The Officer January/February 2011 : Page 70

After 20 yeArs, Desert storm’s influence continues to impAct citizen WArriors’ operAtionAl posture AnD policies. By freD minnicK Fred Minnick, a former staff sergeant and public affairs officer for the Kentucky Army National Guard, is a professional journalist and photographer and is author of camera Boy: An Army Journalist’s War in iraq. He lives in Louisville, Ky. 70 the O fficer / J anuary –f ebruary 2011

Reserve Resolve

Fred Minnick

After 20 yeArs, Desert storm’s influence continues to impAct citizen Warriors’ operAtionAl posture AnD policies.

Fred Minnick, a former staff sergeant and public affairs officer for the Kentucky Army National Guard, is a professional journalist and photographer and is author of camera Boy: An Army Journalist’s War in iraq. He lives in Louisville, Ky.

Wisconsin Guardsman LTC Juan Flores distinctly remembers the sounds of Scud missiles. An Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, he said they were as loud as Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” a boisterous mixture of exploding fireworks and music.

Whether the Scuds exploded or were intercepted by Patriot missiles, these effective ballistic missiles instilled fear throughout the troops in Operation Desert Storm, especially after the Army Reserve 14th Quartermaster Detachment suffered 13 fatalities and 43 wounded in a Scud attack Feb. 25, 1991.

LTC Flores said he believes that, because of the Scuds, he faced more danger serving in the first conflict than he did when he returned to Kuwait in 2005–2006 and Baghdad in 2009.

“Combat operations were winding down in 2005, 2006, and 2009, and I felt personally really safe as opposed to didn’t feel quite so safe in ‘90–’91, with all the Scud missiles that were flying,” said LTC Flores, who served with the 13th Evacuation Hospital in Desert Storm and support elements of the 32nd Infantry Brigade in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “But we didn’t have terrorist activity in the first one either.”

Scuds and terrorists were two glaring differences between the conflicts for veterans like him, who served in both campaigns.

Desert Storm, now 20 years past, shaped much of the Reserve Components’ future.

Soldiers and strategists now can reflect on the largest callup of reserve service members since World War II and truly see how Citizen Warriors, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen proved they were ready to fight—and continue to do so today.

From Strategic to operational

The Iraqi Republican Guard seized control of Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990. As the United Nations condemned the act and President George H.W. Bush demanded “immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces,” U.S. military personnel prepared for war.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush’s security advisers and military members debated the role of the Reserve Component. During Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson ignored his defense secretary’s recommendations to call up the reserves, and many politicians still feared the backlash of calling up Citizen Soldiers in 1990.

“The big, heated debate was active military leaders did not think civilians would ever call the reservist for political reasons,” said Stephen M. Duncan, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs during Desert Storm and author of Citizen Warriors: America’s National Guard and Reserve Forces & the Politics of National Security.

Policy was a consideration as well. In Title 10, Section 673b, of the U.S. Code, Congress authorized the president to call up reserve units for operational missions for 90 days.

Mr. Duncan said the war could not be fought without reserve forces, despite political concerns. They had to change the 90 days’ activation time, he said.

“If it’s only 90 days, depending upon where they’re being sent, combat commanders aren’t going to be enthusiastic about that. By the time [reservists] get trained to see if they’re ready to go, it’s shipment time,” Mr. Duncan said. “Nobody wants to have a force that’s trained and ready to go, but you only get to use them for 30 days.”

An amendment to that section, however, allowed the president to call up the reserves for 180 days and then another 180 days.

Readiness was another concern. Many Vietnam veterans still in the military recalled the National Guard and reserve Soldiers as soft and undisciplined. Also, some people used the Guard as a hiding place from the draft. Even GEN Norman Schwarzkopf said reserve Soldiers were not ready.

“Active leaders were amazingly uninformed about how good most of the Reserve Components were, because those four stars were still thinking of the reserves as they existed during Vietnam,” Mr. Duncan said.

That mindset did not necessarily change after Mr. Bush deployed more than 22,000 reserve Soldiers by the end of September 1990, including 4,500 from the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Mechanized Infantry Brigade.

