DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview
LTC Frank D. Ellis
Interview Conducted 15 March 1991 near Rafha, Northern Province, Saudi Arabia
Interviewer: MAJ Robert B. Honec, III (116th Military History Detachment)
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 068
MAJ HONEC: This is an Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interview. My name is MAJ Robert B. Honec of the 116th Military History Detachment. I am here today with the 20th Engineer Battalion, right outside of Rafha, Saudi Arabia, with LTC Ellis. For the record, sir, would you state your full name, Social Security Number, unit of assignment, duty position.
LTC ELLIS: My name is Frank B. Ellis; ***-**-****; LTC; 20th Engineer Battalion; battalion commander.
MAJ HONEC: During this operation have you been in that same duty position?
LTC ELLIS: I have been commander of the battalion the entire time.
MAJ HONEC: Starting with deployment, with alert to deployment, would you please discuss some of the command issues that you faced with deploying the troops from Fort Campbell, [Kentucky].
LTC ELLIS: The initial ... initial notification to many units was somewhat confusing. Everybody was notified at about the same time. We did not know when we were going, if we were going. Actually, my biggest issue was the two detachments I had at Fort Campbell. I'm also ... I had the 41st Medium Girder Bridge Company and the 114th Fire Fighting Detachment.1 They were treated separately and at various and sundry times, they were going before me, with me, and after me. And it turned out neither came at all. But those were issues that I worked. Initially we were on the TPFD2 quite early; and as the 82d3 and the combat power got over here, they began to address the TPFDL somewhat. Our first mission that caused, it didn't cause problems, but that occupied us was [that] we were tasked to help the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
MAJ HONEC: This was from where?
LTC ELLIS: From Fort Campbell, to get them to the port of Jacksonville, [Florida], and to get them manifested for the flight. Actually, we mobilized most of the entire corps support battalion--corps support group4 at Campbell to do this. We had a large part of that.
And once the division was gone and then the FORSCOM5 planners began to work us into the flow. The biggest problem at that time was the question of when, not a question of if. Our date changed six times that I know of and actually ended up, at the end, back to where it started. So it was pretty tough, not only on the soldiers, but also the families.
The train-up was something that I think we need to look back at. Of course, you had to do the train-up because you did not know what you were coming into. We thought we were coming straight into a war in 140 degree temperature. We did some incredible training. We did PT in MOPP suits6 and it was 105 degrees at Fort Campbell at this time. We did just an inordinate amount of physical training: twelve mile road marches in the morning in flak vest; we did NBC7 training to where we were so proficient that it was almost stupid. And then once we got in the theater and only had our war reserve suits and no training MOPP suits, we lost all of this. We lost our acclimatization. We turned in all of our training NBC gear and only had the war reserve which we did not use too much. So I was concerned that we had lost our edge.
The other thing in the training arena that concerned me is before we left we qualified on our weapons. We had ranges, we had ammunition; and when we got here, partially because we were non-divisional, we weren't tied into anybody with these assets, we could not get training ranges. There were many questions over whether there was actually training ammunition. Then the [20th Engineer] Brigade commander8 permitted us to use a certain percentage of our basic load for training purposes. We were scrambling around to get that done. Finally, after the air war started and before G-Day,9 we were able to accomplish at least what I felt much better about.
But back to the deployment, really the toughest thing was ... the men were ready. We were prepared. We got the 101st out, assisted to get them, of course, they did a lot of it on their own, of course. We were well trained. We were ready. We shipped our stuff by both rail to Jacksonville and [road] convoy to Jacksonville. It came over on ... we had hoped one or two ships and it ended up seven ships, which ... . Our flight got us here prior to our equipment arriving, just two or three days which is perfect. The 20th Brigade had provided us, I am not going to say facilities, but a place to at least sleep until they could work us into something. They did an outstanding job to provide what they could.
MAJ HONEC: Where was this, sir?
LTC ELLIS: We stayed at a place called MABCO which was where the brigade Rear--or the Main [Command Post] was until they moved forward; which was an industrial park: The Second Industrial City. Half of our people stayed there when we got here, and the other half stayed in a place that was to be known as Camp BEACON. Why it was called BEACON I never knew. It was kind of itinerant work camp. It had a little like dormitories, two-story dormitories--rooms. It had a kitchen facility that we converted to use as a mess hall.
And as units moved north, it made more space in there. So when I arrived half the battalion was in a place called BEACON and we were in MABCO and we spent the first four nights in the concrete slab curing room which were about ... very big, low concrete buildings that were very dirty; concrete floor with no cots. But we were assured that it was better than being put out at CEMENT CITY, which was another place where many of the XVIII Airborne Corps soldiers were quartered. And after going out to CEMENT CITY and seeing the powdered dust and things, we were happier to be in the concrete curing room.
MAJ HONEC: This was Dhahran area?
LTC ELLIS: This was in the Dhahran area. Now after we moved into Camp BEACON, we stayed there almost about two weeks as our equipment came in and we off-loaded. As I said, our timing was just about perfect for our equipment. We staged our equipment out of a place called GUARDIAN CITY, also known as the Chicken Farm and The Ranch, I think it was called. We put our equipment out there and stayed quartered back at BEACON.
MAJ HONEC: Did you get all of your equipment, sir?
LTC ELLIS: We got all ... not all at once. We had to wait on a couple of ships and then we had a couple of pieces that were, I guess you would call frustrated cargo, is the term they used--I think somebody was using them. We had a bucket loader that didn't ... we knew it was here, but it took a while to track down. And we finally found it. Ended up with all of our stuff in the long run.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
LTC ELLIS: We were told to move north, given a general area in which to go to provide general engineering support for both the 101st Airborne Division and the 3d ACR10 and the 24th Mech.11 They had not sorted out the group alignments at that time.
As they sorted them out, it became that the 27th Engineer Battalion (Airborne), the 37th Engineer Battalion (Airborne)--both from Fort Bragg, [North Carolina]--and my unit, the 20th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Corps), would be put up under the 937th Engineer Group. And we were going, as we lined the battalions up, we were kind of going to be the center battalion with the group headquarters; with the 27th located to the west and the 37th located kind of to the southeast. The 37th basically provided support for the 3d ACR. We picked up support for the 101st. And the 27th was out--they had a special mission to build a big road, which we all ended up sharing in.
