1966, he served as Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General, 5th Infantry Division. He went on to serve in other assignments including two tours in the Republic of Vietnam. In his first tour from May 1967 to July 1968, he commanded both Headquarters Company, I Field Force Vietnam, and a firing battery (Battery B, 4th Battalion, 42d Artillery) with the 4th Infantry Division in the central highlands. During his second tour from August 1971 to June 1972, he served as the assistant operations officer for the 3d Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and as operations officer for the same division’s 1st Battalion, 21st Artillery.
After serving with the Army Military Personnel Center in Washington, DC, as a Field Artillery branch assignments officer, Peay was sent to Hawaii in 1975 to command the 2d Battalion, 11th Field Artillery, 25th Infantry Division. Following completion of the Army War College, he returned to Washington, DC, as Senior Aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and later as Chief of the Army Initiatives Group in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operation and Plans. He then moved to Fort Lewis, Washington, to serve as the I Corps’ Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3/Director of Plans and Training, and later became Commander, 9th Infantry Division Artillery. In 1985, he returned to Washington, DC, as Executive to the Chief of Staff, United States Army. He first became a Screaming Eagle in July 1987, when he became the Assistant Division Commander (Operations), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Beginning in July 1988, he served a one year assignment as Deputy Commandant, Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
On 3 August 1989, General Peay returned to Fort Campbell to assume command of the 101st Airborne Division and led the division through Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM in the Persian Gulf. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, he was the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, and Senior Army Member, United States Military Committee from June 1991 until March 1993. He was promoted to General on 26 March 1993 and appointed as the Army’s twenty-fourth Vice Chief of Staff. He assumed his last active duty position, as Commander in Chief, United States Central Command, at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, on 5 August 1994.
General Peay has received awards and decorations including the Army Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and the Purple Heart. He has also received the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, several Air Medals, and the Army Commendation Medal. Additionally, he wears the Parachutist Badge, Ranger Tab, the Air Assault Badge, the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge, Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge, and the Army General Staff Identification Badge.
Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM
|A Tribute to the 101st Airborne Division||
The Defensive Phase
Preparing for the Offensive
Redeployment and Closing Comments
|Appendix A: Illustrations of helicopters and vehicles mentioned in the transcript||
Under Army Regulation 870-5, Military History: Responsibilities, Policies, and Procedures, military history detachments and historical offices send their interviews to the U.S. Army Center of Military History’s Oral History Activity where the tapes or transcripts can be used for the preparation of official histories. This interview is one of over 800 oral histories in the Center’s DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM Interview Tape (DSIT) collection and has the catalog number DSIT-AE-101.
As the XVIII Airborne Corps historian in Southwest Asia, MAJ Robert K. Wright, Jr., accompanied the 101st Airborne Division into Iraq and was the lead interviewer when General Peay participated in this oral history shortly after the division returned from Southwest Asia in 1991. After the Center transcribed the interview, Dr. Wright (first in his civilian job as corps’ historian and later after his transfer to the Center) completed the initial editing of the transcript. Stephen E. Everett and Dr. Richard A. Hunt of the Center’s Oral History Activity made further editorial refinements. The editors tried to maintain the interviewee’s wording and intent, but deleted false starts and added words and explanations when necessary for clarity.
General Peay and his staff assistant, LTC Randy Kolton, reviewed the edited transcript and clarified a number of points. Mr. Everett prepared the historical essay which provides background information for the 101st Airborne Division and air assault doctrine, as well as a brief summary of the division’s activities during DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. Dr. Jeffrey J. Clarke, the Center’s Chief Historian, and Drs. Wright and Hunt offered helpful suggestions to improve the narrative and make it more appealing to a wider audience. CPT Gordon R. Quick, the Center’s military history intern and a 101st Division veteran, also added his insight, as did the Oral History Activity’s Dwight D. Oland. Steve Hardyman and John Birmingham of the Center’s Production Division assisted with the maps and the final publication format.
Questions and comments concerning this transcript should be sent to the Oral History Activity, U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1099 14th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20005-3402.
The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has earned an honored place in American military history. Stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the division is known throughout the Army as "The Screaming Eagles" because of the unit’s distinctive shoulder sleeve insignia. The division fought at Normandy and Bastogne during World War II, and at Dak To and the A Shau Valley in the Vietnam war. To that list of battlefields can now be added FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) COBRA and VIPER, the Euphrates Valley, and other places from Operation DESERT STORM.
Organized as an air assault division, the 101st Airborne Division is normally equipped with over 200 helicopters, far more than other Army divisions. These helicopters give the 101st Division exceptional aerial mobility, serve as weapons platforms, and provide transport for soldiers and supplies. Air assault, however, is more than moving troops and equipment by air; it is a way of thinking about warfare. As set forth in Army Field Manual 90-4, Air Assault Operations, highly mobile combined arms teams undertake these missions to strike an enemy where he is most vulnerable. Routinely using the cover of darkness and able to cover extended distances, air assault infantry can catch an opponent unprepared by flying over enemy lines and terrain obstacles and landing on top of, or behind, enemy defensive positions. The 101st demonstrated this capability during DESERT STORM when its helicopters quickly transported troops and their equipment over distances far beyond the logistical capabilities of many nations’ armies. Air assault commanders can also "task organize," or tailor, their numerous organic aviation units for rapid redeployment to a variety of tactical situations. As commander of the 101st, MG J.H. Binford Peay III exploited this advantage, using the inherently flexible organization of the air assault division.
The division’s successful air assaults in Southwest Asia drew on years of combat experience and doctrinal refinements. In Vietnam, the 101st had employed attached helicopters to locate the enemy and transport troops into combat. Reorganized in 1968 as an "airmobile" division, the 101st relied heavily on the mobility and flexibility provided by organic helicopter units. After the Vietnam war, the term "air assault" replaced "airmobile," and soldiers in
the newly designated air assault division refined their skills in areas such as rappelling from helicopters, unit aerial assaults, and sling-loading of equipment. In the 1970s and 1980s, the air assault division earned a place in the Army’s new operational doctrine, AirLand Battle, which was used in the war against Iraq.
In its simplest terms, AirLand Battle was based on four tenets: initiative, depth, agility, and synchronization.1 First, initiative encouraged soldiers at all levels to seize and exploit opportunities to gain advantages over opponents. Second, commanders were urged to use the entire depth of the battlefield and strike at rear echelon targets that supported frontline troops. Third, agility required commanders to react to enemy strengths and quickly strike at the enemy where he was vulnerable. Fourth, synchronization called for the commander to maximize available combined arms firepower on critical targets to achieve the greatest effect. These complementary tenets were the foundation for campaign planning in DESERT STORM.
The air assault division is well designed for AirLand Battle. It contains nine infantry battalions organized into three brigades. Each infantry battalion has an authorized strength of about forty officers and 640 enlisted personnel, organized into a headquarters company, three rifle companies, and an anti-armor company to provide extra firepower against enemy tanks. An aviation brigade with eight battalions provides the division with organic reconnaissance, attack, aeromedical, assault and logistical lift capabilities. Divisional combat support and combat service support elements round out the organization, and additional units can be attached to the division as required (see Chart 1).2
Air assault operations enable the division commander to seize and maintain
the operational and tactical initiative. With local air superiority, the
air assault division commander can move his units rapidly, bypassing enemy
strongpoints, concentrating forces, and exploiting opportunities. During
operations in Southwest Asia, the 101st Airborne Division skillfully employed
air assault tactics and validated the basic tenets of the AirLand Battle
Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM
On 2 August 1990 with little warning, Iraq, under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait and totally occupied the country in less than forty-eight hours, instigating a serious international crisis. Hussein commanded the world’s fourth largest field army, which included large numbers of modern Soviet-designed tanks and veterans seasoned by a long and bloody war with Iran. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait’s neighbor to the south,
fearing that its oil fields would be the Iraqi Army’s next objective, agreed on 6 August to accept U.S. military assistance.
Operation DESERT SHIELD began with the U.S. order to deploy air, ground, and sea forces to the region, among them the 101st Airborne Division, to help defend the Saudis against an anticipated Iraqi attack. On 8 August, thirty-six hours after receiving their alert notice, lead elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps’ 82d Airborne Division were enroute from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Saudi Arabia. Seven days later, one 82d Airborne brigade drew a symbolic "line in the sand," warning Hussein not to cross the border. The 82d Airborne Division’s paratroopers were soon joined by growing numbers of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who came under GEN H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the joint command responsible for U.S. operations in Southwest Asia. Other nations joined a coalition against Iraq. Eventually thirty-seven countries, among them Great Britain, France, Italy, Egypt, Syria, and other Arab nations in the region, provided troops or materiel.
CENTCOM’s initial objective was to bring enough ground, air, and sea power into Saudi Arabia to demonstrate America’s commitment to defend its ally and deter an Iraqi attack. In the early days of DESERT SHIELD, planners realized that available forces could not defend all of Saudi Arabia, but hoped that American planes could destroy enough Iraqi tanks to slow an invasion and allow American and Saudi ground forces to defend the major gulf ports until reinforcements arrived. The buildup of military forces necessitated the creation of a logistical base, forcing CENTCOM to balance the deployment of combat forces with the support troops and their supplies and equipment. The availability of air and sea transport, and the enormous distance between the United States and Saudi Arabia, also complicated the buildup and added to CENTCOM’s concerns. Although the 101st Airborne Division was designed to be rapidly deployable, logistics requirements and the demand for heavy "armored" forces governed the deployment of the division and other units to the desert.
Another XVIII Airborne Corps unit, the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized)
actually began its deployment to the Gulf before the 101st Airborne Division.
The 24th Division was directed on 6 August to start moving its M1 Abrams
tanks, M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and other equipment from Fort Stewart,
Georgia to the port of Savannah, where they would be loaded onto ships
for the long voyage to Saudi Arabia. By the first half of September personnel
and equipment for the 24th Division’s two brigades had arrived in theater.3
Meanwhile, on 10 August, the Army issued deployment orders for the 101st.
At that time, many of the division’s units were far from their home station
at Fort Campbell. Some units were scattered across the country supporting
Reserve Component summer training or conducting training exercises at West
Point, New York; others were abroad in Honduras and Panama, or preparing
to deploy to the Sinai as part of the Multinational Force and Observer
Organization. All units had to return to Kentucky as quickly as possible
to prepare for their mission in Saudi Arabia.
The division’s advance party arrived in Saudi Arabia on 15 August and began laying the groundwork for the rest of the 101st. CENTCOM placed a high priority on receiving anti-armor equipment, and the 101st’s attack helicopters, the division’s best anti-tank weapons, were sent first. The first planes carrying personnel and equipment from the 101st’s Aviation Brigade and the 2d Brigade’s "ready" battalion left Fort Campbell on 17 August. Over the next thirteen days, the 101st Division sent by air (in fifty-six Air Force C-141s and forty-nine C-5Bs) 117 helicopters, 487 vehicles, 123 equipment pallets, and 2,742 troops into the theater. In addition to its own units, the division also had to coordinate the rapid air deployment of the 2d Battalion, 229th Aviation (equipped with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters) from Fort Rucker, Alabama and the Target Acquisition Platoon of Troop A, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry (equipped with OH-58D Kiowa reconnaissance helicopters) from Fort Lewis, Washington. These two units would remain attached to the 101st throughout the operation, contributing to its overall combat power. The rest of the 2d Brigade, along with other elements, arrived by 10 September.
The remainder of the division’s equipment moved by convoy and rail to Jacksonville, Florida and was loaded aboard ships for the month-long voyage to Saudi Arabia. The first of the ten ships that carried the division’s equipment sailed on 19 August and the last left port on 10 September. The sailing time gave soldiers from the 3d and 1st Brigades a few extra days of preparation at Fort Campbell before deploying to the theater in commercial aircraft. Throughout September, division elements flew to the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf) where they married up with their equipment. All elements of the 101st were in Saudi Arabia by 6 October.
Division engineers constructed the division’s initial staging facility and base camp, Camp EAGLE II, near King Fahd International Airport (KFIA), just inland from the Arabian Gulf and northwest of Ad Damman. During the following weeks, the division carried out its defensive mission as a covering force in Area of Operations (AO) NORMANDY, a large 1,800 square mile (4,600 square kilometer) region lying about 130 miles northwest of the division base camp and 85 miles south of Kuwait. Within NORMANDY, the division had two forward operating bases (FOBs), BASTOGNE in the area’s eastern section near An Nu’ayriyah and OASIS located at an abandoned unnamed village in the western section. In the harsh desert environment, the 101st’s helicopters were instrumental in moving forces and supplies, and providing fires over this vast area.
The XVIII Airborne Corps planned to use the 101st Division to slow the considerable armor formations that would support any Iraqi thrust into Saudi Arabia. Only a limited number of roads would be available to invading Iraqi tanks, and the 101st’s ground and air elements could cover these routes. Each of the division’s organic and attached attack helicopter battalions had eighteen AH-64 Apaches or twenty-one AH-1 Cobras providing the 101st with a powerful punch and exceptional anti-tank capabilities. Flying low to the ground and using available desert terrain for cover, helicopters could strike hostile armor or their vulnerable logistical support deep behind forward lines. The Apache’s advanced sensors allowed the helicopters to fly at night and in inclement weather, thus creating a serious threat to the Iraqis. The division had at its disposal a variety of anti-tank systems, but perhaps the most effective were the sixteen Hellfire missiles carried by each Apache attack helicopter. In addition, every Cobra helicopter carried eight Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missiles. The lethality of these weapons sys-
tems explained why American commanders wanted the 101st’s attack helicopter battalions deployed to Saudi Arabia as soon as possible.
Adding to the division’s arsenal were another 180 TOW launchers mounted on High Mobility, Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (known as HMMWVs, HUMVEEs, or HUMMERs). There were twenty TOW equipped HMMWVs located in each of the 101st Division’s nine anti-armor companies and, unlike Iraqi tanks, they were not bound to the road by the soft sand. HMMWVs could rapidly outmaneuver enemy tanks over desert terrain, and their TOW missiles could also outdistance the main guns of the Iraqi armor by up to 2,000 yards. In preparing to defend Saudi Arabia, the 101st formed mobile anti-armor teams with these assets and placed them forward to meet an Iraqi attack. Using the firepower of these weapons systems, complemented by aerial mobility and fire from the division artillery, the 101st would attempt to slow an enemy onslaught and then hand off the covering force battle to the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Located behind the 101st, the 24th would fight the main battle against any invaders.