The 48th was scheduled to augment the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division, GEN Schwarzkopf ’s former command, but struggled to become combat-qualified at the National Training Center (NTC) in Fort Irwin, Calif. According to a June 1991 Time article, the 48th set a record for the most time spent at NTC.

When the 24th was sent to the Persian Gulf region on Nov. 30, 1990, the 48th was still not ready. They would not be qualified until Feb. 28, the day the war ended.

Mr. Duncan said the 48th’s struggles were a surprise.

“[Prior to NTC], all the Army tests showed that they were ready,” Mr. Duncan said. “We later found out that they were ready because they had only been tested on their home ranges, where they practiced year after year.”

Although they were not ready for Desert Storm, the fact that a Reserve Component brigade could even qualify for combat was considered a success. “The fact that we got the 48th ready to go in 120 days is great because in World War II, it took over a year,” said LTG James W. Crystal, former commander of the Second U.S. Army, in a 1991 House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Furthermore, as policy scholar Eliot A. Cohen wrote: “The story of the 48th and the two other roundout brigades (which were even less ready for war) was but a small part of a much larger and successful story of the Gulf War reserve call-up.”

Indeed, the president had called up more than 228,000 Active Component service members. By most accounts, the active duty commanders were pleased with their Reserve Component units.

“Reservists activated to support forces during Desert Storm validated the Total Force concept. Most reservists arrived well-trained from previous annual training periods in theater, and were fully and easily integrated into day-to-day operations in minimum time,” wrote ADM J. T. Howe, commander in-chief of U. S. Naval Forces Europe, in Quick Look First Impressions Report, March 20, 1991.

In fact, most commanding officers shared ADM Howe’s respect for Reserve Component service members and, after Desert Storm, politicians knew they could depend on Citizen Warriors. It’s a respect many have earned for two decades in multiple conflicts.

Retired COL Allen Irish served as an Army Reservist in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He remembers the negative perception being washed away after Desert Storm.

“The take-away from Desert Storm was that there was a lot of trepidation about using the Reserve Component, because it really hadn’t been done since World War II, and there was a lot of worry that it would not be politically acceptable and the American people would be opposed to doing that,” COL Irish said. “You saw that fall down after Desert Storm.”

The Go-To Force

Not only would negative feelings about the Reserve Component dramatically decrease, the reserve would become an operational necessity.

In the years following the quick defeat of the Iraqi army, Reserve Component service members would be used more. For long periods of time, reservists and Guard members would serve in Operations Bright Star, New Horizons, Joint Guard, Joint Forge, Joint Guardian, and Stabilise, and would conduct intensive active-duty-like training at the NTC and Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. They no longer trained only at their home bases, a lesson learned from the 48th.

But these operations and valuable training missions would never have been possible if reservists were not effectively deployed for Desert Storm. Title 10 had changed; politicians’ anxiety about using reservists had eased; and Active Components saw the benefits of using reservists.

Retired LTC Scott Rutter, a Silver Star recipient and battalion commander of Medal of Honor winner SFC Paul Smith, said he cannot imagine fighting the current wars without the help of Reserve Components.

“I think that the Guard and Reserves and their roles in Iraq and Afghanistan were definitely a combat-multiplier because of the skill sets,” said LTC Rutter, who returned to Iraq as a FOX News contributor in 2004.

Wisconsin’s LTC Flores said he saw a dramatic rise in appreciation, if not demand, for the expertise and work ethic of Guard members. “There’s always going to be the internal rivalry, but you see [that] in any family,” he said. “When it comes down to it, the Active Components truly do appreciate the Reserve and National Guard units.”

In addition to giving the U.S. government better access to reserve Soldiers, Desert Storm gave better communications to the military of the Operation Iraqi Freedom era.

According to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, in Desert Storm, the military longhaul communications system was supplemented by commercial systems.

The demand for bandwidth exceeded the supply and called for better planning and asset integration. By 2003, communications had improved, resulting in reliable on-demand communications and reduced in-theater footprint for communications assets.

LTC Rutter said the technological advancements from Desert Storm to Iraqi Freedom made them different wars, but it still came down to individual training.