So we stayed quartered ... we moved north to a camp that was 20 kilometers due west on the Tapline12 from the town of An Nariyah, which is where Camp BASTOGNE, or FOB13 BASTOGNE, for the 101st was. Initially, I think people thought we were too far forward. I know that some of the combat fighters thought the log[istical] units were too far forward, but as it turned out, it was probably the right move--for whatever reason.
We initially had troubles establishing support. FOB BASTOGNE with its support facilities was for the division and its attached units not for GS14 units and it took a while for the combat support battalions that provide the support to move into areas. So we learned very quickly to support ourselves, even if it meant driving all the way back to [Ad] Damman on a regular basis. In fact, for over one and a half months we sent a truck everyday back to Damman to pick up the mail.
We built a very functional base camp up there. Once we accepted the fact that the threat was not fixing to invade (and this caused me some problems initially), but once we accepted the fact that they weren't going to invade, we built a very functional base camp that was at that time for about 700 people. We had ... we ended up acquiring GP Medium15 tents. In our normal role, we go to the woods with GP Small pup tents and GP Mediums for staff sections. But never had we had quartered the battalion in GP Medium tents with cots. So this was an issue. And we slowly were able to procure enough to where we went from like twenty to a tent to my objective (which was twelve a tent); and we basically made that. We had some tents with fourteen, but the majority of them only had twelve.
We were able to provide a centralized power distribution system to all the tents. We had, eventually toward the end of our stay at what we called FORT APACHE, we had wooden floors in all the tents. We had electricity in all the tents. And we worked very hard on a shower facility of our own because the nearest laundry and bath unit was too far away. And we used some pretty good engineering ingenuity to do this. We set up a water distribution system where we could process about 12,000 gallons of water a day, and we had a very comfortable camp there. We built a nice road system around it which was suitable for running, even in formation. So we maintained a viable PT program.
We had some tremendous bunkers built. That was my ... my objective was that I felt we got anything there, it would be from a SCUD16 missile attack or the field artillery. With a field artillery brigade located two clicks17 from me, I was concerned about counter-battery fire. And I was also concerned because my [Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)] 12Bs, my combat engineers, were not actively engaged because the missions we got primarily were for equipment operators. So the 12Bs built some fantastic underground bunkers that I am confident would have handled a 155[mm artillery shell] direct hit. We had bunker drills, reaction forces, we had our NBC alarms out. But we were punched up, probably more tightly than maybe we should have been, but with the threat like it was, we accepted that.
Now initially, my concern was that I was about the most forward unit sitting there and were the Iraqis to come across Kuwait into Saudi Arabia, there was not much of a defensive plan. We were initially questioning why we were not out putting in mine fields and tank ditches and all the things that we had trained to do. We knew of the prohibition against mine fields and tank ditches, but we still felt that if the purpose was to keep the man from coming into Saudi Arabia, then we should be putting up something to prevent that. Well, apparently the guys that are paid to know this knew that he wasn't going to do this--or [at least] anytime soon, because it was putting in his defensive belt and continued to add to that. So we never did put up what I would consider a very serious defensive barrier out there. Now we went to work, as I said, primarily with heavy equipment ...
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Building roads? Or ... ?
LTC ELLIS: Building mainly roads for mobility.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Building roads would be ...
LTC ELLIS: Our first big project that we got was the Corps ... at the time, and of course this changes repeatedly, was the XVIII Airborne Corps number one project. And that was to construct what was to be known as the ASP18 SKIBBIE. It was ... turned out to be a 47,000 short-ton ammunition supply point. And the way hierarchy goes, by the time the tasking got to me, the do-ing unit, we were like a week late and they were upset that we hadn't been there. We went there the afternoon we got the tasking. We started working with the, I think it was the 62d Ordnance Company or the 602d Ordnance Company, building this ASP in a quarry which was (I would say) probably 20 kilometers south of An Nariyah.
MAJ HONEC: Was there any problems with that?
LTC ELLIS: No, the problems were not mine. The problems were contractual between the guys ... the units that were there and the land we were using. We got in and established a fantastic working relationship with these people, and I had the right kind of force there to do what they wanted to do. And my objective was to stay three days ahead of the ammo deliveries. The morning we showed up they had ammunition trucks lined up out the front gate and down the road because there was no place to put it. And by that afternoon, we were able to ... provided them with places to download all of that, and had stuff waiting there the next day. I think we made a good impression on these guys. We cleared pads ...
MAJ HONEC: Yes, pads, that is what I was going to say.
LTC ELLIS: We cleared pads. The quarry, being like it was, had a very hard surface for the most part. The initial area they had was ideally suited for this. We could just clear them pads. There were natural berms there to keep the offset separation so you didn't get sympathetic detonation. We were able to do this.
We had to fix the access--the internal roads in the ASP were important because the ... one of the things that I am sure will come out of this effort will be the suitability of the [M]-915 tractor. It can't go anywhere. If it gets off into two inches of powder, it just can't handle it. And that is what the log guys have. But we had to make sure that the 915s could get in and out of the ASP without being pulled or stuck or towed. And we were able to do that. And we put ... as this thing grew--the ASP kept growing and growing and growing--and we managed to stay well ahead of it. We ended up graveling the access road all the way from MSR DODGE out to it, about a total of four or five miles of gravel. And things were going super there, when of course, the Corps priorities began to shift westward as the plans matured.
We also, while in the area, were given a section of the old Tapline road. If you followed MSR DODGE from west to east--or east to west--you will notice that there is an old road generally to the south of the Tapline that used to be the road before they built the new one. And my battalion had a 42-mile section of that to upgrade and bring to what we call Class B all-weather standards. We had already learned through many other road projects how to use what we called marl. You had two kinds. You had a white kind that required a little water and ...
MAJ HONEC: Okay, hold on a second. [INTERRUPTION] Could you spell that?
LTC ELLIS: It is M-a-r-l, it is just a term. The white marl which we found almost in any hillside that we could find out here--not really hillside, any sheer face--you could dig out, wet it a little bit, roll it down, and it made a very good road until it rained.
MAJ HONEC: Oh, road metal.
LTC ELLIS: Road stuff. Then the green kind already had a clay substance in it or some kind of a petroleum in it (we never were sure), and it actually compacted up very well with no water at all. And this is what all the engineers in the area used to make both hard stand pads and roadways. If you could keep just a little water on it, and not too much, and keep it rolled out, you had a very hard surface road that you could really travel on. We did, oh, 42 miles of that. We had a section of it. The 37th had a section of it. The 27th had a section. I guess overall it was over 250 miles of upgrading the old Tapline.
