In August of 1990 I was returning from training at Fort Knox, Kentucky to Twentynine Palms, California in
my brand 1990 Mustang LX, I had been gone since February. As I arrived at the Charlie Company office
of Third Tank Battalion I discovered that the company was in the field. I sat next to man named Sergeant
Terry Schwetner waiting to report into the First Sergeant. A man named Staff Sergeant Walters walked in
and announced the Iraq had invaded Kuwait. Big Deal is what I thought, who cares about that. “We will be
gone in two weeks” was his prediction. He was correct.
After the flight there and endless training from August 14th to the start of the Air Campaign it was very
uneventful. Training in Saudi Arabia prior to the liberation consisted of setting the battalion up in a coil. A
coil is when all the tanks are place about 50 to 75 yards apart facing outwards in a giant circle, it
usually covers about four kilometers. This was for defensive purposes as the battalion could form a front
in any direction. Depending on the location the tank was placed in a trench or sometimes not. From this
trench only the turret would be above ground. There was always nets on poles place over the vehicles,
so we could not be seen from a distance. During a training we would leave the nets and the coil and go
maneuver or do gunnery, or if we were lucky both.
Maneuver consisted of formations, and gunnery was usually online but occasionally we did movement live
fire to get us acclimated to that environment. We would move from position to position every so often, that
meant rolling up the nets in the middle of the night. Once at the new position you would set them up
again, in the middle of the night. We never used the nets in combat. Most were disposed of the day we
crossed the border.
The Air War
Then things started to change, quickly. The first change was that at dusk the sky would fill up with aircraft
heading north. Then the bombing would begin, all night until just before dawn. At one point my platoon
Leader Gunnery Sergeant Paul Cochran, a Vietnam Veteran, said to us that soon they would start
dropping daisy cutters or fuel air mixture bombs. “Don’t get scared when they go off, they feel like a
nuclear bomb when it goes.” Again I thought whatever that is probably an exaggeration, it was not.
Then came one night when we came back from chow in the center of the company area and they called
all tank commanders to the skippers tank, we thought nothing of it. Corporal Tom Stier was my gunner
and we started arguing over the mail for some reason or another, everyone got on each other’ s nerves
after that much time together. Lance Corporal B P Jones was our loader he just rolled his eyes as usual
when we would bicker. Sergeant David Jones was our tank commander, yes two Jones on the same tank,
came back from the meeting and told us to stop fighting. We ignored him at first when he announced to
us that an Iraqi tank column had just pushed across the line and was engaging Third Light Armored
Infantry or 3rd LAI as it was more commonly known as to our direct front as we spoke.
We got in the tank and fired it up with a short count, where the whole company starts at once so if
someone is listening they cannot tell how many vehicles just started. Then the Skipper, Captain Ed
Dunlap got on the radio and told us to stand down, the Arabs would handle this and if they needed us
they would call us. We listened to the battle on the radio for hours. It was frustrating to hear what was
going on, but we were not to be part of that.The next day we went for our usual platoon meeting at Gunny
Cochran’s tank. It started with fact 11 Marines had died in last night’s battle, that this was real and get
ready for what is coming. The tempo of everything changed from that point on.
The Night Before
The night before the Liberation of Kuwait, or Invasion depending on how you look at we all got together at
Gunnery Sergeant Frank Cordero’s tank, he was our platoon sergeant. His driver was a man named
James Siow, an Indian that lived on a reservation in Arizona. His dad was a Vietnam Vet so he sent James
some war paint, and he placed on his crew’s faces and issued them Indian names on the eve of their first
battle. I slept suprisingly well that night. At 0300 we were woken up and were told to prepare for a short
count, this would be the last time we use the nets so we took them down. We road marched up to Kuwait,
just short of the first of two large mine field that we were to breech that day.
The Mine Fields
As dawn came on I realized we were on a crest looking down at the first mine field, this was it. At first full
light we fired up and all the sudden I noticed black puffs of smoke going off above us. “Sergeant Jones,
what is that?” I said into my microphone of my helmet from the driver’s compartment. “We’re being
shelled, button up everybody, including you BP.” Buttoning up was to close all the hatches and look
through your periscopes so you did not get shrapnel wounds. It had started.
We were slated to be the first platoon to breech but the lane we were to go through was having problems,
the explosive line charge on the Amtrak would not launch. That was a long couple of minutes when the
word came down to follow another platoon through the breech. At 16 miles an hour you feel like you are
walking through the mines, I just stayed in the tracks in front of me, then we heard on the radio one of our
tanks in Alpha Company had detonated a mine. That is all I knew for along time, later the driver would tell
me he was third in line and had followed the tracks, so much for that one.
We advanced and we could here various engagements over the radio but for us it was drive and look for
mines. Then we approached the second belt of mines. We saw more of the black clouds from artillery
overhead and I waited to go into a lane, but this time we were lower then the minefield where we were. I
watched an Amtrak go hit something and it sagged in the lane, then it started moving again, to this day I
have no idea what that was about. As we emerged from the second minefield this is where I noticed a
Iraqi in a bunker, he must have been a forward observer calling in the shells, and had the bad luck to
positioned at the end of our lane in the mine field. He would be the first person I ever saw shot.
To The Trenches
As we advanced further we came across abandoned artillery pieces and bunkers. As the driver my view is
really limited, then the crew started to yell atme that I was caving in the bunker. I went to turn but
everyone started yelling.“One at a time!” I yelled. We didn’t fall in and Sergeant Jones started dropping
hand grenades down the tube of the artillery piece and told me to haul out of there. There were several
small incidents after that, but most were very fast and did not take up much of memory.
