A combination of better training, troop discipline,
and an overwhelming technological advantage moved the soldiers
of 3rd Armored Division's Co. A, 4th Battalion, 18th Infantry
Regiment swiftly through Iraqi trench lines in the allied ground
offensive. And when the smoke cleared, the mechanized infantry
soldiers of Alpha Co. discovered some shocking facts about their
"elite Republican Guard" opponents.
SFC Marvin Rutherford, a platoon sergeant with Alpha Co.,
was among the first in his company to encounter enemy forces.
Two pairs of Bradley Fighting Vehicles bounded forward, protecting
each other during the advance through Iraq, toward Kuwait, in
the early hours of the morning on Feb. 27.
"We saw a missile coming toward us, " Rutherford
said. "At first, we thought it was a flare coming down,
but it kept coming closer and closer."
The flare turned out to be an anti-tank missile. Rutherford's
gunner, SPC Donald Barker, shot the missile down 200 meters shy
of its destination.
For Rutherford and his men, the fight was just beginning.
"We didn't know what we had gotten into. They had tanks
in the trench lines and they were hard to see. Again, my gunner
got on them and we started whipping HE (high explosive), TOWs,
and AP on them." The battle proved to Rutherford and his
men that a Bradley could kill both T-62 tanks and thinner-skinned
Not far from Rutherford's platoon, CPT Charles Forshee engaged
an Iraqi tank while backing up his own Bradley. The Alpha Co.
commander's crew then killed a T-62 tank, in addition to two
armored personnel carriers, by firing their TOWs and 25-mm main
Forshee looks back on the battle as one of no contest. "We
killed stuff that was blind to us," he said. "Shooting
blind men in the dark."
SPC Barker attributes the victory, in part, to superior vision
capabilities. "We had such an advantage over them with our
thermal sights, it seemed like they couldn't even see us,"
the 22-year-old gunner said.
And with first light came mass surrender. The Iraqi troops
wanted no misconception of then" intent. "They carried
large white sheets or sleeping mats or anything that was white,
and just walk en masse," said SFC Michael Jones, another
Alpha Co. platoon sergeant. As the enemy prisoners of war came
closer to the victors, the U.S. troops began to question some
of the things they had heard about their "elite" opponent.
"They were scared, really scared," said SPC James Singleton,
an infantry soldier. "One group looked like they had been
digging through garbage cans because they had pieces of our food
here and pieces of it there. The guys that we took looked like
they had been planning their escape for quite a while."
Starvation and a lack of adequate clothing were common among
the captured Iraqis, according to PFC James Barnette. "Most
of the EPWs we picked up didn't have shoes. They had blisters
on their feet the size of their thumbs. One of them
told our first sergeant it had been two or three days since
he had food or water, and there's little to nothing of them there.
It's like grabbing somebody who's been starved to death."
MAJ Robert Leonhard, who was in charge of the battalion's combat
training, felt some pity toward the Iraqi soldiers, who had been
immersed in combat with his men just a few hours before.
"We could see in their eyes despair. The immediate response
was fear, either fear of the unknown or fear that they were going
to be executed," Leonhard said.
"Our soldiers were very careful, obviously, but very
compassionate at the same time."
Not one soldier of Alpha Co. was killed during the battle.
The men in their Bradleys were able to kill three T-62s, three
PT-76 amphibious light tanks, and nine armored personnel carriers,
despite several pockets of resistance.
SSG Thomas Gregory, an Alpha Co. squad leader, admits that
Iraqi troops may have had the advantage of being combat veterans
going into the fight. But he points out, "They have never
met a force with such technology that rolls them up like that."
Gregory adds that tough training gave his squad the edge in
battle. "We found them with their pants down. All of their
equipment was stocked, but it wasn't loaded. "
On March 4, as the soldiers of Alpha Co. stood in formation
on a barren, sandy plain in central Kuwait, MG Paul E. Funk pinned
the Bronze Star for valor on the chest of Forshee, the company
But he made it clear to the formation that every soldier standing
there could be considered a hero.