Now that got a real test, I don't know, but right before January the 16th, before the air war started, about on the 10th, we had our first tremendous rainfall. And of course, the Tapline itself was clustered with accidents from one end to the other. And in my section of the road that I had responsibility for in particular, there had been a lot of wrecks on the main road and a lot of the traffic then took the upgraded Tapline and the weight of the traffic and the amount of water really destroyed what we had done. But once it cleared, the soil as it dried a little bit was even more workable and we were able to fix it right back up quickly.
The other thing we did while we were there is we provided survivability support to both the 75th Field Artillery Brigade and the 212th Field Artillery Brigade. We put in over, I'd say, over 210 survivability positions for their HEMTT19 ammo carriers and for some of their MLRS20 equipment.
MAJ HONEC: Describe these positions?
LTC ELLIS: These are just tremendous slots, if you would, in the ground. A 16-foot slot with a certain grade to where they could drive the HEMTT, fully loaded with ammo, down into it and lay a cammo [camouflage] net flat across the top. And the key was that the slope had to be such and the terrain had to be such, so he could get himself in and out. It basically got him below the surface and gave him some protection in case of artillery fire.
As we continued to work these and the plans matured and we knew we weren't going to fight from this thing, we went from providing security berms--and we must have provided, oh, 40 or 50 miles of security berms. The emphasis went to more things along the nature of morale, like running tracks. We poured a basketball court--concrete basketball court--for one of the battalions in the FA unit. I have a concrete capability and that gave him something to do.
We also got tasked very late in the game to go down and build a VIP21 helicopter pad for Vice President [Dan] Quayle's visit. The 37th Battalion actually had that mission. They built one pad, we built the other. We worked all night to get it done. It worked out real good and the biggest part was the guys that built it (my platoon leader and his platoon) got to be there when the Vice President came. I don't think they really got to see him, but they did get to see [Corps Commander] LTG [Gary E.] Luck and he shook their hands and that was a big plus for them.
Other missions that we did: we were working with a big project at FOB BASTOGNE which never materialized. We did some internal wiring down there for them, to help them get their facility upgraded.
MAJ HONEC: Commo [communications] wiring, sir, or electrical wiring?
LTC ELLIS: Electrical wiring. We worked with one of the ... what we called good neighbor projects. We helped just about anybody that came and asked us for help. Sometimes we traded blade time for different things, but most of the time we provided support when we could. And that was the group commander's guidance and the brigade commander's: help anybody you can, you know ... but here are your priorities and anything you can do above that, please do.
And we did. I think we touched a lot of units. We built the entire base camp for the 561st Combat Support Battalion that came up. Provided them with lots of facilities: berms, pads, roads. Leveled out an area and compacted it for them to set their refrigerator vans down on (which we had hoped would provide us A-rations22--and eventually it did). Like I say, everybody that came to us for help normally got it. I don't think we turned anybody totally away. Sometimes we couldn't give them what they wanted when they wanted, but we provided them a lot of support.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. This was in DESERT SHIELD?
LTC ELLIS: This was in DESERT SHIELD. We stayed, like I say, at our life support area at CAMP APACHE from about November the 1st until January the 16th. We were told that we needed to be prepared to move on short notice. We had thought that that meant about a 48-hour notice; we got a four-hour notice. We were picked to build Log[istical] Base CHARLIE, which is what we are down here now. And we were told to move immediately. We had the first people on the road within two hours. I had the entire battalion moving within the next twelve to sixteen hours. We came down and we had done a recon[naissance].
Things were changing on this end, though, as we got here. We were probably the first real unit to come in. We moved into to where it is now the water area and where MSR MONTANA was eventually put in. The commander of the battalion that had the transfer petroleum point--the TPT--which was the number one priority project found us and said, no, this is not where you are supposed to be. We have moved the TPT three kilometers back up the road.
So we able to adjust to that. We had to upload our equipment. But within two hours of getting here, we were working on the TPT. We worked all night on the TPT [and] the next day we began working on the water point. We moved down to--this is [Tactical] Assembly Area ELM that we are in. We came down, found our sector of that. We had divided that up with the other two battalions and the group headquarters.
And within the first, probably 36 hours, we had met the initial requirements of this log base and it was a tremendous log base. The requirements grew daily and we were able to handle that in stride. We ended up putting in a bermed farm for a petroleum outfit that handled 5.2 million gallons. We built a very quick ammunition supply point that could handle 25,000 short-tons with three access and egress roads. We put in pads for over ... for bags for two million gallons of bulk water. We build roads for retail points for both fuel and water. We did the Class I yard. We set up seven different hospitals, to include good neighbor type stuff of using our air compressor to drill holes through the bedrock so they could put up their tents. We made a lot of friends down in Log Base CHARLIE.
We met all of the construction schedules and standards with room to spare, and we continued to support them as they grew during the air war. But the main thing was we didn't know how long we were going to be here. We continued to provide support to the aviation units that came in. We made them pads. We made them berms. We dumped a lot of diesel on a lot of roads as a dust palliative, to try to make those firm up and sit up right.
We did not have the mission to build the Forward Landing Strip [FLS] down there or the MSR TEXAS Extension as it became known. But during a maintenance stand-down in which the group commander had each battalion shut down for a week for maintenance, we picked up those missions and maintained MSR TEXAS Extension and the FLS while they stood down. So we had a taste of that too.
During this period we were able also, this was a concern of mine, we were able to fire some weapons. We got to go back to a range that the 20th Brigade had put together down, I guess, about 80 miles back to the east. And the soldiers got to fire AT-4s which they had not been able to fire before. They got to zero their weapons again. And this was a tremendous boost for us.
MAJ HONEC: AT-4s are?
LTC ELLIS: Anti-tank weapons, shoulder fired. Which is new--pretty new--to the system, and they are basically replacing the 90mm [recoilless rifle]s. We were equipped with 90mms, but we couldn't get any 90mm ammo, so we were issued AT-4s and we got to go out and fire them. And the guys were pretty good with them: first time around they had a 70 to 75 percent hit rate, and their confidence went well up after that. There was some concern that we may be shooting up too much of what we were going to need, but I would rather have a guy confident with what he is firing rather than shooting and missing because you may not get a second time. And again, at that point, we didn't know what we were facing.
