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October 18, 2012

Ranger History: The Persian Gulf War

The history of the modern Ranger Regiment is a very colorful one; we who join the 75th are expected to study and memorize our heritage from the days of Francis Marion in the American Revolution to the Battle of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan and to more recent times. We jumped into Grenada in ’83, we jumped into Panama in ’89, and we fought thousands of Somalis in the streets of Mogadishu in ’93. These are conflicts ingrained in our memories forever and can be read about (or watched) in countless mediums from books, documentaries, and Hollywood blockbusters. But most Rangers and even less civilians have absolutely no clue about 75th operations during the Persian Gulf War in ’90 – ’91. If memory serves me correctly there is no mention of it at all in our Ranger History booklet we all received in RIP/RASP. So I decided to do some research over the last couple of days and I found out some really great history of our time in the Gulf that I want to share with our fine readers here at SOFREP.

What I found most interesting is that the Rangers (specifically the beach boys of the 1st Ranger Battalion) actually deployed three separate times to the Gulf throughout 1990 to 1991.

(Picture credit: Scott Brawner)

1st Deployment:

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990 which was followed by the first deployment of coalition forces about a week later. Operation Desert Shield as it was dubbed saw the deployment of hundreds of thousands of allied forces to Saudi Arabia in order to protect the nation from Saddam’s military machine if he ever decided to leave Kuwait and make his way towards Riyadh. Much of Desert Shield consisted of sitting and waiting around waiting for the war to actually start. Which didn’t happen until January of ’91, almost five months later. In late 1990, Saddam took almost 1000 Western, Japanese, and Kuwaiti nationals as hostages and placed them throughout strategic locations in Iraq and Kuwait acting as human shields in order to deter an attack by the coalition. He also refused to allow thousands of other foreign nationals, women and children included, to leave and threatened to use them as leverage as well. This provocation saw the first deployment of men from the 1st Ranger Battalion. Their mission was to secure the many strategic facilities that held the human shields both in Kuwait and in Iraq. From the information I gather, it looks like there were just too many targets for the JSOC forces currently on the ground to secure (who are trained in hostage rescue). Fortunately (“Unfortunately” if you ask a Ranger), Saddam Hussein released all the hostages and the 1/75 element was sent home sometime in December 1990.

(Picture credit: Scott Brawner)

2nd Deployment:

Operation Desert Shield was coming to a close, and the assault portion of the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, was rearing its head. On January 17th, 1991 almost a month after the Rangers were sent home; the first day of Desert Storm began with a massive air campaign to rid Iraqi forces from Kuwait. On February 12th, Bravo Company and Alpha Company’s 1st Platoon with Weapons Platoon attachments touched down in Saudi Arabia. They would stay in theatre until April 15th, 1991, almost two months following the end of ground combat.

Starting February 7th in the middle of the air campaign and still fifteen days away from the ground assault portion of Desert Storm, the Rangers found themselves supporting Delta Force’s SCUD hunting operations by acting as a blocking force during operations, providing quick reaction capabilities, and reconnaissance against Iraqi forces. A platoon sized element supported by the 160th SOAR undertook a major helicopter assault against an Iraqi communications facility near the Jordanian border. The Rangers toppled a 350 foot microwave tower, destroyed the facility, and took a number of prisoners. This probably marked the furthest that a light infantry unit (non-mechanized) found itself in Iraq during the entire war. The coalition ground assault against Iraqi forces in Kuwait ceased on February 28th, 1991 and the 1/75 Ranger element found itself back in Savannah by mid-April.

3rd Deployment:

(Picture credit: Scott Brawner)

Although the shooting war was over, tensions between Iraq and its neighbor Kuwait remained. Towards the end of 1991 border problems plagued the two countries which resulted in numerous small engagements between the nations. It almost seemed as though Saddam was on a warpath once again with Kuwait. In response, elements of the 1st Ranger Battalion and Regimental Headquarters led by LTC Ken Stauss (died 1992 in helicopter crash) left Hunter Army Airfield towards Ali Al Salem Airfield, Kuwait. On December 8/9th, 1991 the Rangers conducted a daylight combat jump as a tactical show-of-force against Hussein followed by a 50km overland movement and live fire exercise. Although the ground war was well over, the area was still semi-hostile zone (it wasn’t until 1995 that Operation Desert Storm was officially over). The Rangers who participated in the jump did not receive a combat jump star or a CIB, but a couple of years down the road the participants were awarded their combat scrolls for what was dubbed Operation Iris Gold. They were also awarded the Southwest Asia Service Medal for their participation.