The 101st Division’s anti-tank capabilities expanded with the attachment of the 12th Aviation Brigade, which deployed from Europe to Saudi Arabia in late September and early October. The brigade consisted of two attack helicopter battalions, equipped with Apaches, and supporting lift units. Another unit, the 3d Armored Cavalry deployed from Fort Bliss, Texas in the second half of September. During Operation DESERT SHIELD the regiment came under the operational control of the 101st Airborne Division and played a key role in the division’s covering force plans. Also attached to the 101st during DESERT SHIELD, the 75th and 212th Field Artillery Brigades provided indirect fire support with their Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, and 155mm and 8-inch self-propelled howitzers. The 101st and its attached units constantly rehearsed their defensive plans and were prepared for an Iraqi attack.
With the October arrival of the 1st Cavalry Division (organized as an armored division), coalition leaders felt confident that they had more than sufficient strength to defend the important coastal region of Saudi Arabia. By 5 November, just three months after the initial deployment, XVIII Airborne Corps’ strength in Saudi Arabia included over 760 tanks, almost 1500 armored fighting vehicles, more than 500 artillery pieces, nearly 230 attack helicopters, and 107,300 soldiers. The coalition’s next step was to begin preparing its forces for a possible offensive to restore Kuwait’s independence if Iraq refused to remove its forces. In November, to provide the extra military forces needed to recapture Kuwait, President George Bush announced the deployment of additional American divisions from Europe and the United States to Saudi Arabia. These deployments clearly signaled the intention of the United States and its coalition partners to employ force to retake Kuwait, but Saddam Hussein refused to withdraw his occupying army.
The new armor and mechanized divisions provided the decisive ground combat power for coalition forces to go on the offensive and liberate Kuwait. The 1st and 3d Armored Divisions, the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), and the 2d Armored Cavalry arrived in Saudi Arabia over the next few months and came under the VII Corps. These divisions, together with the United Kingdom’s 1st Armoured Division, formed the spearhead that would cross into Iraq and confront the tanks of Hussein’s "elite" Republican Guard divisions, which were waiting in reserve far behind the Iraqi border defenses. Non-Republican Guard Iraqi divisions were dug in along the
Saudi border. These inferior divisions were concentrated from about forty miles west of the Wadi Al-Batin, one of the few natural terrain features along the Iraq-Kuwait border, along the entire distance of the Saudi border extending to the gulf. Behind these frontline troops Iraq had positioned a number of other divisions, including higher caliber armored and mechanized units to act as a mobile reserve, and the Republican Guard divisions, to act as a counterattack force. Numerous artillery groupments supplemented all these units.
GEN Schwarzkopf’s campaign to defeat Iraq and liberate Kuwait, Operation DESERT STORM, was scheduled to begin sometime after January 15, 1991, the United Nations’ deadline for the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. DESERT STORM would open with several weeks of an aggressive bombing campaign aimed at weakening Iraq’s infrastructure, command and control centers, and frontline positions. In the next phase, the ground offensive, Schwarzkopf planned to have Marine and Arab units tie down Iraqi forces along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border, while the tank-heavy VII Corps divisions would breach Iraqi defenses to the west of Wadi Al-Batin and engage the Iraqi divisions from the flank and rear. VII Corps’ goal was to defeat the Republican Guards and prevent them from counterattacking the Marine and Arab forces that would advance towards Kuwait City.
The mission of the 101st Division and other XVIII Airborne Corps units was to cover the left flank of the VII Corps and coalition forces, and strike deep inside Iraq to prevent retreating Iraqi troops from escaping across the Euphrates River. The 101st would also be in position to threaten the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Two brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division, which had been removed from XVIII Airborne Corps to act as an army reserve in December 1990, would defend against a possible Iraqi counterattack at the Wadi Al-Batin and create the impression that the main coalition attack would come along the wadi.4 The 6th French Light Armored Division replaced the 1st Cavalry Division within XVIII Airborne Corps.
The plan also required both VII and XVIII Corps to reposition their forces to the west prior to the ground offensive. The execution of this movement was a significant accomplishment in itself. Most of the move took place after the war started and it escaped notice by Iraqi intel-
ligence thanks to allied deception operations and air supremacy. First, VII Corps maneuvered into line west of both Wadi Al-Batin and XVIII Airborne Corps, which was still protecting the gulf ports. Then, XVIII Airborne Corps, including the 101st, moved to the west leapfrogging VII Corps and occupying positions near the Iraqi border. Thus XVIII Airborne Corps anchored the far west of the coalition line, while U.S. Marine and Arab Coalition forces guarded the eastern portion. The 101st took eleven days to relocate northwest to a site near the Iraqi border, Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) CAMPBELL, about forty miles southeast of the Saudi town of Rafha. To reach CAMPBELL, the division moved over 600 miles by road and 300 by helicopter or Air Force C-130 transport planes.
XVIII Airborne Corps faced fewer and less concentrated Iraqi forces than did VII Corps, but its logistical challenge was far greater. The XVIII’s assembly areas were far from the coalition’s support bases along the coast and its troops had to cross enormous expanses of Iraq’s desert terrain to reach their objectives. Maintaining access to critical supplies such as fuel (consumption rates for the 101st’s helicopters paralleled fuel requirements for an armored division) was key to a successful operation. Logistical support for the corps entailed the establishment of forward logistics bases and running ground supply convoys along a series of lengthy main supply
routes (MSRs). The Trans-Arabia Pipeline (TAPLINE) Road, also known as MSR DODGE, was the main route that connected XVIII Airborne Corps to other coalition forces and Saudi Arabia’s coast. The corps’ main logistical base, CHARLIE, was located astride the TAPLINE Road about fifty miles southeast of Rafha. Corps engineers improved the old dirt trading routes that led about twenty miles north from the TAPLINE Road to the Iraqi border. From west to east these roads were MSRs TEXAS, NEWMARKET, and GEORGIA, and they would serve as the axes for the corps’ ground attack.
As the start of the ground war drew near, XVIII Airborne Corps completed preparations for its attack. On the corps’ far left, the 6th French Light Armored Division, supported by the 82d Airborne Division, would seize key blocking positions around As Salman, an Iraqi town about a hundred miles north of Rafha along MSR TEXAS. In the middle of the corps, the 101st Division would initiate a series of air assaults in order to occupy strategic positions in the Euphrates Valley and cut road connections between Baghdad and Kuwait City. Essential to this operation was the seizure and establishment of a forward operating base, called FOB COBRA, about eighty miles inside Iraq to serve as a staging area for additional assaults. Ground convoys carrying supplies and supporting troops would follow up the initial air assaults and advance north along MSR NEWMARKET to connect TAPLINE ROAD and COBRA. Corps logisticians also planned to establish MSR VIRGINIA as an east-west route connecting As Salman with points east. The 24th Infantry Division and the 3d Armored Cavalry would use MSR GEORGIA on the corps’ right flank and support the advances of VII Corps.
During the air war the 101st Division continued preparing for the ground offensive, rehearsing air assaults and the establishment of forward operating bases. Some division elements had already been in combat. Apache helicopters from the 101st had helped open the air war early on 17 January 1991, flying inside Iraq to destroy two early warning radar sites before they could alert Baghdad of the impending air attacks. In the weeks that followed, MG Peay kept the division ready for action. In the days preceding the main ground attack on 24 February (G-Day), the division launched a series of reconnaissance raids into Iraq. These forays captured enemy soldiers and the experience also honed the soldiers’ combat edge for the air assaults that were soon to follow.
On G-Day, the 101st Division’s 1st Brigade, reinforced by a battalion from the 2d Brigade, air assaulted about ninety-five miles north from TAA CAMPBELL into the patch of desert that would become FOB COBRA. Apaches, artillery, and Air Force A-10s (ground support aircraft) forced a battalion of dug-in Iraqi defenders from their bunkers, quickly allowing troops to secure COBRA. CH-47D Chinooks (a medium transport helicopter) and ground convoys operating along MSR NEWMARKET rushed fuel, ammunition, and other supplies into COBRA. By the afternoon of 24 February, combat elements of the 1st Brigade and the Aviation Brigade had established massive refueling and rearming points at the FOB for the division’s helicopters. Meanwhile, the 3d Brigade prepared to pass through COBRA and land in the Euphrates valley.
Deteriorating weather threatened to cancel or delay some of the division’s northward operations, but instead of waiting MG Peay and his 3d Brigade commander decided to move early. In a series of assaults that began in the late morning on G+1, 25 February, the 3d
Brigade left TAA CAMPBELL and flew a total of 155 miles north, taking and holding positions in the Euphrates River valley in a region termed AO EAGLE. This second assault effectively cut Highway 8, the main road between Baghdad and Basra, that supported the Iraqi Army in Kuwait. With the occupation of AO Eagle, the 101st had successfully advanced another eighty-five miles northeast of COBRA and positioned forces about 145 miles southeast of Baghdad. The division spent the next day (26 February, G+2) reinforcing AO EAGLE and preparing for its eastward attack.
On the fourth day of the ground war, 27 February (G+3), two infantry
battalions from the division’s 2d Brigade and a third from the 1st Brigade
boarded helicopters that carried them almost another ninety-five miles
east to establish FOB VIPER. At this time, one route over the Euphrates
River and nearby swamps had been left open to channel the withdrawal of
the retreating Iraqis. Four Apache battalions (two from the attached 12th
Aviation Brigade and two from the 101st), operating from VIPER on the afternoon
of G+3, launched coordinated attacks over the Euphrates against enemy units
moving north from Basra into Engagement Area (EA) THOMAS. In what some
called the "Battle of the Causeway," the Apaches ravaged the Iraqi forces
seeking the "safety" of the north bank of the river. During the evening
hours of G+3, the division prepared to launch its 1st Brigade from FOB
COBRA through VIPER into EA THOMAS. This maneuver would have firmly closed
the door on the escaping Iraqi Army by blocking the north-south Basra road,
but early on the morning of G+4, 28 February, the 101st Division received
word of the cease-fire.
The coalition had won an unexpectedly rapid victory with far fewer casualties than expected. U.S. Army units moved across the desert in rapid advances that flattened all Iraqi resistance. Kuwait was liberated and Iraqi forces were in full retreat. With the end of hostilities, the 101st secured and manned defensive positions and collected enemy equipment for destruction. The division also treated sick or injured Iraqi civilians and military personnel. Although the 101st suffered no combat deaths during the four day ground war, the attached 2d Battalion, 229th Aviation was less fortunate. Five soldiers were killed when hostile fire brought down their Blackhawk helicopter which was on a combat search and rescue mission to recover an Air Force pilot. Iraqi forces captured three members of the Blackhawk crew and released them soon after the war.
The Screaming Eagles returned to the United States in stages. In the first phase, about nine hundred men from the 2d Brigade left FOB Viper in Iraq for TAA Campbell on 6 March. Boarding commercial planes at Dhahran on 8 March, the 2d Brigade soldiers flew back to Fort Campbell via Germany and New York. Amid an Iraqi rebellion against Hussein and the turmoil of thousands of Iraqi and Kuwaiti refugees, the rest of the 101st stood ready in case of trouble. Gradually, division elements pulled back to Saudi Arabia, leaving the 3d Brigade and elements of the division support command on occupation duty in AO EAGLE until the 2d Armored Cavalry and the 11th Aviation Brigade relieved the brigade around 24 March.
When the last 101st convoy left Iraq on 25 March, the rest of the division was busy preparing for redeployment from Saudi Arabia to Fort Campbell. After months in the desert the troops were eager to get home, but equipment had to be cleaned, accounted for, and prepared for shipment to the United States. Most division soldiers flew home between 3 and 15 April. MG Peay arrived at Fort Campbell on 13 April, where he, four hundred soldiers, and the returning divisional colors met a celebrating crowd that gathered at the base’s airfield. For security, some soldiers remained in Saudi Arabia with the division’s equipment while it was moved to Saudi ports for shipment back to Fort Campbell. The last "Screaming Eagle" soldier left Saudi Arabia for home on 1 May 1991.
In this interview, MG Peay offers his personal insights into his actions
as commander of the 101st during DESERT STORM while the historic events
were fresh in his mind. He explains how he prepared the 101st to fight,
and how they moved, fought, and thoroughly dominated Iraqi forces. What
is so significant, but difficult to appreciate, is the pace and range of
the 101st’s operations. In the midst of war, division elements moved 150
miles north behind enemy lines in two days and then turned east to continue
the attack. Greatly dependent on aviation for mobility, the 101st travelled
far greater distances and employed more firepower than pre-AirLand Battle
planners would have imagined.
1 The 1993 edition of FM 100-5, Operations, was first based on the operational experiences of recent combat in Panama and Southwest Asia, and its authors added "versatility" as a fifth tenet.
2 The 101st was part of the XVIII Airborne Corps, the Army's rapid deployment force, headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, under the command of LTG Gary E. Luck. Other major units in the corps (prior to DESERT SHIELD) included the 82d Airborne Division, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), and the 10th Mountain Division (Light), as well as several separate brigades and a large number of corps level combat support and combat service support units.
3 The 197th Infantry Brigade arrived from Fort Benning, Georgia by the middle of September and was attached to the 24th Division as its third divisional brigade.
4 The 1st "Tiger" Brigade, 2d Armored Division,
which deployed as the 1st Cavalry Division's third brigade, was attached
to the U.S. Marines to provide them with the extra firepower of the brigade's
Abrams M1A1 tanks.
I’ll simply say I was blessed with great people. Generals Hugh Shelton and Ron Adams were wonderful Assistant Division Commanders. Absolutely "pros" and also fun to be with. William (Joe) Bolt, the Division Chief of Staff, was a seasoned Colonel who had been the Division G-3 and a Battalion Commander in the division earlier. Tough and qualified across the board from tactics to finance. Stephen Weiss did what you wanted the Division Command Sergeant Major to do. Out and about, fixing problems, enforcing standards, and supporting the NCOs. All the Colonel Commanders did superbly. Randy Anderson, the DIVARTY [Division Artillery] Commander, pulled together a most sophisticated fire support plan in the covering force and rehearsed it; our air defense, signal, and engineer troops were always committed. They never had a break from the time of deployment until we returned to Campbell. And the DISCOM [Division Support Command]—aviation maintenance, main support, S&T, medical, etc.—kept the troops going forward. Stu Gerald managed all that ably backed up by a splendid 101st Corps Support Group that reconfigured "on the fly" from a TDA to TOE organization (at Campbell) under Roy Beauchamp. Tom Garrett deployed within the first week of assuming command of our large aviation brigade and performed marvelously. Finally with Colonels Greg Gile, John MacDonald, Ted Purdom, Tom Hill, and Bob Clark, we had five great brigade commanders that led from the front and promoted standards throughout.
