Sunday, November 10, 2013

USMC Machinegunner Desert Storm Happy Marine Corps Birthday

And yet a little more about myself. I was in Desert Storm back in 1990-1991, I have very few photos and the ones I do have are framed on the wall, in a shadow box. So my photos are far and few and not very great.  But I decided to make a small page about my time in Desert Storm.  I was a Infantry machine gunner and attached to a weapon platoon. The unit I was in was 1st Battalion  6th Marine Regiment Alpha Company Weapons Platoon in the 2nd Marine Division.  We were stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, but were hardly ever there. When we were there we were in the field going on humps in the woods and putting endless miles on our boots.

Some one made me this shadow box for my birthday awhile back, and its pretty much all I have left of my time in the Marine Corps and Desert Storm. So I am pretty proud of the fact that person did that for me, and cared enough to do so.
This is the AAV (amphibious assault vehicle) that I and the platoon squad I was attached to rode into combat in during Desert Storm. We were a jungle warfare unit for the most part and usually used our feet to get everywhere, except being inserted by helleborne (helicopters) operations into and out of the jungle. So we thought riding on a AAV will be a luxury. That is not the case...they are slow, bumpy and very uncomfortable to ride in for a very long are glad to come running out of them. And thank God your not on a amphibious assault in them, scary stuff. Besides that they are light skin vehicles and don't take much small arms fire or RPG's very well, so you get the hell out of them when rounds start coming your way. They had reactive armor on them, but that was no comfort.  While we were in Desert Shield we dug in for a defensive. We trained mostly on Air Assaults in the desert, but then the AAV's showed up around Christmas of 1990 or so. They put all of the AAV's up on trailers and trucked them ahead of us, while we were on a covert mission in Saudi Arabian school buses heading to the border. The Saudi driver let us play Creedance Clearwater Revival on the tape player on the bus. I rode machine gun on the back door while on one of the buses tracking all vehicle that came near us, while rocking out. I actually told that to the lead singer of CCR while guarding him at a concert in Austin, Texas where I used to be a body guard later on in life.

This is my machine gun squad that I was attached to. I am on the lower left..the smiling happy joker that I was, just a kid. These guys were my best friends, my brothers, I would have died for any of them. We were in country about 5 months when this picture was taken. We had been dug in for a long time, and had seen nothing but sand and stars for what seemed forever. The most exciting thing was getting sick from some kind of virus from eating the fruit. Everyday we would have to remake our machine gun bunkers because we had very few sand bags. But eventually we got too many sand bags, and we never ever stopped digging after that it seemed. Everywhere we went we dug machine gun bunkers and or hasty machine gun pits. All with entrenchment tools, not shovels mind you. But one day I got a hold of a shovel and we kept it where ever we went. We had ways of getting things as we slowly started working out trading systems. Our Company HQ driver had a way of making things appear if you supplied enough cigarettes to him or cash.   For some reason we all had loads of cash, but had no where to spend it. Life was simple.....dig, clean your weapon about all day, make sure you had your gas mask on at all times (on your hip) and smoke cigarettes all day....and oh write tons of letters home. No phones, no email, no nothing...not even a camera hardly. But we all had headphones...but batteries were a problem, until the care packages would come in. We wrote the Copenhagen man, the Marlboro man, anyone and everyone trying to get free smokes or tobacco mailed to us. Eventually some of it payed off. Copenhagen  sent us about 2 rolls every few weeks for a while. But it seems our Platoon Sgt would get them first and then slowly pass them out, I guess so we would be fair or something. But eventually we got to rotate back to the rear with the gear and buy some smokes, and even buy a  soda for a few days. And even get to take a shower and wash your clothes. I think we went a few months without a real shower. The water buffalo trucks would arrive every now and then, but you had to hump about 5 miles or so up to HQ to get a shower. Then while your taking it, the wind blows sand all over what is the point, then you have to march back 5 miles in over 110 degrees heat. I usually just poured my canteen on myself, and called that "good enough".  Eventually going back to the rear stopped, and we started training missions from hell.  We probably walked on foot about 700 miles in the months leading up to Desert Storm. We did a few helleborne operations and even had a 40 mile 4 day operation which almost killed us from walking ourselves to death, but I guess that was our Commanding Officers point, to try to break our morale to prepare us for war, so we would already be crazy when we started into combat. I think he made us hate the enemy before we met them. I know I was ready to get it over with. We trained on how to shoot at tanks....DON'T. And then a few classes on shooting at Airplanes....DON'T.  Eventually we got to the front, dug in some more and got some fresh boots from boot camp, and showed them the ropes.  The air war had started and for a few months all day and night we lived under the sound of constant carpet bombing and naval gun fire. Kinda like the 4th of July but only 12 weeks worth of it. Cobra gunships would fly over our positions and we would cheer them on, and we knew our time was coming soon. We were ready to become killers.