One other critical mission that we picked up, again, the mission was to the 27th Battalion and that was to cut access through has now become known as the Escarpment, which was the route in this section for the French [6th Light Armored Division] and the 82d and everybody else to go from MSR TEXAS into Iraq. For some reason, the Iraqis have built a beautiful road that proverbially goes to nowhere. It just starts in the middle of the desert. And although we have not encountered too many terrain features, there is an actual terrain feature out there in this escarpment. You cannot get up it the way it was constructed. It would be very difficult for something beside a 4-wheel drive HMMWV23 or a vehicle like that to negotiate this thing, and logistics units and 915 tractors coming in with water and fuel and food would not have been able to negotiate that.
MAJ HONEC: What was the grade of that, and how was the rise of the escarpment, would you estimate?
LTC ELLIS: I would say the grade was right around eight percent and I didn't really study the rise that much but it was pretty severe. We were picked to help the 27th because we have D-7 bulldozers and they only have what is called a D-5, and it could not handle the cut. So although the 27th directed ... did a magnificent job, we had our equipment out there helping them. And, anyway, took this down to about a four percent grade and made it very passable. Ended up with three routes--Red, White and Blue--over the Escarpment. We also, on G-1,24 were tasked to go out and cut another route for the 6th French combat trains. We did that within seven hours. In fact our equipment ... we were so late in getting that mission, the equipment came back to us in our forward assembly area as we were prepared to move into Iraq. But that was another very important mission that we had here.
Primarily, in Tactical Assembly Area ELM, our job was Log Base CHARLIE, support for the aviation units and the FA units down here, with road systems and survivability positions, and supporting the 27th building ... getting across the escarpment.
MAJ HONEC: Did you support any ADA units?
LTC ELLIS: I think we did. I am not certain. Yes, 2d of the 44th ADA25--we provided them with twelve survivability positions.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
LTC ELLIS: At G-226 there was a lot of discussion about ... there was a lot of discussion between the 82d and the French about who was going to line up where. Not anything I had input to, but finally a decision was made. At G-2 we moved the battalion out, preparing to go into combat. And we moved about ten miles from here to be in a position from which we could launch up (when directed) on MSR TEXAS Extension and then in the MSR TEXAS.
That didn't go as rapidly as we had planned. I think that the French were deliberately cautious about what they were doing and I think the casualty rate shows that. They were very cautious, very deliberate, and obviously very proficient at it. So we didn't really get to moving as quickly as I thought we did. At G-2, we spent the night in the vehicles. At G-1, we had only moved about, oh, another ten miles and spent the night the vehicles.
And on G-Day itself, rather than moving right at 4:00 A.M. as we had thought, we probably didn't get moving until about 1400 or 1500 as the French and the 82d had gotten up and really opened it up quite a bit. But at 1400 we began moving and we took the escarpment with no problem. Got on the hard ball and began moving in what I would say was probably an incredibly 'inorganized' environment. Now my convoy I thought was very well organized, but there was no movement control on TEXAS. Convoys were coming from everywhere. They were passing other convoys that were stopped for rest areas or refuel or refit or whatever; charging forward, not knowing what was up there.
We moved up as far as we felt comfortable. We had established contact with the 27th who was running right with the French. We stayed four kilometers behind them that night. We deployed off the road in a fairly secure fashion with herringbone [formation of vehicles] on each side. And during the night all these units that were behind us pulled up and took the entire roadway and all the shoulders in between us--very unsafe situation [with] many vehicles just sitting there bumper to bumper. And we were extremely fortunate that the threat did not have any air or artillery assets in the area or we would have been in a bind.
The next morning, as they took [Objective] ROCHAMBEAU, we moved through, again jockeying for position, but knowing where we were supposed to be in the convoy. Some control was used later in the day as the convoys that had passed us that shouldn't have were pulled over and we went through and pulled up in the very bottom of Objective WHITE. We bivouacked there that night. The French were directed that night to go ahead and take WHITE and not to wait until the next morning. They did so. At first light I was directed by the brigade commander to get up and move down MSR VIRGINIA, clear it as I went, get into Objective BROWN (which had been cleared by the 24th ID) and to start building Log Base ROMEO.
Now ROMEO was my package up there. We knew everything they wanted to get into it. Initially, I was to build Log Base OSCAR, but as the requirements for OSCAR were decreased and ROMEO increased, that mission came to me. The 27th was going to build the forward landing strip at As Salman Air Field and then build Log Base OSCAR. But by the time--the combat power was moving so fast--but by the time we go to As Salman and turned right onto what was MSR VIRGINIA, the requirements from OSCAR had been done away with altogether and Log Base OSCAR was cancelled.
So we had a little initial discussion with the 82d as to who was to go down VIRGINIA first, as to whether or not it had been cleared. Once that came, the engineers went down. Down VIRGINIA now we fixed two road craters in stride, removed one wire obstacle (which I think our forces had put up anyway). We drove through the most severe dust storm27 that we have encountered since we have been here. I take my hat off to all of the vehicle operators. You literally could not see two feet in front of you. We kept the convoy moving and at that point you could see a lot of bunkers that had been taken out by the 101st as we zipped down to ROMEO.
We got to ROMEO; went in. The head guy that was going to be there two days before us had been there for fifteen minutes. He told us where our area was. We already knew where our area was. We went out with the ground positioning system,28 found it, moved our convoy in. And that night worked all night on the TPT for ROMEO and began to provide assistance to the--I think it was the 44th Med[ical] Brigade'[s] hospital that was there. We began providing them assistance. The next morning the requirements for the TPT doubled. We were able to meet that. And then we were given notification by the brigade commander of be prepared to move immediately because the requirements at ROMEO were shrinking rapidly.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. That's about ...
[END OF SIDE ONE]
MAJ HONEC: We are now on the second part of this tape. We are going to go on, past ROMEO to ... .
LTC ELLIS: As we finished the requirements for the TPT and the hospital at ROMEO, we were still negotiating with the real estate guys there: whether or not they wanted the ASP, where the MSR was going. We did put in roads for the bulk--not the bulk, but the retail--water and fuel points. At that time the brigade commander flew into my area and said to be prepared to move very quickly down to Objective PURPLE, to the town of Al Busayyan. And that I should be considering that soon.
