5th Cavalry Regiment
Persian Gulf War
In August 1990, the 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for deployment to Southwest Asia as part of the joint forces participating in Operation Desert Shield. The focus at that time was the defense of Saudi Arabia against potential Iraqi attack. The First Team soldiers flew from Robert Gray Army Airfield to Dhahran International Airport via Paris, France and Cairo, Egypt. There, they settled into warehouses and tents to await the arrival of their equipment. As soon as their equipment arrived, they moved to the remote Assembly Area Horse (AA Horse) in the Saudi desert 160 miles west of the airport.
By the end of three months intensive training, the 1st Cavalry Division was one of the most modern and powerfully equipped divisions in the Army. The first glimpse of their capability came in December 1990, on the division's Pegasus Range which had been built up from the sands of the Saudi desert. Every tank and Bradley crew test fired their new weapons as part of the new equipment transition training. Throughout this period, leaders of the division were planning and rehearsing the First Team's role as the theater counterattack force - the force that would defeat any Iraqi attack into Saudi Arabia.
Defense in the Wadi 14 Jan 1991
In January 1991, the division was attached to VII (US) Corps and the focus of the First Team clearly began to shift toward offensive action. The division moved its 17,000 soldiers who were now accustomed to "jumping", 500 kilometers to another assembly area near King Khalid Military City (KKMC) in northern Saudi Arabia. This repositioning put the division in a key strategic location covering the historic Wadi al Batin approach into Saudi Arabia and threatening Iraq along the same avenue into western Kuwait, completing defensive preparations along the Tapline Road. The 1st Brigade tied in with the 6th (French) Light Division to the left and the 2nd Brigade along with the 101st Airborne Division to the right.
The First Team began a calculated war of deception along the Saudi border. The goal was to lure Saddam Hussein into believing the main ground attack of the Allies would come up the Wadi al Batin, a natural invasion route, causing him to reposition additional forces there. The deception consisted of three major thrusts; The First Team's Multiple Launched Rocket Systems (MLRS) repeatedly lit the sky, battering targets deep in Iraq. Cannon batteries fired Copperhead rounds (computer controlled, rocket assisted projectiles) and thousands of high explosive along with improved conventional munitions into Iraq. The Aviation Brigade flew obstacle reduction and serial reconnaissance missions, identified, screened, and designated targets for destruction by the division's artillery units.
Deception in the Wadi 20 Feb 1991
During 7 - 20 February, the offensive lines of the 1st Cavalry Division have crept north and are now just below the border. Both of the 1st and 2nd Brigades and supporting artillery conduct reconnaissance, artillery raids, and "Berm Buster" obstacle reduction missions. Desert Storm's "First" major ground encounter was on 19/20 February 1991, when the division's 2nd (Blackjack) Brigade, commanded by COL Randy House, conducted OPERATION KNIGHT STRIKE I, named for the "Black Knights" 1st Battalion 5th Cavalry. Moving 10 kilometers into Iraq, Alpha Company made contact. The Bradleys laid a base of fire while the tank companies raced up. The task force savagely destroyed an Iraq battalion in only minutes.
Then KNIGHT STRIKE turned ugly. Rounds came in while Alpha Company and the scouts were taking prisoners. The tanks of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry regained firepower superiority while Charlie Company moved up to help with the prisoners. Shortly before 0200 the task force withdrew under the cover of an artillery smoke screen. That night and for the next four days ending with the start of the ground war offensive, heavy air strikes pounded the Wadi.
After thirty-eight days of continuous air attacks on targets in Iraq and Kuwait, the commander of the Allied Forces, General Norman Schwarzkopf unleashed all-out attacks against Iraqi forces very early on 24 February 1991. On that day, the mission of the 1st Cavalry Division was to conduct a "feint" attack up the Wadi al Batin, creating the illusion that it was the Allies main ground attack.