We had superb equipment with Apaches and Blackhawk helicopters, had "slimmed" our division structure down in size making it more versatile, had undergone a year of intensive training, and perfected our air assault doctrine and tactical techniques. All of this was enhanced by a proud history and hard-working professional soldiers, NCOs, and officers. The Screaming Eagles and the Army were blessed with this team. And the Army deserves a lot of credit for developing and growing these officers and this division. What a thrill and an honor to be in their presence.
MAJ WRIGHT: This is an Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interview with MG J.H. Binford Peay, III on 5 June 1991 in the Headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The interviewing official is MAJ Robert K. Wright from the XVIII Airborne Corps History Office, along with Mr. Rex Boggs, Museum Curator, and 1LT Cliff Lippard, Division Historical Officer. General Peay commanded the 101st Division in Southwest Asia, 1990-1991.
Sir, what were the highlights of your military career prior to coming to the division; particularly those assignments that prepared you for the challenges you would face as the division commander during DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM?
MG PEAY: All of the assignments and duties are important. I think you have to look at the assignments you had as a youngster that helped teach you about soldiers and proficiency, as well as, perhaps, some of the career-building assignments that you had later that provide seasoning and obviously, also the great Army school system. I had some great NCOs guide, counsel, and teach me in troop assignments initially in Germany. Later, I had an assignment working for MG Autrey Maroun, former commanding general of the 5th Mech [5th Infantry Division] stationed at Fort Carson, in the 1965 time frame, as his senior aide. I learned a lot from that gentleman in terms of what goes on in divisions, and about standards and discipline.
Clearly, the company and battery commands that I had in Vietnam in the 1967-1968 period, two different commands there, gave me my first taste of the combat business . . . its horror and yet its boredom, and what you must demand as a commander in combat. And later, as a battalion S-3 on my second Vietnam tour in the 1st Cavalry Division, which was an airmobile division employing many of the concepts that we use today in the 101st.
I had a direct support artillery battalion in the 25th [Infantry Division] under COL [later LTG] Bill [William Henry] Schneider, who cared deeply about people and families, and logistics as well as artillery. MG [later GEN] [Robert] RisCassi was my division commander when I had a DIVARTY in the 9th [Infantry Division] at Fort Lewis. He was a superb and respected commander and teacher . . . using the innovative mission of the high-tech light division he was charged to experiment with and put on the ground . . . and taught us all so much about the fight at the operational level as well as institutionalizing advanced training doctrine. We had a wonderful time and the division was "packed" with great officers all working as a team. LTG
(Retired) John Brandenburg had I Corps and under his leadership he built it from ground-up, teaching us about command pace, style, responsibility, and decentralization. He also knew the reserve [component] business and we had a good time. Lewis was a terrific assignment.
Later, working for GEN John A. Wickham as his executive officer when he was the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, I learned a lot about officership from him . . . caring, values, ethics, leadership . . . and greatness. My tour in Command and General Staff College as the Deputy Commandant was very helpful in continuing to study the evolving doctrine, both tactical and operational. General [Carl E.] Vuono’s [Army Chief of Staff from 1987 through Operation DESERT STORM] imprint was placed on so many of us during this period. I could have stayed there five years. Finally, being the assistant division commander in the division for a year was very helpful in understanding the division and being current as to the challenges that lay ahead.
I really don’t think you can point to any one assignment. I was very fortunate to work for so many professionals over the years and their teaching and example were instrumental in the desert war.
MAJ WRIGHT: When, exactly, did you take over command of the division, sir?
MG PEAY: 3 August 1989.
MAJ WRIGHT: So roughly a year before the crisis started in Kuwait?
MG PEAY: A year ahead. I had been the assistant division commander and had only been gone from the division for one year, so I was very fortunate in a four-year period to have spent three years in the division.
MAJ WRIGHT: What was the focus of the training program within the division on the eve of the crisis? In other words, what scenarios had you been looking at for the potential employment of the division before the deployment to Kuwait?
MG PEAY: We were a multipurpose division that was training across the spectrum of conflict. In the three months prior to the alert, we were training more on the Latin American scenario—and the Caribbean—against a number of different war plans that we had focused in that area. But ninety days prior to that we had worked high-intensity scenarios, and we had just come off a CPX [Command Post Exercise] at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where we had worked Southwest Asia as the focus of our war plan.
MAJ WRIGHT: That was INTERNAL LOOK?
MG PEAY: Yes, INTERNAL LOOK.
MAJ WRIGHT: Was that a useful exercise in terms of preparing you; or was it somewhat deceptive in the sense that it was a map exercise?
MG PEAY: Well, I think it was helpful in that it put the focus back on the Middle East. We had focused a lot on the Middle East the previous year in our CPXs and map exercises. So after a
year, INTERNAL LOOK gave us the chance to focus back on that region. In terms of exact terrain analysis and all that, the actual map exercise was not properly set. It was focused in the Al Hufuf area [south southwest of the city of Dhahran] in Saudi Arabia, not in the covering force or Rafha [a Saudi city close to Iraq] area, where we finally kicked off DESERT STORM. So the locations were different, but some of the terrain was similar. The employment considerations going over there were about the same and we got to work the battle staff and the BOS [Battle Operating System].
MAJ WRIGHT: What was the sequence of events in alerting the division, sir? When did you get first word to stand by and then start moving?
MG PEAY: I was at Virginia Beach, Virginia, on leave with my family when the word came down. BG [Henry] Hugh Shelton and BG Ron Adams, and COL Joe Bolt, division chief of staff, started through the normal kind of N-Hour alert procedures.1 The division duty officer notified the commands through our Emergency Operations Center. And then we started the normal kinds of things that we had trained and trained for with corps and division EDREs [Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises]—movement to US Atlantic Command Field Training Exercise OCEAN VENTURE, movement to JRTC [Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas] and NTC [National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California]. So there was nothing out of the ordinary except this one was for real. I came back from leave within a couple days. Back here, I just fitted into the process that was well under way at that time. The team was already moving.
MAJ WRIGHT: That was a benefit of the division having an Notification-Hour sequence and a regular EDRE program. When you got the word to go, everybody knew what they were supposed to do; you didn’t have to do a lot of reinventing the wheel at the last second.
MG PEAY: Well, that was a benefit. We had trained at that hard, but the real difference was that we were a "seasoned team." We’d been together for a year, and some of us had been together for three years. We knew each other intimately, knew by the sound of our voices if we had a problem we had to work on, felt we could discuss problems openly, and always were focussed on how to make the air assault business more proficient and innovative. From my perspective, it rolled just like clockwork. It was greased. We met all the timelines and deployed out by rail, sea, convoy, and strategic air.
MAJ WRIGHT: As the division started deploying, were you given a free hand in configuring the package in increments? Were you told to go "shooters heavy" [priority on combat elements] . . . ?
MG PEAY: We were directed early on to send the Apache [AH-64] gunship helicopter battalions early, followed by the Cobras [AH-1S, helicopter gunships].2 We were reinforced with an
Apache battalion from Fort Rucker and were told to send major elements of the Aviation Brigade first. The Division Ready Brigade [DRB] moved out next, which is a little different sequence. It’s a different order of move-out procedure. We normally fall out in brigade task forces with full combat support and combat service support slices. In this case, they wanted the Aviation Brigade "pure." There were no major problems. We just had to juggle it, and change the order of march out of here. We followed that force right behind with the Division Ready Brigade and the rest of the division.
MAJ WRIGHT: Was Jacksonville, Florida the normal port that the division had assumed it would go out of?
MG PEAY: Yes.
MAJ WRIGHT: So everybody knew the strip maps and knew the route?
MG PEAY: Well, we had gone to Jacksonville with certain of our leadership on TEWTs [Tactical Exercise Without Troops], but we had never moved significant elements to Jacksonville. We had to go down there and fall in with our own port team and with a port support agency that was put together to also help us out from Fort Benning, Georgia, [the army base nearest to Jacksonville]. Those were new procedures that had to be worked out, but professionals made them quickly come together. Really, it was not the bottleneck that it could have been, and I think the reason for that was the flexibility of the leadership.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did most of your materiel move by ground convoy? Did your helicopters self-deploy?
MG PEAY: We moved the division [equipment generally] by ground convoy. The 101st Corps Support Group followed right behind it by rail. So we could have gone either way. We practiced both procedures. The speed of this thing just had the ground convoys closing a lot quicker, so we got that underway, and then as the rail cars got in here and got going, we followed by rail; self-deployed our helicopters to Jacksonville.
The strategic air movement of the men and equipment of our aviation brigade and our 2d Brigade went from Campbell Army Airfield by U.S. Air Force aircraft. Then our other soldiers departed in the follow-on flights of Civilian Reserve Air Fleet [CRAF].3 This multi-faceted move was well coordinated. In addition, the 5th Special Forces Group stationed at Campbell flowed simultaneously with our 3rd Brigade. So Campbell Army Airfield and the Garrison Support and Post Trans[portation] Team were very busy.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did that move have to be timed to insure that the soldiers didn’t arrive in Saudi Arabia too far ahead of the ships?
MG PEAY: Right. We held them. The average sailing time was twenty to twenty-one days. All ten of our ships—1.2 million square feet—made it in that particular time frame. We did not have any significant problems on the seas, so we closed our soldiers and married them up with the ships . . . and then married the full division together in Saudi Arabia, closing with those that went early by strategic airlift.
MAJ WRIGHT: What kind of threat did you expect in the initial days of your deployment? Did you figure that you would have to fight your way ashore?
MG PEAY: No, we were not going to fight our way ashore, but we thought that we could be in combat in a very short period after arrival. That’s why we tactically configured all of our loads, and went out as a combined arms team, with the Division Ready Brigade. As it turned out, we were not going to go immediately into combat, although we had the farthest north mission in the covering force. We then started configuring to have our passengers meet their equipment, draw it at port, and march north up into sector.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of your aviation assets, did you push out very early the Apache-heavy force with the associated scout helicopters, as well?
MG PEAY: Are you talking strategically or tactically?
MAJ WRIGHT: The strategic deployment.
MG PEAY: Normally, we don’t. Normally, we send out the Division Ready Brigade, which has an Apache element with it. It has a cavalry element, a lift element, a field artillery element. At this time, GEN H. Norman Schwarzkopf, CINC CENTCOM [Commander in Chief Central Command], called for the Apaches first. I think he did that for defense and deterrence purposes, sending a signal that we had this anti-tank capability on the ground and were prepared to use it.
MAJ WRIGHT: So as the rest of the division flowed in, then you were able to return to your habitual brigade relationships?
MG PEAY: The same habitual brigade organization, but it was also the integration of all the aviation across the division back under the division fold.
MAJ WRIGHT: Through all this time, did you also have the added responsibility for picking up the 12th Aviation Brigade as it flowed in from Europe?
MG PEAY: No. After we were in-country awhile, we were informed the 12th Aviation Brigade was going to come, and at that time XVIII Airborne Corps assigned them under our [the 101st’s] operational control. We did not know we would get them until several weeks after we were in country.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did that pose any problem, or was the division staff, because of dealing with so many helicopters, able to just accept another aviation brigade—a second aviation brigade?
MG PEAY: I don’t think it caused any problems. We went through the normal staff lay-down on receiving a unit, which gave us increased divisional capability. I was glad to have them. They had a splendid, splendid commander in COL Emmett Gibson. A quiet professional. I thought we worked very well together as a team. They were a great addition, a great command.
MAJ WRIGHT: The Apache battalion out of Fort Rucker—the 2d Battalion, 229th Aviation—was added to the division from a corps-level asset?
MG PEAY: Right.
MAJ WRIGHT: So at some point, say in late September when the 12th was up and functioning, you were controlling four or five gunship battalions?
MG PEAY: Yes, four Apache battalions; one AH-1 Cobra battalion and a cav[alry] AH-1 Cobra battalion; three UH-60 lift battalions; a command [and control] battalion of thirty UH-1H Hueys and then the forty-five CH-47s Chinook cargo helicopters in our Chinook battalion.4
MAJ WRIGHT: So at that point you had one of the larger air forces in the world, if it were ranked that way.
MG PEAY: Well, I don’t know if it’s an air force. We had, with no question, the largest helicopter fleet in the world under our division’s control.
MAJ WRIGHT: As you built that fleet up, had you experienced any learning curve on the staff, to realize that things were going well, or that there were things that needed to be fixed?
MG PEAY: Well, your question hits at the acclimatization challenge .
. . the impact on fuel and maintenance and all that business. We knew for
years in our division that you had to pay close attention to fueling and
maintenance. We called fueling "the Achilles heel" of our division. There
was a lot of safety considerations involved in that. There was a lot of
robustness; there were new pumping systems, many storage bags, ammo, and
fuel lines to be careful with in high temperatures and blowing sand. We
worked all through that, and we knew those were the challenges. We just
took time to work them, and we had the "pros" that could work them. So
what had been our stateside problem just became a larger problem, in terms
of magnitude, based on the volume that we now were supporting in the fight
and the hot temperatures and sand.
We did a lot of smart things acquiring newer pump systems, more fuel bladders, more fuel bags, more sling gear. We did a lot of "matting" work to hold the dust down. Painted blades every night to work against blade erosion. Built up our "bank" time, [hours of flying time prior to scheduled maintenance]. Those kinds of things. We got a few clamshells5 so our great maintainers could work around the clock under those things to keep the birds turning, from a maintenance perspective. Flushed all of our engines, used sanators6 out of our chemical company to help do that. We just got very serious about maintenance and safety training, and quickly spread those lessons learned throughout the division and our recently attached units. We learned how to put in these, what appeared to be semi-fixed facilities, i.e., matting or putting down oil solutions to hold the dust down and clamshells. We learned how to do that very quickly, so we could maintain the pace of operations and maintain our fleet, and we tried to think of ways to rest our aviators in the heat of the day as they had to fly at night.
MAJ WRIGHT: As the division settled into its initial base area, Camp EAGLE II at King Fahd International Airport, did you have any problems in getting space allocated for the division’s flight line, since you had, I think, special operations people there and the Air Force was also a heavy user of that facility?
