News

Air defense artillery soldiers stabilizing Southwest Asia

by Spc. Michael Scott

CAMP DOHA, Kuwait (Army News Service, April 13, 1998) -- More than 900 soldiers assigned or attached to air defense units are currently deployed in Southwest Asia to serve in a joint coalition operation involving Middle Eastern allies and more than 30,000 U.S. service members.

These soldiers, part of task forces 1-1 ADA and 3-43 ADA, the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command and the 3rd Infantry Division's short-range Air Defense unit, are deployed to the Middle Eastern nations of Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

They are here to ensure the Iraqi government complies with its agreement to allow U.N. inspectors unlimited access to suspect weapons sites to include nuclear, biological and chemical weapons laboratories and storage locations.

"We initially deployed here to get into a shooting war," said Brig. Gen. Dennis D. Cavin, commander of the 32nd AAMDC and the senior Army ADA officer in the region. "The agreement that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan came up with is good as long as Saddam Hussein follows that agreement."

Army ADA soldiers, along with allied air defense units, are deployed to positions where they can protect strategic sites from both Iraqi aircraft and missiles in case an air attack is forthcoming, said Col. Ben Hobson, 32nd AAMDC chief-of-staff.

Patriot units in Kuwait and Bahrain are primarily concerned with combating the tactical ballistic missile threat. The units in Saudi Arabia, however, are here to destroy both air-breathing threats [aircraft] as well as tactical ballistic missiles, said Chief Warrant Officer David H. Chew, electronic missile maintenance officer attached to the 32nd AAMDC.

If the Patriot surface-to-air missile systems were absent from this region, critical assets deemed necessary by Marines Corps Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, U.S. Central Command commander-in-chief, would not be protected from the hostile air threat presented by TBMs like the Iraqi Scud missile, said Task Force 3-43 ADA Commander Lt. Col. Matt J. Brown.

"We are here to protect both the military and civilian population from Saddam Hussein's air and missile forces...An air security blanket is what this is. We're here so that people can go about their daily lives without fear of attack or another Kuwait invasion by Iraq," said Sgt. 1st Class Carl Torkelson, the 32nd AAMDC noncommissioned officer-in-charge of attack operations.

ADA units continue to monitor the U.N. sanctions agreement and are prepared to take all measures necessary in order for Iraq to meet the demands set down by the resolution by protecting the task force from air attack, Brown said.

Patriot units with both ADA task forces ensure the Iraqi military cannot launch surface-to-surface Scud missiles at coalition nations at will. In the truest sense of the word, Patriot is a strategic voice demonstrating American commitment to this region, Cavin said.

While TF 1-1 ADA came here as part of a normal rotation to Southwest Asia, TF 3-43 ADA and the 32nd AAMDC were both rapidly deployed. In fact, this is the first deployment ever for the 32nd AAMDC, which is a new unit created in 1997.

The 32nd AAMDC performs critical theater-level air and missile defense planning, integration, coordination and execution functions. The unit coordinates and integrates the operational elements of theater missile defense in support of the ground maneuver forces.

The unit also commands the echelon-above-corps ADA brigades, which in this case are TF 1-1 ADA and TF 3-43 ADA.

Patriot, which provides high- and medium-altitude air defense, remains the only air defense weapon in the U.S. arsenal capable of intercepting and destroying a TBM. It is the only weapons system that can achieve a warhead-to-warhead kill and uses kinetic energy to vaporize any missile-borne NBC hazard before it can reach the ground troops, Cavin said.

With the recent addition of the 32nd AAMDC to the joint coalition task force, soldiers on the ground now have access to a new early warning system. This system, which is basically a redundant system relying on digital pagers, can alert soldiers to possible biological and chemical agents before they are released by incoming Scud missiles, said Lt. Col. Thomas A. Gray, the battle captain for the 32nd AAMDC force protection tactical operations center.

Within seconds of a Scud launch, the 32nd AAMDC TOC can predict its trajectory and where a warhead will impact. In less than two minutes, this information will then be relayed to the unit commanders who are at the predicted impact site. These commanders will then pass the word to the troops, giving them time to protect themselves, said Staff Sgt. Forrest P. Moncreif, an operator of the 32nd AAMDC early warning system.

By monitoring the air picture, the 32nd AAMDC TOC can also pinpoint where a Scud missile has been launched. Once the location has been discovered, it's just a matter of calling in to the land-component command to counterattack the site. This assures that no further missiles will ever be launched from that site again, Gray said.

With the current agreement Annan brokered, the situation here seems to have stabilized, but U.S. ADA forces continue to train in addition to monitoring the region's airspace in case an Iraqi threat develops.

"We're here. We're ready, and everyone is ready to go in support of the coalition forces, but now our focus is going to be training," said Maj. Eric Wagenaar, a training and operations officer with 1st Battalion, 3rd ADA.

Currently, TF 3-43 and other ADA units in the field here are undertaking an extensive training program to implement and improve the units' "go-to-war" fighting guidelines, Brown said.

"This is good training. It's real close to a real-world situation," said Spc. Randall L. Brown, an early warning systems operator with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Bn., 3rd ADA. "We can't have this training [at Fort Stewart] in Georgia. In Georgia, we do a lot of command post exercises, but we don't have everybody like here. We have actual maneuvers here, not simulated movement."

This deployment has also afforded TF 3-43 ADA the opportunity for enhanced training with Kuwaiti Patriot units. "Interoperability is the way of the future," Brown said. "Training with the Kuwaitis on a daily basis gives us a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge."

However, this doesn't mean that ADA units in the region are standing down in favor of training. ADA units are still providing a real-world air picture for the command group and remain poised to react in the event of a combat mission, Torkelson said.

ADA has been here since Desert Shield, which many people seem to forget. Real-world operations have never stopped here. One can almost say that Desert Storm is entering its eighth year, Torkelson said.

"When you think about ADA, there are only two words you can use: force protection," Torkelson said. For Patriot soldiers in Southwest Asia, it's always real world. Really, outside of (the continental United States), it's always real world with the exception of Germany. Since missiles seem to be the weapon of choice these days, American Patriot units will remain in demand throughout the world.

"Regardless of the fact that we may never have to pull the trigger here, we'll continue to train on tactics, techniques and procedures so that when our soldiers return home, they are much better trained than when they arrived in theater," Hobson said.

(Editor's note: Scott is a public affairs specialist for the 32nd U.S.Army Air and Missile Defense Command.)