Operation Deep Strike
On the opening days of the ground war, 24 - 25 February, the Blackjack Brigade, supported by the Aviation Brigade Apache helicopters, in OPERATION QUICK STRIKE, moved into Iraq on a "reconnaissance in force". The 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, reinforced by Battery A, 21st Field Artillery Multiple Launched Rocket Systems (MLRS) laid down heavy fire in support of the 2nd "Blackjack" Brigade's "feint" attack up the Wadi al Batin. Blackjack moved out promptly at 1700, moving north in a limited attack to fix the enemy's focus on the Wadi. Blackjack moved forward reaching the enemy fire trenches, hundreds of meters long, filled with burning oil. Clouds of acid oil smoke and flying sand reduced visibility. The Knights attacked straight at the fire trenches. Copperhead rounds destroyed four enemy tanks and a ZSU 23-4 antiaircraft gun. Apache helicopters came in low, forming in battle lines, engaging with 30mm cannon and Hellfire Missiles. On the 25th, about noon, General Tilelli ordered the brigade back. They withdrew south to rejoin the division for the subsequent series of final attacks. Meanwhile, far to the west, the VII Corps and the XVIII Airborne had already begun a deep strike into Iraq.
The enemy reacted as anticipated. Iraqi divisions focused on the coalition threat in the Wadi, and the First Team froze them. The deception worked, in that it tied down four Iraqi divisions, leaving their flanks thinned and allowed the VII Corps to attack virtually unopposed, conducting a successful envelopment of Iraqi forces to the west.
Having fulfilled their assigned mission of deception, the following day, General Norman Schwarzkopf issued the command "Send in the First Team. Destroy the Republican Guard. Let's go home". At 1000 26 February, in the approximate center of the allied line, along the Wadi al Batin, MG John H. Tilelli, Jr.'s 1st Cavalry Division swung west, conducting refueling on the move, crossing the 1st Infantry Division breach sites and moving up the left side of VII Corps' sector by late 26 February, and attacked north into a concentration of Iraqi divisions, whose commanders remained convinced that the Allies would use the Wadi al Batin and several other wadies as avenues of attack.
Destroy the Republican Guard
The first enemy encountered was the Iraqi 27th Infantry Division. That was not their first meeting. General Tilelli's division had actually been probing the Iraqi defenses for some time. As these limited thrusts continued in the area that became known as the "Ruqi Pocket". The 1st Cavalry found and destroyed elements of five Iraqi divisions, evidence that they had succeeded in their theater reserve mission of drawing and holding enemy units.
By mid afternoon 27 February, after a high-speed 190 mile (305 Km) move north and east, slicing into the enemy's rear, General Tilelli's brigades joined in with the 24th Division across the VII Corps' boundary. The dust storms had cleared early in the day, revealing the most awesome array of armored and mechanized power fielded since World War II. In a panorama extending beyond visual limits 1,500 tanks, another 1,500 Bradleys and armored personnel carriers, 650 artillery pieces, and supply columns of hundreds of vehicles stretching into the dusty brown distance rolled east through Iraqi positions, as inexorable as a lava flow.
By 28 February 1991, when the cease-fire ordered by President Bush went into effect, the Iraqis had lost 3,847 of their 4,280 tanks, over half of their 2,880 armored personnel carriers, and nearly all of their 3,100 artillery pieces. Only five to seven of their forty-three combat divisions remained capable of offensive operations. In the days after the cease-fire the busiest soldiers were those engaged in the monumental task of counting and caring for an estimated 60,000 prisoners.
Stand Down After Cease Fire
1st Cavalry Division units setup defensive positions where the cease-fire had stopped the attack, then in its final mission, expanded north to "Highway 8" clearing bunkers and looking for enemy equipment and soldiers. The 1st (Ironhorse) Brigade stretched through the historic Euphrates River Valley. On 13 March, the Ironhorse Brigade crossed the border berm the last time and moved south into Saudi Arabia and the new assembly area (AA) Killeen. There on the plain of the Wadi al Batin, Operation Desert Storm was over - the Cavalry began to prepare for redeployment home.
The First Team emerged from the Gulf:
"First" to defend along the Saudi-Iraq border.
"First" to fire Copperhead artillery rounds in combat.
"First" to conduct intensive MLRS artillery raids.
"First" to conduct mobile armored warfare in Iraq.