MG PEAY: Well, anytime you’ve got projection armies that are going to go into a relatively bare-base kind of environment, you run through the initial frustrations of acquiring land and where you’re going to set up, and that kind of thing. We had some frustrations involving that, but I wouldn’t describe them as major problems.
We were allocated a portion on King Fahd International Airport for our helicopters. It was obviously way too crowded. Yet at the same time, we didn’t want to put the fleet initially way out in the desert and have it "go to its knees" because of maintenance problems, because we didn’t have the gear in there initially to provide the protection and maintenance of the fleets on the desert floor. So we moved the division to a place we built called Camp EAGLE II, about five miles northwest of King Fahd Airport; we set up a ten thousand man base camp there to get our soldiers under cover. When we got there, it was 142 degrees on the airfield tarmac, and 128 degrees on the desert floor, so we had to get the soldiers under cover, or else they just wouldn’t have made it.
The same problem then accrued to the aviation fleet. We ended up putting our aviators, our battalions, in the King Fahd parking lot to get them under cover. Now that parking lot also was reinforced cement, so it provided some defense also in terms of incoming [SS-1C] SCUD rounds and those kinds of things. We had our engineers look at all that. We felt that it did offer protection and it was massive in size, but I always worried about the terrorist problem. We never liked this solution, but we had to get our aviation team quickly under cover.
We were concerned all along with the volume of aviation on that airport. I never was comfortable with that arrangement either. Incoming missiles, terrorist threats, and aircraft safety were our concerns. So we quickly started moving forward to the covering force area as the
brigades closed with their slices. We set up a rotating concept, where we kept two-thirds of the division forward for thirty days, and one-third of the division back at Camp EAGLE II and at King Fahd airport. We rotated those in triangular fashion: thirty days forward, fifteen days back. This allowed us to do some extensive training in the covering force. It provided our aviation and the rest of our materiel a bed-down place much further north, where it had a better reaction and response posture; and insured greater security from incoming SCUDs back at King Fahd, because we’d thinned down the fleet.
Yet at the same time these actions allowed us to come back and stand down our soldiers [the brigade Task Force teams] for a number of days, to do some close-in training, recovery, maintenance, and that kind of good stuff across the entire division. So that was the concept.
MAJ WRIGHT: As you set up the two forward brigades, one worked out of Forward Operating Base BASTOGNE [just south of the city of An Nu’ayriyah] and the other one out of Forward Operating Base OASIS [to the west of BASTOGNE and south of AO NORMANDY]?
MG PEAY: That’s right.
MAJ WRIGHT: And your position there was to provide anchors on both ends of the covering force area,7 as a pivot on each end of the line for your defensive mission?
MG PEAY: Well, those two bases were set up, because they were at about the right distance that would support this enormous covering force. There we received additional units, the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade that you mentioned, plus we received the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment [ACR] out of Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 75th and 212th Field Artillery Brigades from Fort Sill, and a number of other smaller attachments, MP [Military Police] companies, Chemical companies, those kinds of things.
We set up two Forward Operating Bases [FOBs], BASTOGNE and OASIS, that were about a four-plus hour road march north of Camp EAGLE II, an hour-plus by Blackhawk. Then forward of those forward operating bases were our 1st, 2d and 3d Brigades; the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade; our Aviation Brigade itself; and two large Field Artillery brigades out of Fort Sill, Oklahoma. We had all those working for us in this enormous covering force. It covered New Hampshire and Vermont in terms of size. Forward of those operating bases, we put in a new logistical concept, known as logistical assault bases [LABs], that worked in tandem with the forward operating bases, where we "tailored and reduced logistics" so it was very flexible. We concentrated on the significant supplies, the war-fighting supplies only, and that allowed us to be very mobile. That’s how we set the covering force and then rehearsed our plans a number of times. Finally we placed the Division Assault Command Post forward at BASTOGNE.
MAJ WRIGHT: The covering force battle being essentially given to the 101st, with the attachments, put a great deal of stress on you, because you served as the linkage between the main battle area of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the EPAC [Eastern Province Area Command] forces that were up forward to the north: the Gulf Cooperation Council units and the Saudi forces up
forward. And to a certain extent, you also had a coordination problem with the Marines on your seaward flank, or eastern flank.
How had you envisioned the hand-over of the battle involving all those different elements?
MG PEAY: Well, we put liaison teams forward with the Saudis. The Saudis also had special operations forces that we worked with as well. The combination of the liaison teams and the special operating forces teams allowed us then to work the reinforcing fires from the United States Air Force, from our own Apaches, and our long range field artillery. So the first thing we did was try to work through the coordination process, to call for fires, to reinforce with fires, in case those forces were getting hit.
From there we attempted, not with enormous success, to work detailed plans of passage of lines as to where the Saudis would pass through [heading south]. We were never able—with final authority—to understand if they would pass to the south for a short distance and then cut over to the east to the coast, or if they would pass [due south] on through our covering force, back to the 24th Infantry Division main battle area and then to the rear. That was one of the frustrations, among others, getting our hands around everyone in our zone and orchestrating the action.
The Marine Corps was on our right. We had a boundary. There was some concern between the two forces as to whether a part of that flank was open and not secure, because forces were or were not physically on the ground.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of how you envisioned the defensive battle being fought had the Iraqis come across the border, did you see them coming in a single, heavy push down the coast or did you envision that they would come in a broad front?
MG PEAY: I can really only speak to my part of that. In our portion, the corps portion, we perceived an attack by three divisions in the first echelon. Two of those divisions would come straight south, towards An Nu’ayriyah [city near FOB BASTOGNE], which our troops nicknamed "Bastogne," because of the same semblance of arteries and lines of communications to our previous history.8 So we envisioned an attack straight down through our covering force by two divisions, with the third division (reinforced) coming in from the northwest, then south, and then turning southeast, right down the TAPLINE [Trans-Arabian Pipeline] Road. The correlation [or balance] of forces was weighted to the enemy in terms of artillery and tanks. Yet, the way we put the covering force in and the combined arms fight we were going to fight; the fact that we knew the ground; the fact that we had rehearsed it and rehearsed it and rehearsed it, and trained on it—made me very confident that the Iraqis would run into a wall of fire with all the reinforced artillery that we had; all the TOWs [Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided antitank weapons] that we had deployed in mobile teams; our Air Force; and our Apaches. Frankly, I don’t think he would have gotten through the covering force area.
MAJ WRIGHT: As the plan was laid out, assuming that you had handed over the fight then to the main battle area, did you have an assignment to pass through the 24th, reconstitute, and then participate in the counterattack with the 1st Cavalry Division?
MG PEAY: No, we . . . [would not have passed] through the 24th. The 3d ACR . . . [was to pass] through the 24th and. . . to corps reserve. They . . . [would be] detached from me once they crossed into the main battle area. The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade passed back through our 3d Brigade and went to an assembly area where they offered local counterattack capability. Our other brigades conducted a normal covering force mission. Pulling back, passing through—in the case of our 1st Brigade passing through our 2d Brigade. Our 3d Brigade came on back through the 24th and cut over to the west, and then we reformed the division as a "guard force" on the west side of the 24th Division. We then were prepared to provide a screen cover along the west side of the 1st Cavalry Division that had the counterattack mission as it counterattacked from the south to the north, with focus to the east.
MAJ WRIGHT: Had it gone to that stage, and had we gone to a counterattack, did you envision, because you had such a preponderance of the deep strike assets within the corps, that you would be stretched to maintain the pressure and the pace? If we counterattacked, did you see the enemy collapsing fairly quickly so that we could have made a big dash towards Kuwait?
MG PEAY: No, I don’t think we went that far with it. At that stage we were never considering anything more than a reestablishment of a new covering force area north of the 1st Cav, and then to await instructions for future operations.
MAJ WRIGHT: In October, as the theater starts maturing, I know from your situation reports and commander’s comments in the situation reports that you began talking a lot about the importance of planning for future operations and envisioning what the mature theater would look like. Would you elaborate a little bit on what your thinking was, and how the Army starts looking at the build-up of force?
MG PEAY: I’m not so sure I ever got a good feel for what the mature theater would look like. I understood the XVIII Airborne Corps part of it. I always had concerns about enough haul capability at the theater level or the ability to distribute supplies internal to the theater as our outfit was daily providing trucks and lift helicopters. And that’s not a knock on the theater, it’s just a part of how you have to fight, and there were a lot of priorities. The VII Corps was coming in, and as we moved to a new mission, I wanted to come back south and do one or two days of refitting before moving that far to the west for the attack. So I’m not sure the theater ever really got mature. And I’m not so sure it ever would, under these circumstances.
MAJ WRIGHT: I guess the theater gave the 101st responsibility to chop [or attach] one brigade to VII Corps to help them as they displaced into the desert, and sort of screen them. Did that cause you some problems, given the fact that you had wanted to get that stand-down time to do maintenance?
MG PEAY: Well, it wasn’t so much getting stand-down time to do maintenance. I just wanted to do a little refit across the board: from soldier uniforms to issuing ammunition, to going over rules of engagement, to giving the soldiers some rest and cleanliness one final time. I just wanted to do some basic soldier business in EAGLE II for a couple days. There was no problem.
Again, I think it’s part of our EDRE program back at home, and it’s the capability our division has. CENTCOM wanted a force that could very quickly get over to the Hafar al Batin [a town near the TAPLINE Road and adjacent to] the Wadi al Batin area [that extended northward to Iraq], to protect against what was perceived as a spoiling attack on the night of I believe the 15th or 16th of January.
We alerted our 2d Brigade, because it was well forward in the covering force area. Moved it by our organic aviation and ground [transportation assets]. We gave it one of our division Apache battalions, a lift battalion, an artillery battalion, and further beefed up the brigade task force and quickly moved in (in less than a two-day period) up in the Wadi area. At that time, 2d Brigade commanded by COL Ted Purdom was "chopped" initially to VII Corps, and then later "chopped" to the 1st Cavalry Division, that came up from the south to provide protection in the King Khalid Military City [KKMC] area [south of TAPLINE Road]. We did that, and then we continued with our plans to take the division (minus) back down south [for refitting] and then start the seven-day movement of forces far to the northwest [all in January].
MAJ WRIGHT: As you worked through the movement to the west, how soon in the planning process had you been alerted by corps that you would be going way out to the west?
MG PEAY: We had been working a war plan out there since mid-December. In fact, we called it DESERT RENDEZVOUS I and then DESERT RENDEZVOUS II, as I recall. The first plan had us far, far to the west. That was logistically unsupportable,9 because of the distances, and secondly, it did not meet the time lines, logistically, from the viewpoint of the rest of the theater. We could not use up the theater’s haul [transportation] assets to push us that far west, because if you take away from those haul assets, they would not be able to move the rest of the corps, or the rest of the theater. So we developed a RENDEZVOUS II plan, which brought us a good thirty-five miles east of Rafha where we eventually launched our attack from assembly areas in that location [Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) CAMPBELL].
So from December on, we had been eyeing that area, and had started conceptual thinking on how to move the division that way. I think our training at home, particularly the way that we had "multi-deployed," [using different transportation modes to move different elements of the division] going to Saudi Arabia as well as to many of our training exercises, enabled us then to multi-deploy the division strategically, intra-theater, by U.S. Air Force [C-130 Hercules aircraft], by ground transport with the division transportation office, and by self-deploying our aviation assets. That combination closed the division in seven days.10
MAJ WRIGHT: Which represented a substantial movement of men and materiel over a fairly substantial distance.
MG PEAY: I think we went more than 700 miles to Rafha plus all our necessary supplies to fight.
MAJ WRIGHT: In the corps scenario for what would turn out to be DESERT STORM, was the 101st always envisioned, as the corps evolved that plan, as the deep strike capability of the corps when it went to the offense?
MG PEAY: I don’t know if "always." I think it was for this plan. There was some consideration of having the 82d Airborne Division jump. They discounted that because of winds, desert conditions, unknown enemy situations, and they also wanted the 82d to be with the smaller French division, and so they decided not to jump. So our division had the mission that we had trained for, for years.
MAJ WRIGHT: And this was the first time ever that we had attempted to fight that deep a battle. We’ve trained on it, but this was the first time that it was ever really executed, in the sense of being able to project that kind of force that deep by other than a jump.
MG PEAY: It’s the first time in history that we put that many aircraft and that many sorties on one day that far north. For DESERT STORM, we basically went 155 miles north to [AO EAGLE]; 95 miles the first day [to FOB COBRA]. We reached 155 miles the second day [AO EAGLE at LZ SAND]. The first day alone we flew about 370-plus aircraft and over a thousand sorties on G-Day alone, 24 February.
MAJ WRIGHT: You felt fairly confident with your staff. As you looked at the mission that you had been given by LTG Gary Luck [Commanding General, XVIII Airborne Corps] to put the force into what would be FOB COBRA in Iraq, were you confident that you could accomplish that mission? Were you confident that you were trained and ready to go?
MG PEAY: Well, I felt we were seasoned. The pace of training at Campbell, the NTC, and JRTC plus corps exercises the previous year had been enormous. The six months in the desert just "added" to it. Our soldiers were battle-hardened, or desert-tough before we went in. Our team was well greased and oiled. Our "battle notes" were solid.11 We had rehearsed and practiced a lot things in that six months over there. Then we went to the reconnaissance phase, G-minus, it turned out to be a ten-day reconnaissance. We had planned for seven, but in the ten-day reconnaissance period we got a pretty good feel for what was out there [north of TAA CAMPBELL].
We took down some of those air defenses early on. We captured an enemy infantry battalion.12 We learned a lot about the battlefield, talking to those guys. We learned a lot about their soldiers. I felt there was enough distance in there to evade the air defense concerns, and I thought we could get deep, then, particularly after we talked to some of the EPWs [Enemy
Prisoners of War]. I just didn’t feel that they were the same kind of soldiers that we had in our Army. I also didn’t think they knew where we were. So when we attacked out of there on G-Day, it turned out that was true. We got very deep, long before the enemy knew it.
MAJ WRIGHT: As you assigned the taskings internally within the division for the execution of the plan, what factors came into play in assigning the different brigades their responsibilities?
MG PEAY: Well, each of the brigades could have done any of these missions. I was very comfortable with COL Tom Hill in 1st Brigade, because we had done quite a bit of work on setting up forward operating bases with his brigade where we had to get a lot of fuel in and built-up quickly. I knew that Tom Hill understood my intent in terms of what I wanted done logistically to support this operation, so I was very comfortable in continuing to give him that mission.