This is a picture of the a platoon in Alpha Company I was attached to, I am on the far left with the M-60 on my shoulder. I was once a smiling laughing person, but that all went away. We all became harbingers of death.  We were dug in on the border doing patrols and preparing for a tank attack and were dug in for tanks. A fighter jet dropped its bomb rack behind us about 2 or 3 in the morning, and some of the bombs were cluster bomb units....the explosion was like the size of a football field or two. Talk about sitting up and almost losing everything...and I don't mean from your mouth.  We thought the Iraqi army was attacking us. We had been on 75% alert for about two weeks and sleep was like getting gold. But at least the pilot didn't drop it on our lines. I forget how close, but too damn close is about right. The day came finally and on Feb 23 1990 we launched the ground war against the Iraqi troops. We had mentally prepared for World War 1 style trench warfare. A lot of us did not think we would be coming back. I had sharpened all of my knives and my entrenchment tool not for digging but for close hand to hand combat in the trenches. We all prayed in circles on that dark black night, and the feeling was nothing like I have ever felt before, I felt I was closer to God than ever before, because I was fixing to meet him soon. Fear is something that makes some people run, and some people cowards, but we all stood up and were all ready to fight to the death. Then you become somewhat crazy afterwards. We chased the fear.  In our breach zone, the 2nd Marine Division was the spearhead, and 1st Battalion 6th Marines were designated as the tip of the spear. Alpha company was the very tip of that spear that I was attached to and the AAV I was in was the very right flank, the end of the line. So we would be the very first ones into everything and get the initial welcome from the fun loving Saddam's Iraqi elite army waiting for us .  While moving forward  in the mine field lanes the engineers made for us, we were hit with various mortar and artillery fire. None of us could see (inside the AAV) and for awhile and we all thought that everything was out going, when in fact it was incoming. A mortar round hit our tracks on our AAV but did no harm. Eventually we came across the enemy and had a few small fire fights, and cleared endless trenches.  Then the Gas! Gas! Gas! alarm came in and we all went into combat in MOP level 4, which trust me sucks. Going into combat in to enemy fire into trenches wearing a gas mask and protective not the way to die. We took a few causalities, but believe me we caused 1000 times more on the enemies side, they were so scared of us, they were tearing up their mattress sheets and waving them at us in surrender, but left their damn AK's slung on their shoulders. One morning as the sun came up,  I looked up and seen about 400 or so Iraqi surrendering to our right flank...they clearly out numbered us, but they were surrendering to us. Me and a few others, took them prisoner. I think I had a 400 round bandoleer attached to my gun, one for each roughly, if their weapons did not hit the ground. I do not know how to speak Iraqi, and they do not speak English, but they do understand the language of a 7.62mm machine gun going off over their heads, and then they seen the light and started dropping their rifles. I let them keep their bed sheet. That same morning, after that incident, I went back to my hasty machine gun pit, and noticed that I had dug right beside a unexploded missile. I mean I barely missed it, digging in the dark. That was not the last time I dug into unexploded ordnance. Overall, we took about 10.000 prisoners in our Battalion alone but just pointed " go that way". The enemy started firing artillery at us from time to time, and we had some more small fire fights that ended really fast. A few tank battles here and there that ended fast, and even a few fake artillery positions.  In my AAV I was the machine gunner on the right flank of the company, and I had no spotter or team leader, I was both. I had 2 ammo men that carried my barrel bag and rounds, I only had about 3000 rounds to last who knew how long. I was a good machine gunner and pretty good at hitting my target fast. I had borrowed extra machine gun parts from a armour friend, so my gun would not go down in a fire know a few extra firing pins...the most common thing that broke on a machine gun. If your operating rod broke, then you were...screwed, and that is where the 9mm and entrenchment tool came into play. As far as the rounds,  I only went though about half my rounds luckily. The platoon I was attached to was just like every other platoon, but it was chaotic on the battlefield at times, I had to clear a few trenches by myself here and there because the rifle squads would all of a sudden split up and leave a trench open. We started blowing up ordnance that we found underground, but stopped when some of the caches turned up chemical artillery rounds.  We found out that we were facing an Iraqi army mostly of cowards, when we expected fierce resistance and all the stories we heard about the powerful Iraqi army....just was not our luck. We were fighting their militia troops while the Republican guard were on the run.  Death was everywhere, the smell of death was everywhere. I remember while we were moving through the oil fields, it was so dark that you could not see your hand in front of your face, and you could not see we did not move at night. At night is when they would start shelling us , but were mostly hitting us in the rear, because they had no idea where we were at, and where firing off their artillery aimlessly. I was like "why dig in?" no one could see us, then a FROG missile landed near us and exploded...out came the entrenchment tool. You never forget the horrors of war, things you see, people you kill, body parts everywhere, screaming and burning flesh. War changes you. It stays with you everyday for the rest of your life. Desert Storm was nothing like Vietnam (no where close), we did not have a lot of casualties, but we killed so many of the enemy, that we wiped them out for the next war, because they never recovered from their losses going into the 2nd Gulf War, which helped out in the taking of strength and armor strength. Some Iraqi Divisions were completely wiped out.  I was no desert hero, just a warrior doing what I joined to do, be in the infantry. I read too many Vietnam stories, and watched too much John Wayne...I knew who I was and why I was a US Marine. So moving on,  We took trench after trench until we had taken all the enemy trench lines in our sector front and finally stopped with a seize fire. We dug in and were in the same spot for about 2 or 3 months and they named our battalion the forgot battalion because we were so far forward, and no one would relieve us, eventually a tent city developed around our parameter. While there, I captured an Egyptian defecting. I also while digging in a machine gun bunker hit a mine. Thank God it was a Tank mine, so I removed it and placed it out of the way and marked it.  Finally we went back to the rear and rode down the Highway of Death  and those imagines never leave you. It was a blood bath everywhere you looked. I remember when we finally got home, the first thing I remember was seeing green, green trees, green grass....because for a long time, all we seen was sand and blood and smoke....but you never forget those days, ever. I was proud to serve as a United States Marine in the Infantry as a Machine gunner, and would do it over and over again. 

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