“In both conflicts, we still trained for what we were taught at the National Training Center, and we did our gate training strategy throughout, training at squad, platoon, and company levels,” he said. “There were some very similar things in post-combat. But in the latter part— and that’s where it became a little bit different—the nonconventional fight, the smaller-unit delay tactics that were being executed by the Fedayeen and the Iraqi Special Republican Guard in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was much different than what we executed in Desert Storm.”


More than seven years after troops entered Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom, pundits frequently debate the time leading up to the war.

In 2004, Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush and a retired Air Force lieutenant general, said that the administration of President George W. Bush overreacted to the threat of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

“We are maybe not paying enough attention to other problems in the world that have nothing to do with terrorism, but are really significant,” he told a reporter.

Nonetheless, the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.

Mr. Duncan said he also has some concerns. “What struck me was that insufficient hard questions were asked about: ‘Okay we’re sending troops into Iraq. Let’s assume we take over Baghdad. Then what?’ Nobody asked, ‘Then what?’” he said. “I was amazed at, for all the good planning that went into some of the combat issues, that there happened to be very insufficient planning for what happens next.”

LTC Rutter agreed. He said the quick transition needs to be war-gamed and analyzed. “The decentralized operations, where you’d have a company that’s working in a specific province, they may be making those long-term decisions that are out there that reflect the rest of the area,” he said. “Those type of lessons need to get into future training strategies. A balance between civil affairs and the security involvement, coupled with the other part of it, the traditional blocking and tackling at the NTC, is needed.”

As for how the Reserve Component is used in the future, Mr. Duncan said he fears the U.S. government is using the Guard and Reserve too much. He said that despite reservists performing superbly, Congress must be careful not to take advantage of the reserve for budgetary reasons.

“They’re there if it’s really an emergency and a vital national interest, but we’ve got to be very careful about using Guards members and reservists as just a cheap pool of available manpower, highly qualified manpower but a cheap pool of available manpower-” Mr. Duncan said.

LTC Flores said he believes there is a role in the current conflicts for the Guard and Reserve. “We’re there to back them up, to assist them, to fill them out as needed,” he said. “We’re not overused as the National Guard and Reserve, certainly not to the extent that the Active Components are used. Ultimately, that becomes a question for our civilian leaders. We follow what they tell us to do.”

Equipment Evolution

Companies have adapted and evolved with the changing military over the past two decades.

Not only have troops on the battlefield, missions, and locations changed in the 20 years since Operation Desert Storm; the progress, technology, and advances over the last two decades have also heavily impacted the defense industry. Overall, the impact has been an evolution of technology, but it also has been a preservation of the best parts of equipment and material that troops use in the field today.

ROA STARs member Oshkosh hit the ground in Iraq 20 years ago with its Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) and hasn’t looked back since.

“That was our big truck; we made it in several variants, and it picked up the moniker during Desert Storm of “ship of the desert,” because it was almost the only truck on the battlefield that could go where the M1 tank and the M2 Bradley [Fighting Vehicle] could go,” said Mike Ivy, vice president and general manager of Army programs for Oshkosh. “It was an incredible vehicle that really, because of its mobility in that kind of terrain, was able to sustain maneuver forces where maneuver forces needed to go on the battlefield.”

At the time, he said, the HEMTT was almost the only offering from Oshkosh, but they were just beginning production of their Palletized Load System truck as well.

In addition, Oshkosh was producing the Logistics Vehicle System for the Marines.

Today, Oshkosh continues its efforts with the HEMTT-A4, a modern version of the HEMTT with a 500 horsepower engine that makes it faster than ever. In addition, the Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) A1 is the primary transporter of the M1A1 main battle tank. Oshkosh’s most recent addition is the all-terrain M-ATV vehicle.

“The common thread across all fleets that we manufacture is the increased survivability that we now offer in our logistics vehicle platform,” Mr. Ivy said.


Boeing, another STARs member, is also a company whose products have evolved with the times, but at the same time, has stayed with the systems that work.

The A-10 aircraft is a perfect example. Originally designed for the Cold War to fight massive soviet tanks on the battlefield, the A-10 was a go-to for close air support.

