The Lightning of Desert Storm by James Dietz
101st Division Securing FOB Cobra
"Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command, this morning at 0300, we launched Operation DESERT STORM, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nation's resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our Country." - General H. Norman Schwarztkopf, USA Commander-in-Chief U.S. Central Command, in a message to the command, 16 January 1991.
And so, ten years ago, Operation Desert Storm began. On the morning of 24 February 1991, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) successfully conducted the largest air assault operation in the history of warfare. Led by Col. Tom Hill's 1st Brigade, 66 Blackhawks and 30 Chinooks lifted off at 0727 Hours to seize FOB Cobra, a forward base 85 miles inside Iraq as well as numerous other critical objectives deep inside enemy territory. The swift, deep, and critical strikes of the 101st Airborne Division embodied General Schwartzkopf's notion of the "Lightning of Desert Storm." Doctrinally, the 101st Airborne Division's operation would validate the four tenets of AirLand Battle by successfully utilizing initiative, agility, depth, and synchronization. Strategically, their attack would fulfill the intent of the XVIII Airborne Corps Commander, General Gary Luck, by penetrating deep into Iraq, cutting the enemy's lines of communications, and by drastically reducing enemy effectiveness. The rapid completion of this initial deep strike was critical to the success of the "Great Wheel" envisioned by the CINC, General Norman Schwarztkopf and was key to the success of the ground campaign.
The route of flight was secured by Apache helicopters, which took up ambush positions upon reaching their forward objectives. After the low-level flight, soldiers of the 1st Brigade touched down in multiple landing zones and moved to expand their objective. Almost immediately, elements of the 426th Supply and Transportation Battalion landed into FOB Cobra to establish refueling points for the chalks, which were to follow.
Around 1000 Hours, soldiers of the 1-327th Infantry made contact with a large Iraqi force which was positioned in a fortified bunker complex within the Area of Operations (AO). Using the element of surprise and conducting a synchronized attack, the infantry supported by aviation and arriving artillery neutralized the enemy, cleared them from their positions, and took 340 prisoners. An impromptu Joint Air Attack Team (JAAT) comprised of Air Force A-10 "Warthogs" and Army Apache and Cobra helicopters proved extremely effective during the action.
By afternoon, support and combat power flowed into the area of operations. With refueling established, Apache attack helicopters of the 101st Aviation Brigade moved even deeper north into Iraq to cut enemy supply lines and close several key roads connecting Iraqi forces in Kuwait with Baghdad. The 101st Airborne Division's actions prevented Iraqi escape along Highway 8, located 170 miles into Iraq. As darkness fell, the speed and success of the Division's mission had cut major Iraqi lines of communications and opened the way to enemy destruction and defeat by the attacking coalition forces.
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