So I had briefed that that night and as soon as I finished the briefing at about 1930 we got a RATT29 message in that said move at first light. So we prepared the battalion to move. At first light, I was just fixing to pull out of our base camp when we heard over the BBC30 that President [George] Bush had just announced that all offensive actions in Iraq would stop within two hours. We called the brigade (who was located close enough where we contact them by radio) [to find out] if they had any additional instructions. They said to stand fast. We stood fast for about two hours. I talked with the brigade commander and the group commander. And he said, no, you go ahead and move to Objective PURPLE. We began moving down PURPLE, again in an incredibly disorganized route--that was six battalions moving down MSR VIRGINIA at this time and ...
MAJ HONEC: What sorts of battalions, sir?
LTC ELLIS: Artillery battalions that were trying to go forward. They were [National] Guard and [Army] Reserve units; had their State flags out. And we were moving down toward the town of Al Busayyah. I established contact with my sister engineer battalions, the 27th and 37th who had bivouacked near there the night before, the 37th had. And they were at the lead of this incredible line of vehicles which must have gone probably 20 miles. And the road around Al Busayyah was literally just saturated with unexploded ordnance.
MAJ HONEC: What types? American, Iraqi?
LTC ELLIS: American ordnance, ICMs and Gator mines31 it appeared. And as we were ... they were trying to cut a road past it, it was very slow going because they were clearing the road as they went. Because of the number of munitions that were on the road that came out of the town, the decision was made by the group commander and the commander of the 37th, to try to grade a bypass around it. And this is what they were doing, and they held up traffic--rightly so--for several hours as they tried to get this around.
As I was able to catch up, I was able to stop two of the artillery convoys who were not in the same commo net we were, and told them just sit tight, what the situation was, and that I would come back and tell them, you know, when they could move. This was not really my position to do so, but I took it. I went forward and the brigade commander had come in and we discussed what my mission was. And my mission was to clear basically all of Objective PURPLE of unexploded ordnance; destroy bunkers, ammunition; and to clear and destroy the weapons and munitions that were in the town itself.
I also had to clear MSR VIRGINIA 100 meters each side of the roadway for safe traffic. As we were waiting for the traffic to be begin to move through, I went into the town with the brigade commander. And after looking through the town I ask him for his permission not to have to clear it. There was entirely too much; it was extremely dangerous. I asked permission to destroy all weapon systems and all vehicles that were there and then close the town. He thought that was a good idea and gave me permission to do that.
That night, though, I didn't intend to move my convoy any further. As darkness came we pulled off the road; cleared our area in daylight to make sure there were no munitions in it. We destroyed three or four. We established a bivouac. The soldiers were told they could not move outside that perimeter until the daylight.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. [INTERRUPTION] Okay, great, you bivouacked ... ?
LTC ELLIS: We bivouacked there in a safe position. I think the troops thought I was crazy because the next morning at first light we moved them four miles to the other side of the town where we had already picked a much safer location. But it was not a crazy decision, it was the right decision. At this point the--I guess the higher echelons--the lack of coordination made this a dangerous mission.
As we moved out in the morning, and I had assigned the north side of the road to one company, the south side of the road to another company, the town to one company and the tanks and other vehicles that we had already identified to the north side of the road to my fourth company. We began to move out very carefully. I had ... we had just heard of the seven 27th [Engineer Battalion] soldiers that were blown up in As Salman handling unexploded ordnance. And I did not want that to happen to my unit, particularly [since] we were not under fire. We were not under duress. Basically we were doing just a ... almost a training demolition with the real stuff. And I said we are not in a hurry. We want to take it very cautiously. We don't want to lose any arms, limbs or lives.
However, this same mission had been given to approximately three units besides my own. The 101st Airborne (Air Assault) engineers--the 326[th Engineer Battalion]--had been given the mission to come back in and destroy the tanks and vehicles that were left. VII Corps engineers ... VII Corps had left an engineer company there. We didn't discover them until the next day. They had been there two days before and had gone out and done an extensive recon of where all this stuff was. Their mission was to destroy it. And there was an EOD unit32--which I never did link up with because he was moving too fast--also in the area blowing things up.
As we were, for example, clearing our way through a cluster bomb field to get to a tank to destroy it, the 101st came in in helicopters, hopped out, surveyed the situation, threw a satchel charge in the vehicle and set it off. So it was a very dangerous situation. I was able to talk to the--we established contact with the 101st. They told us what they were doing. We told them where we were. And that was ... made me feel a little better. I got with the other engineer commander there. I told him to keep his people out of the town until a certain time, at which time I would let him have it.
We went into the town; destroyed 750 AK-47 weapons that came out of a storeroom. They were not brand new, they were used. We crushed them with a D-7. I didn't want to be setting off explosives [if] I didn't have to. We blew up quite a bit of sub-cal[iber] ammunition and buried quite a bit of it, too, [in] a huge hole. We destroyed an NBC vehicle that was very similar to our Fox.33 A brand new carpet that had never been walked on--we burned it up with incendiary grenades. They had already taken the gee-whiz box out of it for use.
The other units had destroyed--I think our total was five or six tanks, six anti-aircraft guns, and I will just say basically tons of munitions. Every tank position we located had cases of the tank rounds that had never been taken out of the case right near it, up to ten cases each. We were destroying this, along, as I say, with the 101st; with a company from the 588th Engineers [Battalion]; and with associated EOD personnel who were in there.
We cleared the road [of] over 60 cluster munitions, using basically one pound blocks of TNT and time fuze. We were doing relatively good, making good progress, when one of the units decided to blow up an ASP. The ASP blew up for about 30 minutes and put more unexploded ordnance on the road, when it was over, than was there to start with.
MAJ HONEC: I see. This is why you had to clear your way back out?
LTC ELLIS: We had to clear our way back out. We had closed the town--let me rephrase that, we had thought we had closed the town. There were several MSRs coming to converge there. You had MSR VIRGINIA which joined up with the little bypass around the town. You had the 52d Engineer Battalion who was cutting in MSR PACKARD. And you had the 37th and 27th that had, as they had gone north to what was to be Log Base SATURN, which was also cancelled, they were emplacing MSR GREEN or WASHINGTON (depending on which corps you were talking to had named it, so we called it GREEN and WASHINGTON). When we left the north of the town, where the road into town came, we followed it out to where it linked up with WASHINGTON ...
