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Tracings in the Sand

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Steve Elshere

Date Posted:February 13, 2000
Email Address:Not Disclosed
Personal Website:Not Disclosed

It's been nine years nearly and I'm still there on days. I was prior Army and joined the Marines in 1989. I was assigned to 1stBn, 8th Marines (Inf). in July1990. I was a courier in the gulf near Al Jubail (SA) and north into Kuwait City later on. During the ground war our Bravo command group Amtrac broke down, (something about losing a track on a mine). My softback HUMVEE had radios in it so I was loaded up with Capt Roberts (S-3) and the (S-2A, can't remember his name). With an M-1 ahead of me I was one of the first vehicles to cross the minefield breaches; we needed HUMINT right away. The enemy was right there, some still had weapons and we needed that info. We searched the first POW's and I realized these poor bastards had been abandoned by their country. I was mad at that. One older Iraqi was an Iran/Iraq war vet whose leg had never healed, he was crippled in his 60's. It dawned on me these were people, not some abject thought anymore. They'd pile their things on the ground, photos etc. No I didn't feel sorry for them, but I felt human toward them.

That night 24thFeb91, we ran into stiff resistance near (UmGuadir Airbase). The wind had shifted and against the smokecloud twenty miles away coming our direction, we could see artillary tubes pointing at us a mile or so away. The POW intell had paid off, one had slipped to us that this emplacement was there and he "didn't think" they'd fight. They fired spoiling fire, (or they couldn't hit crap) at us. We had an artillery battery attached to us and they set up six tubes. Pretty much dropped the 155's off of the 6x6 trucks and started tearing into them one volley after another and so on, this lasted into the late night, we had fanned out to the front of the tubes. One vivid memory is a East Bloc 122mm howitzer flying up into the sky. It looked like a telephone pole I thought it twisted a hundred feet or so in the air and hit. I thought,"man, that's really close", a couple of times, seemed like their fire had been sporadic after we started hitting them directly. Like they were just firing hoping they'd hit something.

The 25thFeb1991 started early, the 24th just, sort of blended. At around 0400, through the burning oil well smoke our lead elements could see on a North/South MSR (main service road) a brigade size enemy armor element heading due South pretty closed up and tight,(good indication they couldn't see in the smoke having to make such close visual with the vehicle ahead). In addition to the 155's, our BLT was reinforced with 14 M1A1 tanks from USMCR in Yakima,WA. After positive identification and the thumbs up, the M1's opened fire on the column of 30 or so tanks and 40 or so personnel carriers. Between the art'y, tanks and Combined Anti Armor Teams (CAAT=TOW,MK19,50cal each on armor HUMVEE) it was silent except for rounds cooking off in the burning tanks;in around 11 minutes. "We are making history", I thought. We took around 700 POW's early that morning. During interrogation two hours later their Commander, an Iraqi Colonel said, "we didn't see you, the tank in front of me blew up, then behind me, then I jump off mine". (He had lost his staff, all of them, and around 3,000 of his troops, in 11 minutes). I was beginning to understand this was a war, no damned nice stuff about it at all. This battle was/is known as the reveille engagement. The S-3 had unloaded near the M-1's ( I snapped a photo Capt Parkinson, the tank det Cmdr). Somebody came up and I was sent into the smoke, alone, to find three Iraqis who were too wounded to move. One was lying on his stomach, his rear was blown away, he was dying. There was one who was missing his right arm, it had a tourniquet. The third was dead I loaded number two up. Every time I would hit a bump he would scream. He had defacated and smelled horrible. I got turned around in the smoke and couldn't find my way back. They tried guiding my way in but I couldn't navigate, no terrain, my tracks were, by then ran over. This guy was screaming and going in and out of shock. I nearly ran into an AAV in the smoke, they gave me a solid compass heading, (they had GPS). I got back to the main Battalion CP where the gun tubes still were, they had set up concertina wire up under the front of the 8 or so howitzers, where the remnants of the Iraqi Brigade sat. As soon as the Corpsmen had taken my "passenger", the S-1 jumped in and wanted me to take him up to where the battle had taken place and "lead in" more POW's. He got out and walked beside the Iraqi Colonel, flanked on either side by Marines, they I pulled alond a cratered road slowly looking into craters for enemy, a Toyota pickup pulled across the front of me a couple hundred feet away. A man jumped out in tan coveralls with someting wrapped in clear plastic. The end of it pointed at me and I froze staring at the softball-sized opening on it. I grabbed my M-16 and left the vehicle (still moving). I hit the ground in a prone position and sighted in on him, I flipped my safety off just as he turned sideways. He had unwrapped his TV camera...I was glad. But pissed. Meanwhile the HUMVEE rolled to a stop. I got in and don't think anyone behind me even slowed down walking behind 50 yards or so.

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