Ask any Ranger and they will tell you that our history in the Gulf War is poorly documented. Much of the information I acquired is from 1/75 Gulf War veterans sitting around reminiscing about good times gone. Any Ranger veterans who participated: I would love to hear from you if I’m missing anything!


(Picture credit: Scott Brawner)

(Lead picture of little bird, picture credit: Scott Brawner)

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  • SGT Dan

    Double-tapping Formwiz's comment about Ranger Run 1 (the microwave tower raid) being covered as _the_ case study for the Regiment in then-Colonel Bolger's 1999 book Death Ground. That was where I first heard the story.

  • DavidSFaf

    Thanks very much to Lassen for creating this site. I have some idea as to how much work it required - and in my experience, it’s the best out there for info on the Rangers. I also see who’s participating, and I’d like to tap into your collective knowledge. I’m currently doing research for an author writing a novel which has some Rangers in it, takes place partly during GW1, and while, yeah, it’s fiction, I want the details right and the portrayals honest. Need to do honor to those who were there. Before I ask my questions, my background: 20+ years in USAF ops; retired longer ago than I care to remember :-{); many short tours in “the Kingdom” in the ‘80s, both with AWACS and USCENTAF. More than half my career overseas, in several theaters. As to the research for the novel, so far, after following many leads, one of the things that has surprised me is how hard it has been to get details of what the Rangers did in-country. Maybe because of classification, maybe because they were small in number and so missed in “the big picture”. If the latter, I’d like to correct that.   Anyway, here’s an outline of what I’ve got so far, with some questions. I’d appreciate any feedback, but particularly want to know (a) what I’ve got wrong, and (b) what I’ve missed.  - Bravo Company and elements of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to SA 12 February 1991 and RTB Hunter 15 April 1991.  - Wherever they landed (Riyadh? King Khalid?) they were soon deployed to Al Jouf.  - Also at Al Jouf were US Delta Force, the 160th SOAR, AFSOC Pavelows - and, of course, the SAS.  - The Rangers went SCUD hunting with the SAS & AFSOC “in order to placate Israel” (according to one source), with Delta Force (+ Rangers) assigned NW of Al Qaim (“SCUD boulevard”) and SAS to the south (“SCUD alley”).  - Ranger and SAS web histories both talk about taking out a comm tower near Syria/Jordan: same one?   — Ranger history says that just prior to the start of the ground war they took out a 350-foot-tall microwave tower in far NW Iraq, destroyed the facility, took prisoners, in what was probably the furthest insertion of a light infantry unit in the entire war. No mention of SAS.   — SAS history says that their entire A squadron attacked a SCUD communications installation, code-named “Victor Two”. It was destroyed. No mention of the Rangers.   —Anyone know the whole truth?  - Final question: the ceasefire was on 28 February 1991. The Rangers didn’t deploy home until 15 April. What did they do in the six weeks in-between those dates? If you’d like to contact me directly, my personal email is [email protected] And thanks. For everything.

  • YankeeZulu

    I was in Ranger School when they sent some of the Bn over. All I remember about this is when everyone came back all they would do is go on about "Its classified, can't talk about it."

  • Aco1stPltWpnSqd

    Just wanted to say hi to those fellows who remember that jump into Camel DZ. I was one of the cherry Rangers who just got to 1st Batt in time for that jump. I remember the jump master blowing 10 knots while shaking his head NO. Ha, I knew it was going to hurt. Made it through the march and live fire although I herniated a disk. I was happy as crap to see those birds coming in to take us to Daho. We took a platoon picture in camp and I have lost mine. I would love to get a copy and show my kids. If you got a copy can you scan me one over to my email [email protected] Rangers Lead the Way!

  • TO1389

    Just a slight correction/addition to the Ranger assault on the communications facility (called "Ranger Run I"): 160th SOAR birds were there and provided C2 and CAS, but the actual raid platoon was infilled and exfilled by MH-53J Pave Lows from the Air Force's 20th Special Operations Squadron.    20th SOS Pave Lows were also the first aircraft to cross into Iraq (a distinction usually given to the Apache crews, who were led in by the Paves), and performed much of the CSAR for that war (and most of the SOF CSAR throughout the '90s and '00s; in fact, MH-53s were the dedicated QRF/CSAR platform for OCF-I for much of OIF, not the 160th).    You guys might be surprised how many SOF missions have been performed where the 160th was credited for the air mission, but it was actually AFSOC crews that flew the mission - exclusively, or along side their Army counterparts.