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Could we stop for a second and go back to the NBC vehicle? You said the gee-whiz box--how did you know it was a NBC vehicle?
LTC ELLIS: You could see by the markings in it, the signs on it.
MAJ HONEC: Was it Russian?
LTC ELLIS: It was German.
MAJ HONEC: It was German. It was a Fox like ours?
LTC ELLIS: Not a Fox, but very similar, the same number of (six) wheels, same configuration. It looked very similar. It was not a Fox though. But brand new, absolutely brand new. It had obviously come out of the depot to this base and never been anywhere else. It was sparkling clean.
MAJ HONEC: Okay, good. Okay, now coming forward.
LTC ELLIS: What we were trying to do was to keep people coming from the north from coming into the town. And we had gone out and linked up the town ... the road that left the town, to the north where it joined MSR GREEN/WASHINGTON, and had bermed it up and put up a sign that said, don't enter.
MAJ HONEC: These were people ... Iraqis or Americans?
LTC ELLIS: No, these were Americans.
MAJ HONEC: Okay.
LTC ELLIS: That ... the next afternoon, as we were continuing to clear the southern part of VIRGINIA, and we were doing maintenance on VIRGINIA and maintenance on PACKARD, to line those roads up and widen them, we heard over the MP MEDEVAC34 freq[uency] that they were calling a MEDEVAC into the town of Al Busayyah; that a soldier had been injured. I had instructed that my Delta Company35 be out of there no longer than 1500. He had called me and asked for a 30 minute extension. I had given it to him. I had thought I had heard over the radio that they were all out of the town. And this was about 1630 when we heard this MEDEVAC call.
I contacted the MPs on the radio and they said, yep, it was an engineer soldier. I sent my XO36 flying down there. He met an MP lieutenant colonel at the gate who said it was a 20th Engineer Battalion and we didn't need a MEDEVAC because he was dead. It turned out to be totally false. A transporter from a transportation unit--and I am not belittling these people at all, but the kid had driven around two barricades, walking out in front of his CUCV37 with no Kevlar vest on, no Kevlar helmet, picked up a cluster bomb, and threw it. And the resulting detonation put shrapnel in his arm, below his rib cage, and in his leg. He was okay. We sent our doctor we had with us down to treat him. And we were concerned, though, because they were still accessing the town.
We went back the next morning. We had been told prepare to move at first light to go back to maintain VIRGINIA and go back toward ROMEO. We were told at first light to stand fast, so we began maintaining the roads again. And I sent my Delta Company back out to fix this thing up. We again had to work our way through more munitions. We found where the problem was: there were two accesses into the town, one which was ... we had not located. We did put up big huge plywood signs that said, stay out. We ditched it and we bermed it. And hopefully that would bring them more to the east where they joined up with VIRGINIA. And then they would bypass the town, although it would still be in sight. And the MPs had set up a very good position there at which they were keeping people out. In the town though there was, like I say, lots of munitions. We found Italian mines. We found lots of RPGs with the fuses armed.
MAJ HONEC: Were they only one type of Italian mine?
LTC ELLIS: We only found the one type. We detonated some of those.
MAJ HONEC: RGPs with fuses? Grenades?
LTC ELLIS: The fuses were activated. I mean, we blew some of those in place. And at that point, with us moving, the 588th ... the company from the 588th Engineers were really taking over the town and they began handling the demolition in there. They seemed to--well, they blew up some stuff that I didn't feel we needed to blow up, it was already rendered inoperable. But that was their business and they were clearing it, and I don't think they had anymore injuries.
We again, on the way out of town, cleared the road, another 100 meters out. It was much quicker this time. There wasn't that much stuff out there. We worked our way back through what we called the gulch which was a big cut we had to put on VIRGINIA between ROMEO and Objective PURPLE. We moved to a bivouac site and continued to have two companies work that. We had been alerted that we might have to go north to Objective GOLD to do some demolitions up there. So I had my other two companies standing by to do that. However, we did not go. We sent a recon up. The 37th Engineers were already there, and between them and the 82d, they decided they had enough to handle it. We did provide them with over 200 thermite grenades and about sixteen canisters (or 8,000 to 10,000 feet) of time fuse. It is much safer in this environment.
We continued to offer support to Log Base ROMEO who really didn't want any engineer support at that time. We did fix the road at the retail fuel point, and we began to maintain VIRGINIA which was a very difficult task. We would take out about a foot-and-a-half of powder. Two convoys would come by and there was a foot-and-a-half of powder back. We had no fill material to speak of. We could not find any of the marl that we were used to. We had no surface treatment to put down. We had no water that was available. And we had no fuel distributors that we could dump fuel on the road with, that would have benefited this great distance of road.
We were maintaining about 60 miles of VIRGINIA at the time. In fact we even, at some points, decided that you couldn't maintain anymore, so we just created another road to the north and south of that where we could. And again, as the convoys poured through, the ground would just break down into powder and dust. We had been told that we would be there five to seven days. We were there two days when we got the movement to retrograde back to our tactical assembly area. We conducted a convoy that I was very proud of. We moved everybody back. We traveled four hours at night to get here. We came back with every piece of equipment we went with. Our maintenance was just simply outstanding. The only equipment we had problems with was the rental equipment that we had had since we had been in-country and have had problems since we have received it.
MAJ HONEC: What sorts of rental equipment, sir?
LTC ELLIS: We had graders, oil distributors, tractors, things like this. Sixteen-ton dump trucks which seemed to ... they used the philosophy, you don't really fix it, you just drive it until it breaks and get another one. The maintenance teams that we had that came with the contract--Indian, Afghani and Filipino type of workers--are very limited and the equipment they had for repairs, they did not invest any money. We argued for weeks to try to get new tires on the grader; couldn't get them. I mean, even when they go flat, all they do is put another tube in it. They just would not put the money in it. Finally, we put two of our own tires on the grader so we could keep using it. The maintenance, while they made an effort to some degree, was not really, I feel, supported by the owner of the equipment. I found the rental equipment to be more of a headache than a value.
MAJ HONEC: Did you try contract mitigation for that?
LTC ELLIS: No, we didn't sign the contract. This was a brigade package that they had given to us to keep and report. And the brigade was well aware that the equipment was not really up to standards. But we figured that if we kept it, anything we got out of it was more than we had--particularly the type of equipment we had.