We advanced a little further and on the horizon I could see a silhouette popping up and down. “Sergeant
Jones, there is someone right in front of us on the crest of the horizon.” “Stier fire a Heat Round.” Was
the only answer I heard. “Fire!” The round went down range and exploded. Sergeant Jones counted to
six, why I will never know. “Again, Stier!” The round went down range, this time to a very different ending.
Hundreds of troops go up from a trench line we had no idea was even there. Some were crying and
throwing down the gas masks and rifles, some were not. There were so many of the running towards us I
got nervous a pulled out my pistol. I have no idea what I was going to do with it, but it seemed like a good
idea. We heard machine gun fire off to our sides, some would not surrender. They did not get very far.
Al Jaber Airfield
At the end of the first day we made to a place called Al Jaber Airfield. This was the main objective of the
First Marine Division. We rolled up and took up blocking positions around the Airfield so the grunts of 1st
Battalion Seventh Marines and our Alpha Company could seize the place.It was this place all the chemical
detectors kept going off the most, an I do know that mustard gas containers were found at this site. Radio
transmissions were intercepted that the Iraqi III Corps artillery had been given permission to use gas. We
had already gone through the masking up process because anytime artillery dropped we had to don our
masks just to be safe.
At Al Jaber my company did not get shelled, but there were secondary explosions all over the place.Al
Jaber was a close to movie type battle I ever witnessed. My platoon got lost and settled in front of the
main drag of the Airfield. I watched as 7th Marines went from building to building with close support from
our Alpha Company. I was at that battle, but I would not say I was in it. We watched it like spectators at a
high school football game. Eventually were told to move out and that another group of Marines would
finish the fight,So off we went. This is when we would experience the worst oil fire smoke.
The Oil Fields
The next few engagements would take place in the Burgan Oil fields. It would get so black you would
obtain a feeling of weightlessness. The first engagement we were taking a nap, we had no sleep for a day
so it was just sit and wait for the next order, all of this was from inside the tank. The word came from the
Skipper that a brigade of Tanks was making its way towards us. This was it, the big battle we had waited
for. Not this time, the wind shifted and a group of A10s flew and wiped out the site. The Skipper called us
and told us tostand down.
The next engagement was sort of a tank battle. BP and me were sitting on the turret eating when the Tow
Hummers next to us kept shooting missiles. “What are you shooting at?” I asked the gunner closest to us.
“There is brigade of tanks out there, we just killed three of the and they are coming to surrender.”
“Yeah, whatever.” I said “No, really. Watch the horizon in a couple of minutes a guy with a big flag is going
to surrender right here.” Sure enough 15 minutes later that is exactly what happened, it was like
something out of a Civil War movie.
As we advanced towards the city we drove through areas that had dead tanks and cars with light poles
laid on top of them so the Air force would bomb them thinking they were tanks, Saddam was not a total
idiot, just out of his league. There were several minor engagements, but nothing amazing.
Then as we rolled ahead we started getting shelled really hard. It was like they were waiting for us, then
there were these revetments that kept forcing the tanks closer together over a good distance. “I, don’t
think were supposed to do this.” I said to everyone in the tank. We were going in to a Kill Sack. We raced
as fast as we could and then suddenly out of nowhere was this 10-12 foot tall wall, it was huge. We
stopped right against. This was the Orchard around Kuwait International Airport. I found out later the wall
was built in the 1920s tokeep smugglers out, but no one had told us it was there.
The Orchard was a complete nightmare. I had never been so scared during the war up until that moment.
The radio was full off traffic. Small arms fire was zinging around everywhere and first platoon was
engaging some enemy infantry to the front. My platoon’s left flank tank was taking small arms fire all
along the side of it and the tank commander kept getting on the net and screaming about it. Finally the
Skipper told him to shut up.
B P had enough, he grabbed the M16 for the loader and jumped out and ran up to this tarped bunker
behind us. He pulled back the tarp went to press the trigger and it jammed, he ran back and hopped on
the tank. After some expletives he finally calmed down, after that I called him BP “Vietnam” Jones, you
had to pronounce Vietnam like the old people did down south. He got a combat promotion over there and
he deserved it.
After what seemed like hours the Skipper ordered 1st platoon to find a way into the city, they did and to
this day I have no idea how they found a way through that wall. As the first tank went through we heard a
massive explosion and a wall of flame shot from behind the wall. Many people say when you are scared
that you relieve yourself, I am lucky to say that my body had the exact opposite reaction.
The Skipper kept calling on the radio for the tank, we all were wondering what was on the other side of
that wall. The tank responded a couple of minutes later, it seemed like hours and told us the area was
clear. We all went in and moved to a spot inside the Airport, the battle was over for us.As we pulled into
our final positions I made contact with tank next to us, they were as white as ghosts.
“What happened?” I asked
“We were moving forward when an Iraqi got up and fired a anti tank missile at
“Yeah, so…” I said
“We shot him.” they said.
“He told you what his intentions were man, what’s the big deal.” I said.
Three days earlier I was like them, three days is a long time in a place like that.
And Stay Out
When it was all over me another Marine in my platoon had a run in with Arabs in a car that did not speak
English. I had to pull out my pistol and they were off. Years later on the Internet I found out what
happened to them, 3rd Marines and 1st Tanks lit the car up and killed them. Someone had posted the
pictures on the web.
After the Storm