The 2d Brigade was late closing in the TAA [Tactical Assembly Area CAMPBELL]. They closed during the reconnaissance period before G-Day, so I didn’t want to give them the initial shot, 155 miles deep. I wanted to go with Bob Clark and the 3d Brigade, because they were available, and we could do more rehearsing and go over the plans in great detail with him, without doubling up COL Ted Purdom, [the 2d Brigade commander] with several additional plans to think about at that time.
So the concept then was to let Hill go in first [to FOB COBRA]; let Clark follow deep [to AO EAGLE]; bring Purdom up to COBRA very quickly; and then have Purdom conduct a similar kind of thing as Clark, far to the east to FOB VIPER, as we headed toward Tallil and then Basra.13 Any of the three brigades could have done the missions, any of the missions, whether it was setting up and securing the logistical bases, conducting the air assaults, or cutting lines of communication deep.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of the task structure, you beefed up 1st Brigade with an additional battalion for that first day, to . . . ?
MG PEAY: To seize the objective. Forward Operating Base COBRA was two-thirds the size of the entire Fort Campbell area. We spread it out because I wasn’t sure of the chemical threat, and I did not want to have a midair accident in there at night during refueling. So we put in an enormous number of fuel bladders and fuel blivets14 and hosing, and we wanted to get some business done in a hurry. So we put four infantry battalions in there, and a hot refuel kind of thing to push out the aircraft as quickly as possible around the clock. Simultaneously, the Chinook guys brought in bladders of fuel to build up that capability for the attack and the lift birds to use. LTC John D. Broderick [Commander, 426th Supply and Transport Battalion] did some remarkable innovation in the fuel and pump business as he set up what the troops nicknamed a bunch of "7-Eleven stores with gas."
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of how the division employs its infantry for any kind of operation, it is pretty much the way you actually used them in this one. The infantry were part of the com-
bined arms team. Therefore, you had to have the artillery up with them, their TOWs had to be up with them, and then you worked them very closely with the helicopters so that they worked out of the same bases. You didn’t have some of the communications problems that earlier generations had. I’m thinking about the use of the helicopter in Vietnam, bringing them in and then having the helicopters take off again and just leaving your troops out there. It’s one difference I noticed, for example, from the airmobile usages in Vietnam to the air assault techniques today. On the eve of G-Day, the 1st Brigade camped right alongside the helicopters they would board in the morning; and then at COBRA, the helicopters were always within that same area. Did this arrangement result in tighter bonding, more teamwork, maybe?
MG PEAY: Well, that’s generally correct. You can do it both ways. Compared to most units, I think, we have a more integrated approach to aviation in our unit. But then you can use the infantry in different ways. You can use the infantry to secure the aviation at times, while you go deep with the aviation; or you can use the aviation to be quickly available to move the infantry around the battlefield to cut the various lines of communication or destroy the enemy. In this war we did both of them.
MAJ WRIGHT: And again, having your own aviation assets inherently gave you flexibility over, say, a standard infantry division?
MG PEAY: No question about that. You know a lot of people say we are a light division. We really are kind of a "medium" division. We’re a multipurpose division that can do both—fight low and high intensity. So it’s a special division in terms of its structure, its organization, and brings those special pieces to the battle area. In this case, it was assigned suitable missions. The missions that we had were exactly the right ones for our division.
MAJ WRIGHT: Strike deep, cut the lines of communications, and . . .
MG PEAY: Speed, mobility, agility, great anti-tank capability . . . versatility.
MAJ WRIGHT: To focus on anti-tank capability a little bit. Between the HMMWV [M-998-series High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle] mounted TOWs, which have, especially in that desert environment, great mobility; and the anti-armor systems that you have in your attack helicopters, both the Cobras [with TOWs] and the Apaches [with Hellfires]; and then with the OH-58D Kiowas giving you the lasing, or targeting capability, to bring in Copperhead fires and things like that—the division really was a lot more lethal than, say, an Iraqi armored division, because your systems out-ranged his tanks by a considerable degree.
MG PEAY: Yes, that’s the way we fought—combined arms. Our artillery didn’t out-range his artillery. We’ve got light artillery. But from the corps perspective, with the reinforcing fire you get the addition of heavy artillery, and we moved ours around in raid concept to offset the range deficiency. It was that combination of artillery-lasing; lasing for smart bombs from the Air Force; the 180 HMMWV TOWs in this division; and the [TOWs] in the Apaches and Cobras. We’ve got an awful lot of firepower, if we bring it to bear.
MAJ WRIGHT: As you look at your planning, did you envision primarily using the Apaches to do the night fighting and the Cobras to do the day fighting?
MG PEAY: As a general rule, that’s kind of the way it evolved, with some exceptions.
MAJ WRIGHT: In the cross-border operations that you alluded to early on, you had the initial surprise of capturing that full battalion. It was, I guess about G minus 3, when those folks surrendered [see footnote #12; page 28]?
MG PEAY: Yes, somewhere about then.
MAJ WRIGHT: Had you been thinking at all that that might happen or did that become your first surprise indicator that they really didn’t know where we were?
MG PEAY: Yes, the first group we captured, it seems to me, was about a platoon, much earlier on.15 We didn’t get too much out of that, I don’t think. Then our intelligence and our helicopters, reported back that they had seen some fresh diggings and other things, and all this was in the vicinity of what turned out to be our Main Supply Route NEWMARKET.
I was going to bust up there at H+3, three hours after we kicked off, with Task Force CITADEL under LTC Jim McGarity, who had three battalion sets of [supply] trains with him. I didn’t want that process to get slowed up, and I didn’t want to get in a fight in what would then be the rear of where our assault had gone forward [i.e. FOB COBRA]. So we went in and looked at that a little bit harder before G-Day and uncovered this entire battalion. We waited a day and thought about it, and just decided we’d better "take it out." So we went back in there, and the Cobras initially did some shooting and then we put a battalion of infantry16 on the ground . . . I guess it was a reinforced company (plus) . . . and took them out of there.
MAJ WRIGHT: And they collapsed fairly quickly, with the preliminary pounding. It softened them up so that you didn’t have to spend a lot of infantrymen digging them out.
MG PEAY: That’s right. About a four-hour total operation from start to finish.
MAJ WRIGHT: Was that a surprise?
MG PEAY: I didn’t think they’d quit quite as easily as that. The next
morning I went down and talked to their battalion commander at great length,
some of their NCOs, and some of their soldiers. I got a very vivid picture
of the battlefield. In fact, I called MG Barry McCaffrey, [who was the]
Commanding General, 24th Infantry Division, and told him that I thought
this thing would roll a lot quicker than we thought it would, because the
"will to fight" was not there.
They were still well-groomed, they had relatively good-looking uniforms; they had new weapons. They were hungry, but they weren’t starving. And to a man, they just had no liking for Saddam. And so all of that started to tell me things. The other thing that I picked out was that they felt they’d done their honor if they’d fought for a while, say an hour, and then they could quit with honor.
And so I started to get a picture of the battlefield, got some other feelings for where the air defense sites were and other indications where some enemy were located from talking to the battalion commander and his leaders. So we went back and said, "Hey, let’s take a little more risk. Let’s open this thing up; let’s go a little bit faster." I just felt so much better about our own soldiers. I just felt so much better about our own guys versus the threat.
MAJ WRIGHT: I believe the original corps’ proposal put the initial placement of FOB COBRA farther north, and you moved it slightly south to keep it within the turn radius of the CH-47s.
MG PEAY: Yes. There was a mixture of reasons for that. One of them clearly was the maximum distances that the planes [CH-47D Chinook helicopters] could fly before they had to come back and refuel. Our load planners did a great job of engineering all of that in order to get the exact distances. The other was that I was trying to stay out of the way of Objective WHITE,17 where the French 6th Light Armored Division forces [on the division’s left or western flank] were going to be. I didn’t want to get caught north of what turned out to be MSR VIRGINIA, and then have forces flowing through our FOB, which it turned out they had to do a little bit anyway, as they moved to the east in the corps plan.
MAJ WRIGHT: But VIRGINIA was the only hard surfaced east-west lateral communication. The whole corps effort, logistically, in the early days had to come up TEXAS, take a right, and go down VIRGINIA. So if you stayed south of VIRGINIA, then your trains coming up to COBRA didn’t have to try to cross at right angles?
MG PEAY: Right, it’s part of that. The other part is security. We didn’t want to get caught there, having a major security challenge passing forces through our FOB. It turned out we just had to put up with some of that.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of the cross-border operations, did the Apache-Kiowa team prove itself at night, as you made those raids? Did they have any problems?
MG PEAY: Well, weather was a problem throughout. First, I think all of them performed well. Our Cobra guys performed well, too. The nighttime capability worked in favor of the Apache. Again, it was zero illumination when we kicked this attack off, which was the worst possible time for our guys to wear goggles: a lot of dust, great distances, and bad weather. In fact, the kick-off on G-Day had to be delayed an hour because of weather. We lost an OH-58 that morning in a crash as it was trying to get out and come back in difficult weather. So it was a combination of all of that.
But again, we had trained for six months in those kinds of conditions, and for the entire time our aviators—and I think that’s one of the success stories—had flown under very tough conditions, below minimums almost the entire time. And I just think that we were accustomed/seasoned to it.
MAJ WRIGHT: The one cross-border operation that we didn’t really mention was the one that kicked off the air war. Would you like to mention briefly the 101st’s role in setting the stage for the Air Force to make its first strike?
MG PEAY: Well, a lot of it I think today is still somewhat classified, but I can give you the unclassified part. We worked in the November-December time frame with the Special Operating Forces, back in the Camp EAGLE II area, training with them. Our plan was to move far to the west and then "take out" the radars with our Apaches,18 so it would open up a large corridor where our fast-moving air force assets then could move north to Baghdad on their bombing runs. That’s exactly what we did. We went in there early on—I want to say around 15 January—17 January, somewhere in there.
MAJ WRIGHT: About 0200 on the 17th, sir?
MG PEAY: That sounds right. Early in the morning, under darkness. It was a long flight over there, refueling a number of times going across west of KKMC. We jumped out of there [Saudi border] north. It surprised them; we hit the radar sites and came on back.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did you learn something from that operation, that you were able to focus on during the immediate couple of days before G-Day, in terms of the cross-border ops?
MG PEAY: I think every one of these little events gave our soldiers more confidence. In this case it gave the pilots more confidence. When you get in there, you can’t be seen at night. The Apache’s got enormous capability. So we just started doing more of those kind of things in our planning.
MAJ WRIGHT: To follow up on the training issues and the confidence issues. One of the general comments I’ve heard from a lot of folks was that the opportunity during that six-month train-up period to actually fire the high-cost high-tech rounds really paid dividends, because it allowed our soldiers to develop the confidence that the weapons that had been so controversial would actually work—and, as it turned out, in many cases, exceed the specifications. Would you agree that confidence was a factor?
MG PEAY: I think that’s a little bit of a mixed bag. First, we did do more live firing over there than we did at home. We did not fire a lot of our expensive rounds, because we were hoarding them, or protecting them, for use in combat. So the constant challenge over there was that you couldn’t fire all the ammunition for training and not have any to fight the next night. So we had to suppress our appetite in training to build up our stocks. I just think each soldier was confident
going in. I think that the longer he stayed in the desert, he became more and more confident. Whether it’s firing live ammunition, or just living in the desert. We had a captive audience there for twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week, and it worked.
MAJ WRIGHT: I think during the course of the operation that we had also talked about the fact that in that train-up period, because we had the soldiers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, there were no distractors. They worked very hard. So the potential maintenance backlog, say in the large number of flying hours that you put on your birds, did not become much of an issue because your maintenance capability went up rather dramatically.
MG PEAY: Yes. You had that continuous maintenance challenge, but again, that wasn’t the only reason. The other reason was that we had all the repair parts. So it was pretty easy, when you had the parts.
MAJ WRIGHT: Yes, when you don’t have to wait days to get parts. At H-Hour on G-Day, where were you positioned, sir?
MG PEAY: I was in the Division Main Command Post, which was south of TAPLINE in our Tactical Assembly Area CAMPBELL.19 I had BG Hugh Shelton, Assistant Division Commander, Operations, in our Jump CP, which is a Blackhawk helicopter configured with a special communications package. I also had BG Ron Adams, Assistant Division Commander, Support, in the Division Rear CP. COL [William] "Joe" Bolt, my Chief of Staff, and I stayed there in the Division Main for about three hours until we got the attack going. Then I went on up to the 1st Brigade "staging area," worked through the launching of the aircraft out of there. The aircraft continued to turn, headed north. We closed our Div[ision] Assault CP on the Jump CP by noon. I eventually went on to COBRA on G-day at about 1000-1100 hours.
MAJ WRIGHT: In this configuration of the way CAMPBELL was laid out, the Rear CP was actually north of TAPLINE Road [MSR DODGE] and was technically further forward than the Main.
MG PEAY: That’s right.
MAJ WRIGHT: Why was that laid out that way, sir?
MG PEAY: The tactical assembly area was about twenty-five miles by twenty-five miles in size, an enormous assembly area. It was great. We wanted to keep the DISCOM [Division Support Command] forward of TAPLINE Road to cut down the distances they had to travel as they went forward and we didn’t want the DISCOM logging through the other units. The Rear CP was located in the DISCOM complex configuration. Over the six month period we remained at Camp EAGLE, we had displaced our Div Main a hundred times. We cut it down in size; it was a small Division Main compared to most and was mobile and agile. We had not envisioned staying in place back there; so the Rear would [remain in] the rear, and the Main would move well forward. Because the battle broke so quickly and we had such good communications, just as we prepared to move the Main the war ended. We were controlling it adequately with our Division Assault CP, our Division Jump CP forward, and the command helos.
MAJ WRIGHT: When you moved up on that first day, the 24th of February, you moved into FOB COBRA, and set up the Assault CP up there?
MG PEAY: That’s right.
MAJ WRIGHT: About what time did you get up there, sir?
MG PEAY: You’d have to pull the records. I think the Assault CP probably went in around noon. We had the Jump CP in there early on, say at 0900 or 1000. The Jump was operational, because we flew in, but it was operational on the ground I’d say in the 0900 or 1000 time frame. But the Assault [CP] probably was in by noon. And I was operating out of my Huey [helicopter], with its C&C [command and control] capability throughout that particular day. Eventually, I got into COBRA between 1000 and 1100, I think.