I needed the graders. They worked fairly well. I needed the rollers, too. With rollers, if I had four, one was up routinely and you could use the other three to keep the parts on the one going. That is the kind of equipment I don't have. I don't have compaction and I needed that. And we had what started out to be water distributors that we turned into fuel distributors to put down diesel on the roadways. These were marginal, but since you had no other assets, they were better than nothing.
We have since negotiated a separate contract for haul assets on our own down with the Corps contracting office. This has been a better ... a more satisfactory arrangement, but it is a different type of equipment. It is just a tractor and low-beds to haul stuff around on; but it has made the job easier.
Since we have been back in the assembly area, we have been recovering ... getting mixed signals, as everyone, about when you are going, where you are going, how you are going. We have turned in quite a bit of ammunition. We have maintained two entire companies worth of demo[litions]; reconsolidate their basic load. We have a contingency that we may have to go back north. We will be the last combat engineer battalion to leave this sector and we may have to go in and put the Escarpment back to where it was, where you can't cross it. We may be tasked to crater the MSRs on both sides of the border, to make it more difficult to use. And we will be picking up some of the responsibilities for taking down the pipeline crossings and closing out some of the assembly areas. Helping people out and filling in fighting positions and things that we primarily dug for them, so we'll go back and fill them in.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. In classes of supplies, what did you say is the most critical problems you have had in the classes? Have you had to clean up Class IV?38
LTC ELLIS: Yes. I am not going to say we always had it when we wanted it. Just before the air war began the 937th Group got more plywood and construction lumber in than anybody ever had a right to see. We had all of that we needed. We have more concertina wire than I could use. We had--sand bags was a come and go thing. We had a lot at one time and then we needed them desperately. But we did (excuse me) come up with a sufficient quantity to move north with.
The biggest class of supplies that I had a problem with was Class IX.39 The Class IX system did not work--was nonfunctional. And engineer Class IX--ASLs40 are pretty scarce anyway, and were it not for the smooth operations of Class A and Purchasing Agents, and the availability of [commercial] Caterpillar dealers, both in Jubayl and in the Damman area, we would not have functioned.
We learned to--I am not going to say scrounge, that is not a word I want--coordinate with other units. We found most maintenance companies very supportive. You know, the system--you could not order the part through the system and get it. It just did not work. You could go to a maintenance unit on a fill-and-kill basis; if they had it, they would give it to you. And the big plus ... and we spent many man-hours (my XO, my battalion maintenance officer, my engineer equipment maintenance officer) I seldom saw them. They were always on the road buying parts.
The Caterpillars dealers, as far as the engineers go, saved the day with the parts they got. And on behalf of the maintenance, despite a non-functioning Class IX system ... yeah, it showed me that a soldier who knows his life may be depending upon the maintenance of his vehicle can do it. My OR41 rate has been higher in-country under a non-functioning system than it has been in peace-time when the parts are there. I came over here very concerned and I have operated at above a 90 percent OR rate consistently. In the States I could seldom keep more than eight tractor-trailers running, and here, I have fourteen. One will never come up because it was in a wreck and in fact, provided many parts to keep the other ones up. But of the thirteen I considered potentially available for combat, I took thirteen; I drove them over 550 miles to seven different locations in eleven days; and not one of them had a mechanical breakdown.
MAJ HONEC: What do you attribute this obvious disparity between peace-time and war-time?
LTC ELLIS: I attribute it to motivation and the fact that the guy got out there and they will do the PMCS's.42 We put in a new system anyway, I won't take credit for the system. I think the soldier knew it was for real and he got up under there and he did his PMCS according to the book. We supported him with lubricants that he needed. We supported him with parts that he needed, although sometimes they were difficult to get. And he maintained his vehicle. We didn't get too hung up sometimes on the -10/-20 standards.43 We were on operational standards, and now that we are looking at -10/-20 standards, we are still in good shape. Maintenance has been a real plus for us here.
Other engineer equipment that I would mention at this time has been the performance of the [M]-900-series dump truck. While you'll hear people say it does not have the power of the M-51-series, it certainly has the mobility. The dump truck has performed superbly. It will go anywhere and it does everything we have asked it to do. We have had no problems whatsoever with the 900-series dump truck, and it has been the biggest asset we had.
One other, I guess, bit of luck, if you would. We have been trying to buy sand tires for our tractors since before we left the States. We had identified this as something that may be necessary, rather than the road tires that we run in the States. We were told, no, they were too expensive, the money wasn't available. We got here, they were not available. They were too expensive. But all of a sudden, my battalion maintenance officer happened to be at the right spot at the right time with the right guy with the right approval, and I was able to get brand new dual sand/road tires for all of my [M]-916 tractors and this made a tremendous, tremendous difference in my mobility.
While we were in the life support area, we put them on a tractor, put a D-7 up on the back of the low bed and tried to stick it in the sand and could not do it. The tires made a difference. And the military needs to take a look at having these available. Granted that they are expensive, but they certainly made a difference. That was a bit of luck for us.
We also brought with us two 40-ton rough terrain container cranes with us. They are very difficult to move on my own. I don't have HETs;44 they require HETs. However, they are extremely mobile, very versatile pieces of equipment. They provided us with some assets that we wouldn't otherwise had.
MAJ HONEC: Are you talking about the wretches, sir?
LTC ELLIS: No, just the crane. You could hook a spreader bar to pick up things with: milvans. We had to borrow that spreader bar. The wretches, we don't have anything like that.
Other training that we did that was ... I think the engineers need to go back and study the MCLC system, the mine-clearing line charge. We, not knowing what we were going to encounter, we had tried to live fire MCLCs. We've all ... all of the engineer units had fired the training rocket which is a real rocket with an inert line charge, but we had never fired the real thing. We did this in a driving rain storm out on a range just prior to D-Day. Had a malfunction: the cable snapped from the rocket and the line charge. And we spent the rest of the day sorting that mess. My sister battalions had similar problems with it. And during the course of the ... during the course of DESERT STORM--no, I think it was right before DESERT STORM, the ammo people have had to come and make two modifications to all of the MCLCs. We need to take a look at this doctrine to make sure that this thing will fire and do the job. I am afraid we may be putting more reliance on it than we should. The French were favorably impressed with the MCLC and went forward with the 27th. We gave the 27th ours. We loaned out to some of the units in the 307th. They were available. To my knowledge, none were fired. We counted no mine fields that would require this. But we ... the Engineer School,45 in particular, needs to relook the doctrine of employing the MCLC to make sure it is a workable system. I think it has had success at the NTC,46 but with the lack of rockets and the strac manual, and the little use it gets, it needs some work so that you can be proficient in it.
