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.
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.
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.
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!
RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!
(Lead picture of little bird, picture credit: Scott Brawner)