MAJ WRIGHT: As the initial assault went in you had the brief firefight, or I guess actually about two hours worth of joint air and artillery pounding, before Alpha Company of the 1st of the 327 actually swept and policed up that [enemy] battalion.20 Were you concerned at all as you heard the reports that they had made contact there?
MG PEAY: No. At first it was a small contact with LTC Gary Bridges’ 3d Battalion, 327th Infantry, in the northeast. The Iraqi Battalion folded very quickly, and we captured a number of prisoners there.
The one to the northwest of LTC Frank R. Hancock’s 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry took place in a formidable set of bunkers. A battalion (reinforced) was in there, in a brigade size complex. It had a lot of air defense in there. We could have gotten hurt. I talked to COL Hill. I could hear his voice on the radio. I felt [Hill] had [the situation under control]. He was asking all the right questions. LTC Frank Hancock was moving his forces around correctly. Hill was insuring that
the battalion commander had the right forces in there. And a young lieutenant that was far forward made the right decisions early on, in terms of pulling back and pounding it with artillery and air, and then rolling up the left side, where they captured the battalion commander.21 And after several hours they brought it [the complex] to its knees. So I could hear all that, and I felt the right kinds of actions were being taken, so I wasn’t that concerned. I knew we were in a fight, but that’s what we were going up there for—to fight.
MAJ WRIGHT: Now, as I understand it, the initial intelligence indicated there was, or appeared to be, some type of an Iraqi logistics complex in that little oasis right at the base of that hill, but that we really didn’t think there were that many people in there.
MG PEAY: That turned out to be an entirely different kind of complex, we found. It was the reserve battalion for the 45th Division that the French were fighting on our west, and it had significant air defense and crew-served weapons capability in there. It had some superb bunker complex systems that were dug in. That could have been a pretty tough little fight. It didn’t turn out that way.
MAJ WRIGHT: Again, the same reaction on the part of the Iraqi battalion as that first battalion you had met down by the escarpment?
MG PEAY: No, this was a regular battalion. The fight there went on about two to four hours. This group did not fold or quit as quickly. What happened though was that after that period of time, maneuvering and pounding with artillery, we captured the battalion commander. We convinced him to have the rest of his battalion quit or they would be destroyed. His battalion was spread out. He had another bunker complex further to the north that was part of his battalion. So we really had two positions that we had to uncover, and we got him to convince his battalion after several hours to call it off.
MAJ WRIGHT: That then secured, basically, the COBRA area, because you had pretty good eyes from the air through reconnaissance assets. You didn’t face the situation of a World War II airborne drop where it was very hard for the guys on the ground to know whether they had really secured the area.
MG PEAY: We had pushed all of our TOWs way out. We had close to eighty TOWs, I’d say, that we’d pushed way out. And then we had the air over top of that, that was further out. So we had good eyes on the area. We had linked up. We knew where the French were. We were talking to the 82d that was going to pass through us.
MG PEAY: We talked to the 24th Infantry Division coming up from the south. At 1500 or so in the afternoon the 24th was told to kick off early versus the next day by the XVIII Airborne Corps. So we felt good about that. We quickly brought up our 2d Brigade to
COBRA. It was going faster than we thought it would. Decided to bring the 2d Brigade up on G-Day instead of G+2, because we thought it gave us greater flexibility for further missions and saved "blade time."22
MAJ WRIGHT: By the evening were some of your initial assets already out on Highway 8, or "had eyes" on Highway 8?
MG PEAY: Had eyes on Highway 8. We did not have ground forces on it. Looked at LZ [Landing Zone] SAND, where they were going to go in the next morning. And looked further down MSR TEXAS, all the way up towards what was "old Objective GREEN." So we had the ground reconnaissance going in from the division, and we were also building up logistics in COBRA. We had all kinds of logistical aviation actions going on throughout the day.23
MAJ WRIGHT: The punching through by the ground convoys up MSR NEWMARKET was, in essence, an unopposed movement.
MG PEAY: That’s right.
MAJ WRIGHT: And moved relatively smoothly?
MG PEAY: That’s right. Our engineer guys actually were out in front, cutting the road. They cut across the desert floor; they built the road; and then we followed right behind them, pretty much unopposed since the enemy battalion had been removed during the reconnaissance phase.
MAJ WRIGHT: Was there any significant terrain obstacle on that route other than that first punch through the escarpment?
MG PEAY: Not to my knowledge. Lots of holes, loose road dirt . . . but a long dusty march to get through the escarpment.
MAJ WRIGHT: Speaking as one who rode in that ground convoy, we moved out quicker. I think our jump-off time was accelerated, it was supposed to be the morning of G+1, and we actually went out in the afternoon of G-Day itself. Is that a function of the general speeding up of the whole battle plan?
MG PEAY: Yes.
MAJ WRIGHT: Your logistics build-up took place quickly enough within COBRA so that you had no problem maintaining the operating tempo, then?
MG PEAY: That’s correct.
MAJ WRIGHT: As I understand it, you did not make an effort to push a lot of your AVIM [Aviation Intermediate Maintenance] up forward. The intent was to try to keep the rearm and the refuel capability at its maximum?
MG PEAY: We didn’t bring the "heavy" AVIM up. We were prepared to do that, when we thought we were going to go all the way up to Tallil, not knowing where the fight was going to go from that standpoint. At that time, to move towards Tallil we were going to break the maintenance of the battalion into two parts and "echelon" it [send packets in slices] forward with aviation assets. We had not planned to do that out of COBRA.
MAJ WRIGHT: We move on to the night of February 24-25. As you went to sleep that night, did you sleep back at the Main, or do you stay up at the Assault CP? G-Day.
MG PEAY: I came back at night . . . got caught several times trying to get back in at night because of the darkness, had to set down the helo many times due to dust, haze, and fog. But we came back late that night (2300/2400 hours). It was going well; I felt good about it. I wanted to be able to talk to my Chief of Staff face-to-face, tell him what I’d seen that day; be sure that we had logistically a force ready to continue the push the next day. So that’s why I came back.
MAJ WRIGHT: At that point, were you fairly confident that this was going to be a low-cost operation, or were you still uncertain, because you didn’t know where the enemy was going to make his stand, and if he would unleash chemical munitions on us?
MG PEAY: Well, I thought we still had some tough fighting ahead. I thought the fight "ahead" was [north] into the Euphrates and then [east] towards Basra. It was a case of how many forces and pockets that we were going to have to by-pass as we got in there, and what that would do to you in terms of slowing you up; sustainment costs . . . and cleaning up the battlefield as we by-passed.
MAJ WRIGHT: We had, I believe, a contingency plan. Instead of hooking the 101st east to Basra once you made it to the Euphrates Valley, you could have, if required, turned west and moved up to threaten Baghdad.
MG PEAY: We did not have direction from GEN Schwarzkopf to develop that plan. His plan, all along, was to turn right and go towards Basra. But in the division we made a number of different contingency plans, of which several were to go from Objective GREEN, straight on up the river valley to Baghdad, if required. It was strictly a contingency plan in the event that my superiors had directed me to move quickly. We wanted to be able to go. LTC Randy Mixon did a great job as the division plans officer—lots of details, lots of contingency plans to frag off of if it [would be]
required. The Baghdad plan would have put the division up to the northeast, east, and south of the city with lots of helos blocking and flying around and a good psychological plan. We had hoped that we could do this and turn [Iraqi] forces [against] Saddam. Mixon’s and the division staff’s plan was solid. We did not get the support of Secretary Cheney, or Generals Powell and Schwarzkopf who only "noted" [the plan, but did not approve] during our backbriefs to them.
MAJ WRIGHT: And were you fairly confident that the division had the capability to make that kind of a punch? Largely driven by the way Saddam’s forces were disposed? You really didn’t have a heavy fight to get up, if you made that turn [southwest] until you got much closer to Baghdad?
MG PEAY: Well, I wasn’t sure. The intelligence report kept changing in the two to three weeks prior to kick-off as to what forces were up there, and furthermore, what other forces were going to close from the west of Baghdad directly. But I thought logistically we could support it. It was just a case of how we postured and structured the battlefield to do that. I thought we could get it done.
MAJ WRIGHT: How did operations in the Euphrates Valley go on G+1, G+2? Did you leapfrog?
MG PEAY: G+1 we moved LTC Tom Greco24 early in the morning with the Chinooks. We just assaulted with our Chinooks, which is a little bit unusual, into LZ SAND [south of Al Nasiriyah in Iraq]. Took our HMMWV TOWs and some artillery, and then he started moving across the valley to link up with the Blackhawks that moved in the afternoon to the muddy river valley.
We decided to go early because we were having success. We also had very bad weather and we didn’t see any sense in going in there at nighttime, so we got in there about 1630, 1700 that afternoon. And I thought we had weather really closing in on us too, so I wanted to get in in front of the weather front. We did the link-up between Greco and COL Clark with the rest of his brigade that night. The 3d Brigade effectively shut down all east-west traffic in the Euphrates. Psychologically, we sent a message to Baghdad.
And then, as you know, later on that evening a shamal25 came through there and basically shut down everything, both heavy forces and light forces on G+1.
MAJ WRIGHT: We were talking about G+1, G+2. We had just dealt with the shamal and its impact on equipment readiness and movement. And as the shamal let up, which would have been, I guess, the morning of G+2, at that point were you able to start your aggressive turn to the east and really push?
MG PEAY: Yes, we were. The night of G+1 or G+226, LTG Luck cut the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade to us, and so in this windy, beat-up stick-up tent [the Division Assault CP at FOB COBRA] we threw together a plan to move quickly to the east. The morning of G+3 it started off. On G+3 we cut Ted Purdom [2d Brigade] and his three battalions to the east, secured an FOB known as TIM/VIPER,27 and flew in the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and our own Aviation Brigade and some fuel.
That morning the MSR VIRGINIA was gridlocked with units from the 82d [Airborne Division] and corps support command. So we flew the fuel and everything over it, and launched our air assault infantry over the top of it—one of the big advantages [of an air assault division]. And then that afternoon from 1330 till about 1800 or 1730, we worked the Apache battalions further east and north towards Engagement Area THOMAS, north of Basra, at first along a causeway area and then later the main north-south Basra road.
MAJ WRIGHT: At that point it became almost a turkey shoot, in the sense that the Iraqi command and control structure had pretty much collapsed and the bridges had been cut. The number of egress routes was limited, and they were just bottled up?
MG PEAY: That’s partially correct. The previous two days there had been some evasion out of there, forces retreating. I think our action almost turned into a pursuit. Then we got in there with our Apache battalions. We shut that entire causeway area down. Our plan had been on G+4 to airlift the 1st Brigade out of COBRA to Engagement Area [EA] THOMAS. We could get on the ground exactly like we put the 3d Brigade on Highway 8 [in AO EAGLE], so that we had a ground lock in there, as well. But there were so many vehicles and fires burning, smoke, destruction all through there, that the thing was almost shut down just by the carnage and the burning and destroyed vehicles. Visibility was a zero and you had a lot of his forces in the marsh. Some trying to surrender; others still fighting with lots of fire at our guys.
MAJ WRIGHT: Overall, then, I guess resistance had pretty much collapsed, as far as the 101st faced it. I think there were still pockets in some of the other areas. At what point did you start getting the word a cease-fire might be coming into effect?
MG PEAY: I can’t recall the exact time. You’d have to go to the G-3 log, but it seems to me the first call was about two in the morning. I moved the Division Jump CP and then followed it with the Assault CP from COBRA to VIPER. I spent the night of G+1 at COBRA, and then G+2 and G+3 at VIPER. I think I got the call at about two  in the morning [G+4] at VIPER—I was resting, snoozing in my helicopter, that’s why it comes to mind—that it was to cease. And then we got a call shortly after, it was not to cease, it would be over at 0400 [hours]. And then it seems
to me that it went 0400 to 0800, or something like that.28 It seems to me there were three cease fires. So that kind of ended it. We never had to air assault the 1st Brigade to EA THOMAS from VIPER at daybreak on G+4 as planned.
MAJ WRIGHT: But the capability to move the 1st Brigade had been there, had it been necessary. It could have been done, fairly simply?
MG PEAY: It would have been another long lift, just like we moved the 3d Brigade. But again, as I mentioned early on, we’d practiced to do that. The 2d Brigade was supposed to go up towards Tallil and a place called GOLDEN STRIKE.29 But we moved so fast that we ended up actually going almost laterally east, to VIPER, and then launching north and east into Engagement Area THOMAS north of the 24th Division’s approach.
MAJ WRIGHT: After the cease-fire was in place, you had two issues going on simultaneously. One, we started talking about redeployment and the need to start that process. At the same time, however, we had to maintain security in the Euphrates Valley, and it fell to both the 101st and the 82d to keep forces out there. Did that become frustrating for you, given that there were two sort of conflicting missions going on simultaneously?
MG PEAY: No. The simultaneous missions were not frustrating. The challenge I had was that I wanted to redeploy our soldiers home "professionally." So I wanted to bring them back through Camp EAGLE II, draw their personal gear that we had stockpiled there, put them in fresh uniforms, shower them, shave them, and clean them up, and [have them tend to] their equipment and accountability before I sent them home.
We had an emergency requirement to send, as I recall, 900 soldiers right away, returning home in unit status. So we had to pull portions of the 2d Brigade out and fly them to Rafha. Then they stayed there overnight on the airfield. [We] transloaded them from there by C-130s back to King Fahd International Airport, then transferred them to civilian aircraft for the homeward move.
We had that part of the mission going on, while simultaneously we had begun the MEDCAPS [Medical/Civic Action Projects] and the destruction of enemy equipment.
MAJ WRIGHT: How did Phase IV in the redeployment process go for the division? Were you able to move fairly smoothly back here?
MG PEAY: Yes, we moved smoothly, sort of a reverse process of the way that we went in. Closed out the Tactical Assembly Area CAMPBELL very professionally under [BG] Ron Adams’ direction; moved back into King Fahd Airport and Camp EAGLE II. The only thing that we had not pre-
pared for was the detailed standards required by the agricultural inspectors to get our equipment out of country. So we had to buy some power equipment—some power hoses. A lot of cleaning went on. We had a white glove kind of inspection of every piece of equipment in the division. We set up twenty-four hour water points to do that, and lots of light sets. It was a challenge for our soldiers to put them through that kind of a drill. In retrospect, it probably cleaned the vehicles up cleaner than they’ve ever been, and we’re ahead of the game today. But in terms of clearing country, that was one mission we did not enjoy. It harassed the soldiers and I didn’t like it.