“One of the key things, and that’s the part that I think people don’t understand, is the degree of survivability,” said Bill Moorefield, Boeing’s A-10 program manager.

“It’s one of the only platforms that was specifically designed to fight a close-air support down in treetop leveltype war and survive it.”

For the A-10, which was on its way to retirement before Iraq invaded Kuwait, its performance in Desert Storm saved its life.

The airplane was literally built around its 30mm gun, which provides close air support precision that can’t be had with most ordinance dropped from higher altitudes.

From its gun to its sound, it’s one of the most feared planes by the enemy. And it has bridged the gap between Desert Storm and today’s conflicts.

“It is the most requested aircraft for close air support in Afghanistan today,” Mr. Moorefield said. “As soon as [the enemy] sees the A-10, they run.

Extremely maintainable, the aircraft does not have a lot of avionics and a heavy software element. But since Desert Storm, he added, it’s still a smarter airplane.

“It has the best of both worlds: the ability to still go and engage with an improved avionics suite and precision engagement,” Mr. Moorefield added.


Also from Boeing, the F-18 has seen some changes over the years as well, but is still a go-to aircraft. Larry Sellman, Boeing director of F-18 support, said that collaboration wasn’t as much a priority 20 years ago. Instead, Boeing received its requirements from the Navy and then produced what was requested from the volumes of paper and technical data.

The aircraft itself is almost completely different as well.

In 1990 and 1991, Boeing was producing what it now calls its legacy F-18 Hornet.

It had been in production since the early 1980s and had been in the fleet long enough that the Navy had a large number of the aircraft.

“[It] was really quite a significant upgrade in capability from what they would have had in previous conflicts, because now they had an aircraft, with the legacy Hornet, that is both and air-to-air and air-to-ground—a true multirole aircraft,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing program manager for the F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet. “It was an easy aircraft to maintain, [and was 30 percent cheaper to operate].”

The Navy still flies the legacy Hornet, but has evolved in the 20 years as well.

“We’re producing a different aircraft now—it’s still called the F-18, but it’s a Super Hornet,” Mr. Gibbons said. “It’s a much larger aircraft … [and has] a couple of significant capability improvements over the legacy Hornet.”

For starters, it’s bigger, with a longer range and larger payload. It’s a two-seat aircraft and was designed with stealth features and a low radar cross-sections, so it’s more difficult to detect.

“It was designed with a lot of growth for additional capabilities that beyond just the stealth the payload and the range,” Mr. Gibbons said. “That’s really what’s being taken advantage of ia lot in the conflict these days.”

Now in theater is the Super Hornet Block 2, which has a greater sensor capability, primarily with the AESA radars.


With Desert Storm, the last major mounted warfare for the Army, STARs partner DRS Technologies was there, and still is, with its wide array of products to help Soldiers in the field.

“You might say the Abrams tank, as an example, assisted DRS’ success [in Desert Storm], said Ron Johnson, DRS vice president of land warfare systems. “Our tanks’ ability to see through dust clouds and engage Iraqis at great range is thanks to DRS’ [gun] site.”

With the success of the tanks in Desert Storm, he added that it increased the need for more transporters to haul tanks as well.

One of the keys to DRS’ success, he said, has been products that provide efficiency.

“The U.S. Army went through a big drawdown, and they looked for things to do more efficiently,” he said.

One of the big innovations was the Force Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) communication device, which DRS makes the hardware for.

“It basically shares your location, enemy location, various vital statistics across, and basically makes the information available on various platforms,” Mr. Johnson said. “Also, going across the desert, they knew that it really reinforced the issues of hauling fuel long distances, so fuel efficiency has become of great interest to the Army.”

He said the need to save fuel has driven a number of innovations, with generators and environmental control units.

“DRS has got a strong legacy in environmental control units,” Johnson said. “The newest generation that’s out is used in field hospitals is much more fuel efficient than the older ones.”

He also added that the Army is now more Soldier oriented than platform oriented. It’s a change that has occurred over the last 20 years and is an area in which DRS has continued to adapt.

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