Sunday, January 02, 2005

Mors Et Destructio


Z 260830Z FEB 91

(Note to the security hounds: the above message was declassified in 1991, so chill out)

Yes indeed! Going home! That's what I'm talkin' bout!

And we were waiting to go home when we got word of Bangladesh.

It was April 1991 and we were preparing to deploy back to the United States. We had just fought in a war that resulted in the deaths of thousands of enemy soldiers. Some estimates of Iraqi soldiers killed were as high as 100,000, some as low as 40,000. We weren't counting so I don't know which number is correct -- probably somewhere in between. All I know is that it was a lot and that in some places you couldn't walk 10 paces without coming across a body or body part -- moving through some sectors, you just went "Fuuuuuuck".

We stayed up in Iraq for about 3 weeks after the ceasefire was declared. I can't adequately describe what it was like trying to eat chow with one hand while fanning the flies with the other (think CARE commercial) -- and knowing where those flies had probably dined before trying to dine with us.

It was good to get out of there.

We moved back into Saudi Arabia and after a couple of more weeks out in the desert, we moved to the port and were garrisoned in the now-infamous Khobar Towers, waiting our turn to go home. Not just sitting around waiting, mind you. There were dozens of tasks to be performed as we prepared to be deployed back to the USA. For instance, our vehicles had to be washed so that they would pass the USDA inspection .. which meant about 5 hours per vehicle using high pressure hoses, regular washbrushes, toothbrushes and pipecleaners. Quite a wash job, huh? I do not exaggerate. No one can forget that. To this day I despise the USDA (well, not really .. but I'd make 'em all sit in the desert for 7 months if I could).

As the day drew near for our turn to take the big flight back to America where families and friends waited, the news came of a major cyclone hitting Bangladesh.

The inital reports were very bad. Word spread like wildfire that we would be diverted from the USA to Bangladesh. This was not a happy thought. After 7 months in the desert, the thought of going to Bangladesh was ... well, more than we really cared to think about.

We were spared. The Marines got the call. God bless the Marines!

A friend in the 5th MEB (Marine Expeditionary Brigade) was one of those Marines diverted to Bangladesh.

We met up about a year later. His stories of the death and destruction in Bangladesh and what the Marines did to aid in the recovery are a nearly forgotten part of history. Except for those who were there.

I found this at

Between 10 May and 13 June 1991 Joint Task Force Sea Angel, one of the largest military disaster relief forces ever assembled, was sent to the aid of the people of Bangladesh in the wake of the destruction of the tropical cyclone Marian.

Cyclone Marian (29-30 April 1991) was one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in recent times. Marian's 140 mile-per-hour winds and an eight-meter tidal wave devastated Bangladesh, killing nearly 140,000 people and leaving over 5 million people homeless.

Within 24 hours of a request for support from the government of Bangladesh, Operation Sea Angel was launched, and advance teams from the III Marine Expeditionary Force arrive in country for initial liaison. Operation Sea Angel began on 10 May and involved over 7,000 US soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen.

A fifteen-ship amphibious task force composed of Amphibious Group 3 and the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, homeward bound from five months of operations in the Persian Gulf, was diverted to the Bay of Bengal to assist.

Over the next month, 6,700 Navy and Marine Corps personnel working with U.S. Army, Air Force, and multinational forces, provide food, water, and medical care to nearly two million people. The relief efforts of U.S. troops are credited with having saved as many as 200,000 lives.

Read it all

In August 1992, less than 18 months later, I was back in Southwest Asia -- an emergency deployment to Kuwait. It was an election year and Saddam was rattling his saber.

On about July 25th of that year, he moved an armored division and a mechanized infantry division into southern Iraq. The infantry division was positioned only a few kilometers from Kuwait's northern border.

Here we go again.

On July 30th, 1st Cavalry Division was conducting a change-of-command ceremony. Major General Wesley K. Clark was taking over from Major General John Tilelli.