MAJ HONEC: Anything else to add that ... ?
LTC ELLIS: Engineer-wise, in the after-action reviews we've done, nothing to really mention here. We have some doctrinal issues we need to discuss. My battalion is authorized 809. The combat airborne battalions are about 570. They have DS47 maintenance; I don't. They have a doctor; I don't. Things that need to be looked at to make a balance.
Communications [is] a big issue for us. I thought I was commo poor; actually I was commo rich compared to what my sister units had. I had AM48 capability, they don't. I had redundant FM49 capability, they did not. None of us had enough secure (the KY-57s) to go around. I have authorized 124. I have 18. We don't have of that to go around; however, in this environment, secured commo wasn't that critical. But we need to take a look at the units, when you bring them together in a group headquarters. I had two RATT rigs, the group was able to get one and the two other combat battalions had none. We were able to get them some Corps assets, to get one apiece.
But things that need to be looked at in command relationships, when you bring together a group headquarters. One thing that we did was we fostered--and this was from brigade on down--an engineer family cooperation concept. I think everybody helped everybody. We shared equipment. We tried to work with each. Nobody was hogging the glory. There was plenty for everybody, and engineers work well together. And I am sure the other units did too, I just didn't get to see that. We provided a lot of support to a lot of people.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. What about in ... along the communication equipment ... what about ground positioning equipment?
LTC ELLIS: We did not have the Loran or the GPS, or SLGR (I believe they call it). We first were introduced to the SLGR when we went to our first life support area and a captain out of the FOB BASTOGNE who was trying to keep track of who was located where, came out and took his little gee-whiz box and tuned in to four satellites and said this is right where you are.
We immediately began trying to get those. We ended up with one SLGR and three or four Lorans. Now the Lorans can work. They are not as accurate as the SLGR. It requires a little more training. The SLGR has earned its reputation here, and I am not sure if it is not going to degrade all the map reading skills in the world. But with very little terrain feature here to go on, the SLGR was a key piece of equipment. We had one. We have been told we have to turn it back into the brigade. We are going to try to keep it, legally of course, because we would like to have it in our inventory. The Lorans, we have to turn in too. I understand their principle, it is used primarily by boat owners. I know in the Gulf (the Florida Gulf) that is how they find their fishing holes ... but the GPS system was a big asset to us and you could use it on the move and report your position in while you were moving, on the fly, which is what we were most of the time. We had a four-hour requirement: every four hours we had to report to our higher where we were. You would just pull over, jack it up, and call him and everybody was happy. So it was a very valuable asset. It came in late, and of course, as always, there wasn't enough of them, but it worked very well.
MAJ HONEC: Okay. Do you have any other equipment or personnel additions that you need to improve your battalion, to meet your mission?
LTC ELLIS: We are going in to have the planners reconsider tripods for .50-calibers50 they took away from us about eight to ten years ago. Now we put them on a ring mount on a Deuce-and-a-half.51 I would like to go back to the tripod. I had the tripod available in this environment, and setting up the kind of perimeters we had in the big flat place like this showed me that that would be of value. I would like to get that back. We've taken a look at that.
I would like to get rid of my duce-and-a-halfs and go to [a] 5-ton pure fleet. That would make my maintenance a lot easier. I have pure on the HMMWVs. I do have a couple of CUCV-type of vehicles, but I think those are just what we picked up over here.
My personnel issue was kind of difficult for me. We were supposed to come over here at our required strength, not our authorized strength. I came over here at about 82 percent strength. They did not use the replacement system as it was designed in the books, so for the first three months my replacements came through Fort Campbell. The 101st Airborne Division was at 104 percent, I was still at 82 percent. When they decentralized that or centralized it and they all came out of Fort Jackson, [South Carolina], and Fort Benning, [Georgia], and other places, I received TDY52 soldiers and some assigned ... I received a hundred within a four-day period just prior to G-Day, which while it beefed me up, it is not the ideal time to be receiving that many newcomers to the battalion. So I went almost to 96 percent. I ended up with--my highest strength so far is 779.
Also, by being at the right place at the right time and meeting the Corps Surgeon, I was able to get a doctor who went forward with me. It took a great deal of pressure off of me and my E-5 who ran my medic section and did a wonderful job. At the last moment I also got the medics that I was short. I was authorized twelve medics, I only had seven [during] the entire deployment and at the last moment I got beefed up with TDY medics from other units. And they fit in, and again, it took a great deal of pressure off of us.
So when we deployed into Iraq for G-Day, we had everything we needed. We could have used a few more trucks, but I had all of the equipment with me that I would have needed to do the mission I had been given. So I was in good shape.
MAJ HONEC: What was a day like? For DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, do you work 24 hours a day? And also about the mail? Several real quick comments.
LTC ELLIS: For DESERT SHIELD, once we settled in a routine and missions up there, we didn't work 24 hours a day. In fact, we probably worked about 12 hours a day and took Sundays off after a while. We took advantage of every R&R opportunity that we could get our hands on. Many times it was very difficult to make happen, but we made them happen.
DESERT STORM, we had certain people working 24 hours a day. Of course, we beefed our guard security up to 50 percent ... were up all the time. Up on the roadway, we had a good number of people up as we were moving forward, trying to rest the key leaders in shifts. We did not ... you know, with the uncertainty of what was happening, we didn't know. When we got to ROMEO, we had the equipment working that night, all night in the TPT and with the hospital. We did not clear cluster positions at night by any means, there was no need to. Other than that the days were just long and, you know, tension-filled.
Mail? As I said earlier in the interview, we used to drive back to Damman every single day with a truck to get it. It was worth me to have to give up that vehicle and morale was pretty good with the mail. We consolidated this at group headquarters, they got us a big truck and the battalions rotated providing the mail handling to go down. The mail was then brought back from Damman to the group headquarters, which was co-located with me, and broken down by the three battalions that came there to pick it up. This reduced the burden on two battalions. It worked pretty well.
[END OF INTERVIEW]