MAJ WRIGHT: As the flow went, did you have adequate sea lift to keep things going smoothly? Did you have adequate CRAF airlift to get your soldiers home on a reasonable basis?
MG PEAY: Yes, I think so. We had to fight for our share of the CRAF and sea, but it worked out okay, and we flew home. In fact, I think we got home on schedule.
MAJ WRIGHT: Your equipment is still coming in, though?
MG PEAY: No, I think the division equipment is in. Some of it may be in the rail yards or at port, but it is in the states.
MAJ WRIGHT: Did your division get a little breather before it had to resume its DRB mission status?
MG PEAY: We put the soldiers on twenty-one days block leave, with nine more days, for a total of thirty by 1 October. Of course, leaders didn’t get that. Some of the leaders did, but some of the leaders had to turn around and head for port to perform the CONUS reception port operations and meet the equipment that was coming in, to get it back up here in the motor pools quickly.
MAJ WRIGHT: When will you feel that the division will be fully ready-up for the next contingency?
MG PEAY: Well, we set a mark on the wall of 1 July to have the Division Ready Brigade ready to go. We will meet that, but it will be several months before we have the entire division totally closed, inspections conducted, property accountability done, all the maintenance pulled, and starting back in a very serious training cycle.
MAJ WRIGHT: The division made it through without a serious beating up of its equipment?
MG PEAY: Yes.
MAJ WRIGHT: Were there any particular areas where maybe the equipment turned out to be less robust than you would have liked?
MG PEAY: No, I don’t think so. Our equipment, obviously, was worn through this process, but it was still operational. In fact, it performed superbly during the war from an operational
standpoint. We’re probably going to have to repaint our entire fleet, because of the eight-nine months over there. But we’ve got to pull the wheels now; pull the engines; see what kind of second and third order maintenance damage was done. I don’t know the answer to that, but it will be done. Certainly, the helo fleet engines took a beating and all of them will probably need a major refit or overhaul.
MAJ WRIGHT: We’ve talked a lot about the helicopters and what a great success they were. Within the division, your wheeled fleet—you executed something and I would guess continued on, right through G-Day morning, which was the swap-out [exchange] of your CUCVs [M-1008-series Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle] for HMMWVs.
MG PEAY: Right. We "pure-fleeted" the division with HMMWVs over there, and swapped, as you said, right on through G-Day, and started doing some similar 5-ton truck work concurrently.
MAJ WRIGHT: Is that something you were going to try to have as the division continues to redeploy?
MG PEAY: We will continue the SLIM EAGLE project that we started prior to departure, which was to make the division more relevant by making it more deployable, thinner, but yet retaining the lethality. We will continue to pure-fleet over the next six-seven weeks, and meet that objective.
MAJ WRIGHT: The HEMTT [Heavy Expanded-Mobility Tactical Truck], particularly the HEMTT tanker variation, turned out to be a successful vehicle?
MG PEAY: Very successful.
MAJ WRIGHT: Last couple of questions, sir. Any particular system that you think the division needs more of, say in the communications arena?
MG PEAY: No. What our division needs to do is to modernize. The Army is going to work at that. But we’ve got UH-60A helicopters, because we were the first issued them—the Blackhawks—seven to eight years ago. In the meantime, we’ve processed in the Army all the way up to the UH-60L models. So now we need to get the Lima model to take the place of our Alpha models, because it gives us increased lift and increased avionics.
We’ll need to get the OH-58D in here, in lieu of our OH-58C. We’re going to get an Apache battalion from Fort Hood this summer. We will then transition our Cobra battalion to Apaches. So in very short order we will be a pure Apache division. We will get lightweight TACFIRE here in August. That will give us the automation for fire support, and we will get the L-119 105-mm. howitzer on short order. I think that the issuance of the 5-ton vehicles pretty much modernizes our division. We get MSE [Mobile Subscriber Equipment] also within about six weeks.
MAJ WRIGHT: Which will minimize your need to try to get additional TACSATs [Tactical Satellite Terminals]?
MG PEAY: No, I don’t think so. That’s a different issue. You’re still going to need the TACSATs for the long range problems.
MAJ WRIGHT: Any particular comments, in the personnel arena, sir? How was the division impacted by stop-loss?30
MG PEAY: We were the second unit to deploy, after the 82d. We were the first division to close totally in-country. As a result of that, stop-loss had not been initiated at the time we deployed. So when stop-loss came in, we had been sending soldiers home at their normal ETS [Expiration of Term of Service], some of which were in leadership positions. When stop-loss hit, we had to bring back some soldiers. A number that we had sent back home to Fort Campbell for separation, we had to bring them back, and yet we had refilled their positions with other soldiers in the meantime, so we had to give them different jobs. We went through some turbulence, not massive, but we went through some turbulence before reaching a solution.
MAJ WRIGHT: You alluded to the fact that the team was very experienced. Were you fortunate in this contingency breaking out at the end of a leadership cycle when your leadership team was really quite strong because they had gained extensive experience from working together, as opposed to, say, if you had just freshly turned over most of your senior commanders and key staff people?
MG PEAY: Oh, I think undoubtedly that worked to our advantage. Like I said, we had a very strenuous first year back here at Campbell, doing a lot of things that all paid off for us. And probably just as important, we really knew each other. We knew our special techniques and SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures] common to an air assault division. So it was easy to hear a person’s voice; be able to give someone an order and know he understands what you want him to do. And that happened a number of times. SOPs, discipline, standards, and knowing each other were key components.
MAJ WRIGHT: Female soldiers. Were they an issue for the division?
MG PEAY: Female soldiers performed superbly. I think the policy is where it should be today. I don’t think we should go to further expansion at this time. The war was not of that length to allow you to draw further conclusions.
MAJ WRIGHT: Your medical support systems, both preventive care and treatment, were they adequate?
MG PEAY: Medical support was splendid. We had difficulties in locating where our soldiers were, once they were evacuated out of the division area. We’ve got to do some work here, computerization work, to be able to track those soldiers.
And then we need to come to grips with the change in command from MSC [Medical Service
Corps] to doctors as you deploy. The doctrine says you change that command.31 We changed it several days after we arrived in-country, and we changed from MSC to doctor control. LTC Howard M. "Doc" Kimes became not only division surgeon but also the 326th Medical Battalion commander, and then we changed him back out several days before we redeployed home. It seems to me that there was some disruption there that we need to look at. I know doctors are in short supply, but it seems to me that we can put some doctors in commands that habitually early deploy. My preference is that you leave the doctors in command.
MAJ WRIGHT: What about the awards and decoration system, sir?
MG PEAY: We followed the regulation to a "T." I think that there are pieces of that system that are no longer relevant to AirLand Battle. For instance, there were a number of times where officers in our Assault CP went forward of brigade areas. They’re not authorized to get the Combat Infantryman’s Badge [CIB],32 yet an infantry officer assigned to the brigade is, and yet they’re still undertaking the same risk. It’s more than just the CIB. You can count in the same category Combat Medical Badge, and you can apply it to a number of other kinds of things. We just need to make the awards package a little bit more "relevant" to the times.
MAJ WRIGHT: No problems on understanding the intent of the regulation as to what the appropriate degree of recognition was for an individual action?
MG PEAY: No. But again, we are all victims of how we grew up. I drew on my experience in Vietnam, where I was in the 4th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division, and I saw the award systems run entirely different in both divisions. So I tried to reach a happy medium, based on the Vietnam experience with a longer war and some horror. Yet during DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM there was the great danger that our troops were involved over nine months. Even though there were only a hundred hours of the shooting war, they still were over there eight or nine months where they were exposed to security risks, danger from a safety perspective, medical, and other kinds of things.
MAJ WRIGHT: Any thoughts about whether or not the air assault wings should be moved into the same category as jump wings?
MG PEAY: Yes, I favor that. I recommended that to LTG Luck. I think that we’re at that time now, very much like the glider units.33 In many ways the Blackhawk delivers soldiers in the same way as the glider delivered soldiers. If a soldier makes a combat assault, as determined by the division commander, then that soldier should get a star on his air assault wings, to be given once per war, not to be given for fifty combat assaults. But if he made a combat assault—in combat, not a logistical run, not an airmobile move, but a combat assault—then I think the soldier should be awarded a star for his air assault wings.
MAJ WRIGHT: Any comments on your losses?
MG PEAY: Well, you hate to have any losses. On the other hand, I have to say we lost nine soldiers in my almost nine months there, from the time I personally got in there until I got back. Five of those soldiers were by direct combat, in a helicopter shot down on day G+3. Of the other four: one by a traffic accident, where his vehicle turned over; one died when an artillery piece exploded; and two suicides. So nine soldiers.
I think we were blessed, because we could have come out of there with the several hundred, or close to a thousand, that I frankly thought we might lose. We had prepared very hard for a large number of casualties. I think we were very blessed that we got in behind the enemy quickly, rolled him up, and he quit. And the soldiers and their leaders deserve accolades for their safety performance on the ground and in the air.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of how capable the Iraqi soldier was, are we somewhat deceived by the 100-hour war into thinking he was worse, instead of rating ourselves high enough? Are we guilty of looking too much at him and saying he was bad, and forgetting that there was an awful lot of buildup and careful planning?
MG PEAY: I think it’s a little bit of both. We probably were better than we thought we were, and he wasn’t as good as we thought he was. After our division spent six months in the desert, our soldiers could handle the desert as well as, if not better, than his soldiers. We bring to the battlefield American intuition, flexibility, innovation that his society does not bring, because it is much more centrally controlled. When you turn American soldiers loose with their background, you get those kinds of results.
I think we had a great plan that was perfectly executed. I also think, very proudly, that our division plan complemented GEN Schwarzkopf’s overall scheme. And I think we learned once again that the soldier knows best of all. If a soldier does not like his leadership, and does not have confidence and respect in his leadership, he will not have the will to fight. So you put all that together in a bowl and kind of stir it up, and I think it’s a "sound" American victory.
MAJ WRIGHT: What I think I hear you saying is pretty much that we actually practiced what we wrote in our doctrine about commanders’ intent and maximum flexibility at subordinate lay-
ers; to allow them to do the fine points of how they’re going to execute missions, rather than what I think we both saw in Vietnam, which was a tendency to over-manage the battlefield.
MG PEAY: Well, I don’t know if I saw so much of that in Vietnam. I personally think sometimes that that’s also overdone. But I think we followed the doctrine. You allow flexibility; you allow people to work within themselves, but you still control. You don’t micro-manage, but you control. And I think that’s what we do.
MAJ WRIGHT: My last question to you then sir, before I let the others ask some questions. The thing that struck me as I saw the plan, was the analogy to the jump that the division made in September 1944 in Operation MARKET GARDEN. I was concerned as I looked at how far out we were going to be putting COBRA, and how we were dependent on sustainability out there, from having ground communications to the east and to the west come forward and keep pace with us. Was that ever in the back of your mind that, Oh God, I got out there and if the French ran into trouble and if the 24th ran into trouble, it could get very nasty out there?
MG PEAY: I never had those concerns. I knew there was some risk, but we’d been there six months working on these things and I felt that I personally knew the desert. I knew my commanders, and I knew what the division could do. Respectfully, I think I’m one of the few people, less some of the previous 101st commanders that have had my job—and my corps commander—who truly knew the flexibility and hallmark of this division. I knew what this division could do. I saw how it could move around that battlefield much faster than other forces. It’s an "operational level force" and this campaign in the desert was made for it.
There was great concern, not only at COBRA, but people were very worried I was going to get stuck in the Euphrates. Yet I knew that there were soft places in there that only the infantry could work. I saw the mud areas; it was muddier than I thought it was going to be. But I knew that there was land in there that was not trafficable from a heavy armor standpoint, and I knew the infantry could work in there with their TOWs and with their crew-served weapons and indirect fires. I also knew that in this division we could quickly "reinforce," and we could bring in all the indirect air and artillery. We could build up combat power very quickly.
So a lot of people were twisting their arms and hands, and very concerned, particularly about going up that far on the Euphrates and didn’t want us to get up there that far. I was always the guy that was pushing and saying, let’s go further, let’s keep going. I can say that because of the kinds of people that we had working in the division, and the capabilities they had, and how well they were trained and equipped.
MAJ WRIGHT: Mr. Boggs, do you have some questions?
MR. BOGGS: Looking back on the whole picture, sir, what would you say was the mood of the soldiers? If I could get you to follow it from predeployment on through?
MG PEAY: Well, a lot has been written about that. I think in terms of the way it’s been covered by the press, it was at times inaccurate. When our soldiers deployed, they were confident; they did not have a lot of "bravado." They had a mission to do; they had some concerns, but they were
ready to go do it. And they were proud to go do it. They had missed Grenada and Panama. They were very disappointed they had not been called. In fact, they were hurt by that. So they marched on to war, very quickly and ready.
Now the early days were covered improperly by the press, in terms of talking about low soldier morale. Our soldiers never had low morale. There was nothing more than the kinds of gripes you get from soldiers all the time operating in heat and dirt. Initially, we had a press corps that was not steeped in the military, that did not understand all of that, and so they reported what would be soldier complaints, and so forth that are the norm in good units.
Conditions were very harsh over there. All of us were tired, but I never saw the soldier ever being anything but proud, heads up, ready to go. I think he carried that throughout, and I think the soldier today, the Screaming Eagle, feels very good about what he and she did over there. Toward the end, the press better understood, plus there was more to report than during the buildup phase when missions and end-state objectives, and when we were going to attack were not always clear.
MR. BOGGS: What were some of the big concerns? Were there concerns about SCUD or chemical attacks?
MG PEAY: The chemical was the big unknown, because our current army had never been subjected to that. We did an awful lot of training on that prior to deploying in our N-Hour sequence piece, and we trained over there, hard. Clearly, that was the big unknown, but I think the longer we stayed with it, the more confident we got. The second thing is we captured some of his chemical gear, and as our soldiers saw a lot of that, they became more confident in our own capabilities. We got a lot out of that reconnaissance period. And I’ll tell you we learned a lot about Saddam and his troops. Some of our soldiers received a first taste of combat early on, so there was an awful lot of good that came out of that reconnaissance period.