As we stood in formation on the parade field, LTC Kevin Reynolds, our brigade executive officer, informed us that we had received a Warning Order: our brigade was ordered to be prepared to deploy to Kuwait.


Start getting ready after the ceremony. It might be tomorrow.

Fortunately, we had started planning back in May to go to Kuwait in October 1992 to participate in Exercise Intrinsic Action, the first in a series of military exercises as part of a new 10-year security agreement between the U.S. and Kuwait.

With Saddam threatening to take the Raudhatain and Sabriya oilfields, our deployment date was pushed up and the "exercise" morphed into an "operation".

On August 11th at approximately 1400hrs, we received orders to deploy to Kuwait. We flew out of Robert Gray Army Airfield that night at about 2300hrs.

When we stepped off the plane at Kuwait International, it was 122°F. We would be replacing the 11th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) who were due to go home, but were now being diverted to Somalia. They would become the spearhead for the relief efforts in that pitiful war-torn place.

We had our hands full in Kuwait. We were outnumbered by a factor of about 6 to 1. If Saddam attacked Kuwait again, our mission was to fight and delay his advance until the U.S. Embassy and the like could be evacuated. Then we were to move south to defensive positions in Saudi Arabia and hold on there until reinforcements arrived. Some of the troops dubbed the plan "Operation Taco Bell" -- run for the border. Black humor runs wide among soldiers in dire circumstances.

It was an "open-ended" deployment, meaning we didn't have a set date to return home. As the weeks went by, we learned that we might be out by Christmas -- replaced by either a Stateside or Europe-based unit.

This was good news.

The bad news was that we might be diverted to Somalia. We started paying close attention to the situation there while at the same time keeping an eye on the Iraqi divisions just north of us.

Somalia = Hell.

At least that was how I entitled my first briefing chart to the Task Force Commander. By September 1992, the estimates were that about 600 people were dying per day.

Tribes and clans loyal to Mohamed Farah Aideed were fighting tribes and clans loyal to Colonel Omar Jess, a Somali warlord who controlled Kismayo. The fighting was savage.

All food supplies were controlled by Aideed and Colonel Jess and their clans. Of course, part of what Aideed and Jess were fighting over was food. Meanwhile, thousands of Somalis were starving to death. It was a very, very bad situation.

Reading the daily intel summaries about Somalia, I knew I didn't want to go there.

As it turned out, the 10th Mountain Division was deployed to Somalia.

God bless the 10th Mountain Division!

In 1991-1992, over 300,000 Somalis died of starvation and famine-related diseases as a result of the fighting between rival clans.

If this seems like rambling, it kinda is. A small data dump from my memory banks which are imperfect at best. But there is a point to my stroll down memory lane and it is this:

The tsunami that hit South Asia is bad, but we've dealt with bad before. Americans deal with bad things and we try our best to fix broken things. We take action. It's who we are.

Our military is once again leading the way in disaster relief operations. Our government will spend many millions of dollars to help those affected by the tsunami. American citizens will open their checkbooks to help the tsunami victims.

I'm proud to be an American and I get mighty riled up when others disparage us.

I've had enough of the United Nations.

The UN is as worthless as tits on a boar hog. Worthless. You hear me? They can't pour piss out of a boot without instructions on the heel. Nearly everything that organization touches turns to shit.

If we pull the plug, it will die. And it's time for the UN to die.

If we're going to be a part of any international body, let it be one made up of democracies who share our vision of liberty for all. Membership closed to the likes of Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc etc etc. No more Boutros Boutros Bygollees. No more Kofis. What a ridiculous person. He needs his ass kicked.

It's time for something new.

It's way past time.


The Anchoress said...

Another great piece, Monk. I'd trackback to it...if you HAD trackback! :-)

The Anchoress said...

but I did link to it, inside the link re diplomad!

MerryMadMonk said...

A link from The Anchoress is a great way to start off the New Year. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I reckon I'll be needin' to look into that newfangled Trackback thingy. Newfangled to The Monk, anyway.

It might be worth it just to annoy Tae :)