30th Anniversary of Operation Desert Storm:
American Jewish Service Members in the Gulf War
U.S. Army, 1st Lieutenant Steven Fixler, Executive Officer (XO), Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor, “Iron Tigers”, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, 7th Corps, West Germany
Member JWV Post #54 (Lombard, IL) and JWV Gulf War Committee
We got the word in November, when President Bush announced that he was sending two armored divisions from Germany to Saudi Arabia. We had already started to do some preparations prior to the announcement, but once we got the word, we were in full swing.
We sent our tanks and track vehicles via trains, up to Bremerhaven and then drove our wheeled vehicles up there. They would all go on a ship to Saudi Arabia.
On December 31, 1990, we flew from Germany to Saudi Arabia. After we landed, we went to Khobar Towers in Al Khobar. Once our vehicles arrived in Saudi Arabia, we took them into the desert. Our Assembly Area was south of the town of Hafar Al Batin, which is just south of the Iraqi border. While we were there, we prepared our supplies and equipment and trained for the attack into Iraq.
I had never lived in a desert before. We got there in January, so it was not that hot, but it did rain a little. There are no trees, which means no shade and the ground was flat and mainly hard and you could see for miles. At night you could see the lights from the town of Hafar Al Batin, but they were many miles away. There was not the deep sand like in the Sahara Desert.
Sandstorms would come and go during the day and night. You could never predict when they were going to happen. You always had to have your equipment covered just in case one came in quickly. When they came in, you covered your face with a bandana or something and you wore goggles. Usually, all activity stopped until the sandstorm passed through.
Though I am an Armor Officer (Tanker), at the time of Desert Storm, I was the Headquarters Company XO. I was second in command of the headquarters company working in the Field Trains. The Field Trains are right behind the forward units and move supplies forward to them like food, gas, water, and ammunition and will also do vehicle maintenance.
When the Ground Campaign began, on February 24, I was in the 1st Armored Division, part of 7th Corps. We conducted the now famous Left Hook. I had my Field Trains in formation (as part of the Brigade Support Area) and we moved forward. When we started to move, there was a sandstorm, and I told my vehicle commanders to watch the vehicle in front of you very closely and keep moving slowly. Over the radio, I talked to my vehicle commanders to keep them together. Eventually the sandstorm moved out of the area. On the first night of the attack, we stopped seven miles inside Iraq.
Every day and night we continued to move forward. When we stopped temporarily, I would walk around our perimeter and ensured everything was secured. During the attack, my Field Trains pushed fuel forward to our vehicles every day and did some quick maintenance to keep the vehicles running. We also watched helicopters and aircraft attack the Iraqi Army positions along with our artillery firing in the distance. We passed many destroyed and burning Iraqi Army vehicles.
During the attack, we did not have time to eat a hot meal, so we ate a lot of Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MREs). There’s turkey, beef, chicken, spaghetti and other foods in a pouch and you can heat it up or eat it cold. There are also crackers and candy along with fruit. Each MRE was different from the others. We also had mini cans of Chef Boyardee that we heated up. (The Chef Boyardee was good, but I cannot ever eat it again.)
On February 28, day five of the attack, we received the word that the Iraqis had accepted a cease fire. At that time, we were located at the border of Iraq at the northwest corner of Kuwait. We established defensive positions and waited for the official word that the war was over, which came on March 2.
For the next couple of weeks, we repositioned a little, but stayed in the desert. In April, we moved back into Saudi Arabia but again stayed in the desert. In this Assembly Area, we cleaned up and prepared to leave Saudi Arabi.
It was in April that it really got hot. We buried water bottles in the sand inside our tents to keep them cool. It was great when we received ice. But the sandstorms kept coming. They could be so blinding that you could not see anything, and it would be 100 degrees outside.
After the Iraqis set off the Kuwaiti oil fires, we could only see the fires when we drove into Kuwait, but we always saw the smoke. The smoke was so thick, that during the day at 12 noon, it looked like 12 midnight. The smoke was a dark oily kind of smoke with little particles in it. When the smoke was over us, we again had to cover our face, wear goggles and you could not eat or do laundry or anything. When the wind shifted, it blew the smoke over the Persian Gulf and out of our area, which was a great relief.
At the end of April, we moved back to Khobar Towers. On May 3 and 4, we flew back to Germany. When we arrived at our barracks in Erlangen, we were greeted by friends and family.
Operation Desert Storm was certainly an experience. An experience that I’ll never forget and I, along with everyone else, am very proud to have been a part of it.