MR. BOGGS: Looking into the POWs, just a little bit. Were there any real surprises about the volume or their condition when they were captured?
MG PEAY: Well, we didn’t expect the numbers we got; never anticipated they’d collapse that quickly. As I said, the ones that we were involved with were not in that bad shape.
MR. BOGGS: Did it pose any logistical problems?
MG PEAY: Yes. We had to then manage the evacuation of those. We had to set up an additional EPW [Enemy Prisoner of War] camp. We had to put holding areas further forward, in larger number. But our military police guys did that very objectively, and we marched prisoners to base areas where we were holding them in larger numbers. We carried some by passenger bus [obtained] from the local economy; [we used] a myriad of different ways that the innovative soldier figures out in adjusting to the situation at hand.
MR. BOGGS: Did you have any concerns about terrorism?
MG PEAY: Yes, throughout the entire period we were back at Camp EAGLE II, we were very concerned with terrorism. We had a heavy security web during our defensive posture with battalion guards, wire, lights, cement barrels, and those kinds of things. We constantly worked the terrorism problem. Terror was a concern prior to G-Day operations.
MR. BOGGS: One last question, sir. The division was strung out over vast distances. What was one of the biggest problems logistics-wise?
MG PEAY: You had to have a solid logistical plan that optimally kept everything flying to deliver logistics on time. We were spread out, but it worked. And it worked because of the enormous capability of the division and our smart logistical planners. We moved the relevant forces, thinned out, and used small logistic assault bases to facilitate the timeliness and responsiveness.
Our division just has so much capability, so much flexibility. I don’t know why, but over the years we’ve had a hard time educating a large part of the leadership as to the enormous capability that this division brings to the battlefield. Whether it be high or low intensity. When this war ended we had 3d Brigade in the Valley of the Euphrates [at EAGLE]; 1st Brigade way south of that at COBRA; 2d Brigade way east of that, ninety-five miles east of that, at VIPER. And we had the Apache guys working way north, up in Engagement Area THOMAS, with the Division Main still back at the TAA [Tactical Assembly Area CAMPBELL]. That is stretching over almost a quarter of the size of the eastern part of the United States of America.
Now, if it had gone longer there could have been times that we would have had to maybe slow things down a little bit. But at the same time, if it was going longer, we’d be moving more of the division in a "more continuous" direction, that would have also cut down on the logistical challenge.
1LT LIPPARD: Sir, in an earlier conversation with COL Richard Swain, the ARCENT [U.S. Army Central Command] Historian, he discussed the role of the division [headquarters] as a necessary step between corps and the maneuver brigade, both for command and control and support. In light of Operation DESERT STORM, where do you see the role of a division now?
MG PEAY: Well, I feel strongly about the role of the air assault division. Now whether you can buy that much capability, based on where the budget is going, is another matter. I believe in having divisions that have a little bit more organic capability, because in early entry contingency operations before the theater matures, the division ends up "reaching back," doing a lot of the corps work, while the corps is doing the "theater" operations. Thus, the division has got to be able to push things down to brigades, so the brigades can fight. So I’m a little reluctant on cutting too much out of the division base. It doesn’t give you enough robustness and resiliency to fight, because the corps is never going to get it to you on time . . . particularly when fighting over hundreds and hundreds of miles. The corps will never be that responsive with military police, with field artillery, and so forth. Now, the corps can do some of the intel [intelligence] analysis of the battlefield and assign capabilities down well in advance, but if it’s still moving very quickly, you’ve got to have some organic capability in there to allow you to do things.
Having said that, the budget process itself may drive you down to where you can’t have a lot of things in the corps or division. I like the structure of the divisions. . . perhaps we can "thin"
them out a little and leave the basic structure and maintain leadership in place. I believe in the division base and not fixed brigades. The division is blessed with senior leadership that enhances any fight.
1LT LIPPARD: Sir, one last question. Looking at air assault doctrine as the latest step in the development of the Army’s airborne forces, where do you see air assault and the use of airborne forces going in AirLand Battle Future?
MG PEAY: I think there’s a place in the battlefield for both. You’re going to need a forced entry capability, which the airborne and air assault forces both give you, but in different ways. In many cases, "strategically," certainly in the next ten years, the airborne could be your forced entry force and then blow the air assault forces right on through them after they [the airborne] secure a lodgement or they can fight side by side in a multiplying effect. I do think in the future, as technology continues and continues to grow, that you can almost launch these aviation platforms "strategically." Certainly over operational distances you could launch them and do many things that the airborne forces do.
Airborne forces, though, have the great advantage of not bringing a large tail with them. In our division, we have cut down the tail considerably. Today, under our SLIM EAGLE project, we are almost as rapidly deployable as the airborne forces are. In other words, our DISCOM has come down in size. Now, you put the strategic package together, and there’s not that much difference. Yet, we bring enormous firepower and mobility to the battlefield. So there’s great relevancy for both forces in the future. We’ve got to place them against the missions that are required. Air assault forces are expensive. I doubt if you’re going to be able to form too many of these kinds of outfits. So you again have to apply it [the 101st] against the mission.
The beauty we bring is that we are totally integrated in many ways: communications systems to our infantry-air platforms, our artillery-to-infantry-to-air platforms that enhance the operational level fight. There’s lots of high technology in the division.
MAJ WRIGHT: A last, sort of general question, sir, and this is something that I try to always ask. Is there any vignette that sticks in your mind from this experience? You personally? Any one image or humorous incident, or something that you will keep with you always?
MG PEAY: No, I don’t have a humorous vignette. Someone asked me the other day what was the toughest decision. Believe it or not, the toughest decision was the weather decision "to go" on G-Day. It was instinct on my part. Everybody was recommending "no" and "delay." The weather bird had crashed. We put out two other birds at about 35 miles, each reporting bad weather. I made the decision to go. And that was the toughest decision that I had for the entire war, just the weather decision to go on G-Day.
I had more confidence in these guys than they probably had in themselves. I knew our aviator guys. They deserve a lot of credit for the tremendously tough weather conditions they flew in the entire nine months over there. And they did just that. They navigated around some pretty bad weather pockets and got in there, and they did a great job for us.
It was a long, long deployment and a short war. I think the conclusions are that we were trained; that we’ve got a great capability in the air assault division that conceptually can do many
things in the future that we can further exploit. I think there are some ways to exploit this air assault doctrine—air assault technology—that will give us even greater capability in the future. The 101st Airborne Division is an operational-level division that can also fight full spectrum.
The soldiers are flexible, adaptable, innovative, and were just battle-hardened! Safety permeates the Army, and I think finally what it all came down to is that you have a proud division. It was well trained. It was very disciplined. It was a hallmark performance, and they did the job that the nation desired.
MAJ WRIGHT: Who named NEWMARKET, NEWMARKET?
MG PEAY: I’m not sure. Either COL Tom Hill did or LTC Jim McGarity, his brigade executive. I’m not really sure which. Jim McGarity formed Task Force CITADEL,34 and he said to me in a backbrief "well, TF CITADEL will move on MSR NEWMARKET." Let’s give Jim McGarity the credit.
MAJ WRIGHT: Thank you very much, sir.
1 "N-Hour" stands for notification hour, the actual time the unit is alerted for deployment. As part of the XVIII Airborne Corps, the 101st Airborne Division has a highly detailed deployment timeline. Alert contingencies range from eighteen to forty-eight hours to prepare for rapid deployment by Air Force aircraft.
2 The division's 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation, and the 18th Aviation Brigade's 2d Battalion, 229th Aviation, from Fort Rucker, Alabama, which was attached to the Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were equipped with Apaches. The 2d Squadron, 17th Cavalry, and the 3d Battalion, 101st Aviation, deployed with AH-1S Cobras, which were later exchanged in theater for the AH-1F upgrades.
3 Civilian aircraft leased to the Defense Department during periods of mobilization for the purpose of transporting men, supplies, and equipment to a theater of war.
4 The AH-64s were in the 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation; the 2d Battalion, 229th Aviation; and the 12th Aviation Brigade's 5th Squadron, 6th Cavalry, and the 3d Battalion, 227th Aviation. AH-1S (later exchanged for AH-1F) Cobras from the 3d Battalion, 101st Aviation, and the 2d Squadron, 17th Cavalry. UH-60 Blackhawks were in the 4th, 5th and 9th Battalions, 101st Aviation. UH-1H Iroquois ("Hueys") were in the 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation. CH-47D Chinooks were in the 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation. See the appendix for descriptions and illustrations.
5 Prefabricated hangers.
6 M17 Sanatpr Lightweight Decontamination System comes with a water heating unit, and various shower and hose attachments for cleaning men and equipment.
7 AO NORMANDY was about sixty miles by thirty miles.
8 The 101st Airborne Division is famous for its defense of Bastogne, Belgium, and the surrounding road net during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
9 General Peay italicized portions of the text for emphasis.
10 Between 18 and 29 January 1991, about 3,000
vehicles, 350 helicopters, and 550 C-130 sorties repositioned the 101st
Division to TAA CAMPBELL, southeast of Rafha. During the move, the
division traversed over 600 miles by road or about 300 miles by air.
11 MG Peay had instituted a series of "Air Assault Battle Notes" to standardize tactical operations and air assault doctrine within the 101st Airborne Division. The notes focused on topics ranging from air assault artillery raids to landing zone/pickup zone operations.
12 On 20 February 1991, elements of 101st Airborne Division's Aviation Brigade, and two companies of the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry, captured the Iraqi 1st Battalion, 841st Brigade, 45th Infantry Division at Objective TOAD.
13 Tallil and Basra are cities in southern Iraq.
14 These were two portable fuel storage systems.
15 On 17 February, elements of the division's 2d Squadron, 17th Cavalry, captured eleven prisoners from the company command post of the 2d Company, 2d Border Guard Battalion, 17th Brigade, 45th Infantry Division.
16 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry.
17 The town of As Salman and its airfield.
18 Task Force NORMANDY, formed around elements of LTC Richard Cody's 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation.
19 Throughout its deployment in Southwest Asia, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) operated with a command and control structure based on four separate command posts. In keeping with the overall philosophy of XVIII Airborne Corps, the Main Command Post (Main CP or Division Main) carried out the central operations and planning functions under the direct supervision of the Chief of Staff. The Rear CP, under the Assistant Division Commander (Support) with the division's G-1 and G-4, focused on rear battle and logistical planning. The Tactical Command Post (TAC CP), also called the Division Assault CP, under the Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) directed the close battle, normally with the G-3 and G-2 present and only a skeletal staff of about twenty to thirty operating in tents. The remaining command post, the Jump CP, really consisted of MG Peay's personal command and control helicopter with an extensive suite of communications equipment. The Jump CP roamed the division area to ensure that the commanding general could exert his influence where it would be the most effective. Of the four, only the TAC and Jump CPs entered Iraq.
20 Company A, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry,
an element of the 1st Brigade, captured the Iraqi 2d Battalion, 843d Brigade,
45th Infantry Division in a bunker complex within the general COBRA area.
21 MAJ Samir Ali Khader.
22 Usually the amount of time helicopter blades
actually operated in the harsh desert environment, but in this usage MG
Peay is probably referring to the amount of time aviation assets would
be unused for other air assaults.
23 The 101st Division's long range surveillance
detachment had one team on Highway 8 that withdrew as soon as initial air
assault elements of Task Force 3-187 landed. The Scout Platoon from
Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 187th Infantry, established an observation
post on LZ SAND and conducted a route reconnaissance from there to AO EAGLE.
24 Commander, Task Force RAKKASAN. The
task force consisted of wheeled elements of the 187th Infantry (almost
two full rifle companies and three anti-tank companies) from the 3d Brigade,
as well as artillery and engineers.
25 A shamal is a desert windstorm. The
winds at COBRA reached sustained speeds over thirty miles per hour and
gusted to sixty. Blowing sand and dust dangerously restricted visibility.
26 On G+1 [25 Feb], XVIII Airborne Corps issued
the order giving the 101st operational control of the 12th Aviation Brigade
effective 1000 hours (local time), 26 February, when the brigade's ground
convoy crossed its line of departure enroute to COBRA.
27 Forward Operating Base VIPER was established
on an XVIII Airborne Corps objective, originally code-named "TIM."
28 Part of the confusion surrounding the cease-fire
resulted when orders were issued giving the effective time as 0800, but
without offering a date time group that would have indicated 0800 in a
particular time zone. XVIII Airborne Corps interpreted that the cease-fire
took effect at 0800 Zulu, or Greenwich Mean time, when it really
took effect at 0800 Charlie (local time).
29 A landing zone near Tallil.
30 Stop-loss was the DOD policy that temporarily suspended personnel separations from the armed forces during the Gulf war.
31 During peacetime, most deployable [Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE)] medical battalions and hospitals are commanded by MSC officers, while most clinical staff slots, including the Medical Corps commanding officer, remain empty. The doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are usually assigned to the local Health Services Command [or U.S. Army Medical Command since 1994] facility, knowing that when TOE units deploy for operations they will be used to fill the empty slots under the Professional Filler System [PROFIS]. The MSC officers that commanded the units in garrison usually become the executive officers. A common complaint among MSC officers is that under this system medical units deploy with commanding officers that may be unfamiliar with their units and personnel.
32 CIB is awarded to soldiers exposed to combat
while serving in infantry military occupational specialties (11 and 18
series) assigned to infantry brigades and special forces groups (at headquarters
level and below).
33 During World War II, an airborne division's
glider infantry regiments did not receive the same pay or recognition as
the parachute infantry regiments.
34 MG Peay graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. LTC McGarity graduated from The Citadel. The V.M.I. Corps of Cadets fought in the Civil War battle of Newmarket in 1864.
The line drawings are provided for identification and are not drawn to a standard scale. Statistical data is approximate.
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Flanagan, Edward M., Jr. Lightning: The 101st in the Gulf War. (Washington: Brassey's, Inc., 1994).
Scales, Robert H. Jr. Certain Victory: United States Army in the Gulf War. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1993).
Schubert, Frank N., and Theresa L. Kraus, eds. The Whirlwind War: The United States Army in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1995).
Steele, Dennis. " 155 Miles into Iraq: The 101st Strikes Deep." Army 41 (August 1991): 30-35.
Taylor, Thomas. Lightning in the Storm: The 101stAirAssault Division in the Gulf War. (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1994).
U.S. News and World Report. Triumph Without Victory: The History of the Persian Gulf War. (New York: Times Books, 1992).