Mission Assigned: Kuwait City
Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia—The short week of the 432nd’s stay at Khobar Village began and ended with surprises. The first was being awakened at 0200, Thursday, February 7, by an air raid siren and the sound of a loudspeaker calling out, “SCUD launch … SCUD launch.” A new experience now for the main body: being down range from an enemy attempting to kill our people.
The first reaction after the initial shock wore off was to don gas masks and assemble in the commons areas of each of the apartments¹.
After about seven minutes, members heard the welcome words, “All clear … All clear.” They later learned the voice on the loudspeaker was appropriately named, “Dr. Death.” There would be more SCUD alerts, and all but one were regarded as a joke because of what the troops regarded as the uncanny accuracy of American Patriot missiles. Later on, experts were to challenge that perception of the Patriots, pointing out that poor marksmanship due mainly to the constant pressure of the US Air Force and faulty atmospheric re-entry led to the harmless detonations of the SCUDs far away from their targets. The tragic exception to this comedy of missile errors was the failure to intercept one SCUD that fell on a reserve quartermaster unit’s quarters in Dhahran on Sunday, February 24, after the 432nd had left for Al Jubayl. Twenty-eight reservists died in the freak hit and one hundred were wounded, the largest total loss during the entire conflict.
The second surprise during the unit’s stay at Khobar occurred on Friday, February 8, when the Commander announced that the 432nd’s mission would not be supporting VII Corps. Instead, the unit had been assigned to assist in the relief of Kuwait City immediately following the city’s liberation. Most people realized how prestigious that assignment was, and many must have wondered how we acquired that task. On the day of our departure from Khobar, unit members would leam just how much that assignment meant to others. For the time remaining however smaller assignments obscured the glamor.
Over the weekend of February 9-10, guard duty assignments increased substantially as our sister units left Khobar to join fighting units farther north. Guard duty wasn’t all bad. The boredom was compensated by interesting conversations recalling everything from prior duty stations and favorite restaurants to future plans following deactivation. What was even more delightful however was returning from guard duty to find officers loading the vehicles for our departure north to Al Jubayl, a trip of about 60 miles.
- At first the warning was barely audible, especially since we were asleep. I was so tired, that by the time I figured it out I didn’t care. I rolled over to go back to sleep. Then people started running up and down the hall in a semi-panic, donning gas masks. I figured there might be something to this, so I got up, got my camera and wandered out on the balcony to catch the fireworks. In restrospect, neither reaction was worth the effort. By the time the SCUD launch was detected, the warning relayed to the MPs, the MPs drove to our part of Khobar, and the warning penetrated our subconcious the missile would have already landed. As the poor bastards up the road discovered a few weeks later, when it is your time to go, it is your time to go.
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