NEWS | March 13, 2019

Army Engineers visit Desert Storm sites in Kuwait

By Courtesy Story Task Force Spartan

Task Force Castle Leaders assigned to the 20th Engineer Brigade partnered with the U.S. Army Engineer School to conduct a Desert Storm staff ride throughout historical sites in Kuwait, January 29-31, 2019.

Designed to further the professional development of leaders while in a deployed environment, the staff ride gave a group of more than sixty Soldiers the chance to visit battle sites, museums, and an airfield with partially destroyed hangars. Soldiers learned about and discuss various aspects of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The staff ride was designed to familiarize TF Castle leaders with the dynamics of large-scale combat operations with an emphasis on engineer support.

Florian Waitl, the U.S. Army Engineer School command historian, coordinated and led the staff ride. Following a preliminary study the night prior, the event kicked off early in the morning with a discussion of actions and a terrain analysis of the site where Kuwait’s 35th “Shaheed” Armored Brigade first made contact with invading Iraqi tanks on August 2, 1990. Observing the area from a hilltop, participants were able to visualize the opening battle known as “The Battle of the Bridges,” and they discussed the effects of terrain upon ground movements as well as the importance of mission command during complex military operations.

Afterward, the group moved into the heart of Kuwait City to visit the Al-Qurain Martyrs Museum, which includes a partially destroyed building that serves as a memorial to the Kuwaiti civilians that were part of the “Al-Messilah” resistance group. While touring the museum and walking through the site, Master Sgt. Daryl Singh noted that he “did not realize the Kuwaitis had an active resistance force [during the Iraqi occupation]. Being able to see the destroyed house and vehicles really showed the personal side and how it affected the civilians.” This venue provided staff ride participants with an excellent opportunity to discuss how the war affects Kuwait’s national identity.

Following the museum, the group traveled to Al-Jaber Airbase to learn about the air campaign that preceded Coalition Forces invading Southern Iraq and Kuwait. The discussion was held in a partially destroyed hangar that was previously occupied by Iraqi forces, giving a first-hand look of the capability of coalition air power. This portion of the staff ride involved anecdotes that provided historical context to the importance of planning, preparation, and sustainment to military operations.

Following another information session the next morning, the group set out to take a closer look at the effects of terrain upon the Iraqi retrograde out of the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations in February 1991. The discussion took place near the infamous “Highway of Death” where a famous photo of the destruction was taken, bringing the human dimension of war to light within the staff ride and its influence on command decisions. This discussion solidified the importance and use of the media during information operations back in 1991 as well as in today’s operational environment.

Once back at Camp Buehring, the group reflected upon how seeing the actual terrain enhanced their previous understanding of the campaign. Leaders discussed the insights they gained from the staff ride in regards to large-scale combat operations, multi-domain operations, and engineer operations they may face in the current and future operational environment.

Waitl said that he “wanted the Soldiers to draw parallels between military history — in this case Desert Storm — and the contemporary issues they are facing. After observing their discussions and the various insights the group gained out of this staff ride, I am confident that these Soldiers not only realize that history matters, but they now have a better understanding of the potential lethality, chaos, and accelerated tempo of the multi-domain battlefield, if we are in fact forced to face a near-peer adversary in the future.”