In 1991 the pipe-hitters made a B line for presumptuously postering Iraq. The mission was… well, there was no pin-point mission specified beyond ‘kicking the unholy dogshit out of a colicky nation, and as General Norman Schwartzkoph explained (words to the effect), “We’re here to tell these people exactly what we expect them to do.”

“Marching orders” and guidance were just not a thing that critically fuelled the men’s actions in the unit. Typically just finger-pointing in the general direction to where the combat was, proved time and again to be the singular kick-start needed to rile the men into action — “there’s war that-a-way, boys; go n’ get you some-a that!” and they were on the move working out the finer details en route.

“WHERE ARE WE HEADED?”

IRAQ!”

“WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO WHEN WE GET THERE?”

“KICK ASS!!”

“AND HOW ARE WE GONNA DO THAT?”

(chirp… chirp… chirp… chirp…)

That’s where a need to work out the finer details comes in.

Once in-country, the pipe-hitters, in the miasma of confusion to get pointed in a meaningful and productive direction, became piqued with anxiety. There was just no specific mission to dole out to the ornery organization of Tier-One pipe hitters. Idle hands and all, the brothers felt they were there on the ground long enough — over their jet lag — and it was time to fight. No mission? They found their own mission: they got (at least) theater command permission to head out into Indian country in search of SCUD missiles that were menacing the allies.

The scourge of the war, the SCUD Missile Launcher (Wikipedia Commons)
Damage from an Iraqi scud missile that hit Ramat Gan, Israel, during the first Gulf War (26 January 1991) Wikipedia Commons.

The brothers immediately commandeered the welding shop at the airforce base where they were boarded. Putting the welders on indefinite repose in the break room to watch Power Rangers and smoke cigarettes, the pipe-hitters took… pipes… and other metal shoring materials and proceeded to weld additional mounts for automatic weapons onto their Hummer jeeps and Pinzgauer trucks.

“Ok… ok… listen up… who does NOT have a machine gun mount — hold up your hand?”

“Me, ME, Slammer; I don’t have a machine gun mount!”

“Ok let’s get busy with the torch n’ git’r done…”

A bushel of pop-sparks, slag, not looking directly at the torch with the unprotected eye, and there appeared a machine gun mount where no machine gun mount had ever been before! The brothers crowded onto the now over-burdened combat vehicles and threw a dart at a map of Indian territory to gin up a destination. Once at that destination, they planned to throw the dart again and again until they were ordered home for supper.

The weapon of choice to supplement the combat force’s firepower in the hunt for SCUDs was this 7.62 x 51mm M-240 machine gun.

The notion that they would even get to the first destination was merely a… notion… as the situation on the ground was hotly expected to drive the train. A target spotted on the ground was certainly going to pull them from their route. Air reconnaissance was constantly searching for SCUD singles and SCUD batteries moving at night or holding fast in the desert daylight hours. Targets from the recon platform were relayed to the pipe-hitters who were only too pleased to take an excursion from their primary route to inflict scunion onto Iraqi SCUDS, or as the brothers took to terming it in a most tongue-in-cheek manner: “Bringing down SCUD-ion onto the Iraqis”.

It was all fun and games until the first tire went flat. The first, second, third, fourth, and fifth tires all went flat in the same ring of Dante’s Inferno — the lava field! It was a large field. One with sharp pumas rocks that flattened tires at a rate that sounded like a popcorn popper — and did I mention that it happened at night? Oh, what a night. It was the first I had ever heard of the need to cross load spare tires. The event was of sufficient gravity as to necessitate a non-scheduled helicopter resupply of… spare tires! The mechanics back at the FOB were sprung into action!

A Pinzgauer six-wheel drive, high-mobility, all-terrain vehicle seen with a spare tire (Wikipedia commons)

A team of dirt bikes scooted off out of the pumas’ field to scout a landing zone for the Chinook helicopter to land with the cargo. The recon didn’t take long because after all, it was a desert. The resupply was simple enough: five fresh tires were rolled down the ramp of the helo, and five flats were sluggishly pushed up. The mechanics had thrown in two extra tires, a really great thing, but there was just no room them what with the combat load that the vehicles were already carrying.

MH-47
A U.S.Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to U.S. Army Europe’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (Wikipedia Commons).

The first thing discovered by the patrol was interesting and encouraging. It was a single Iraqi artillery piece. Rather than the usual 10-15′ firing lanyard, the gun had a modified lanyard of more than 100′ that lead to foxholes dug for the crew. The crews were so scared of American airpower that they hid in their foxholes and fired the gun occasionally from the 100′ standoff. Eventually, they did have to scramble to reload the gun, but for the greater duration, they hid in their foxholes dreading the moment that their field gun would be located and promptly destroyed.

There were chance encounters with opposition patrols. In one situation a single Hummer was pursued by multiple Iraqi vehicles, a power imbalance that brother JD in the gun turret had a strenuous objection to. He recognized quickly that he had very good visibility, being the chased vehicle, while the Iraqis were chocking back the Hummer’s dust. JD swung the ship’s Mother Duece heavy machine gun to the six and unloaded on the chasers.

The crew observed Iraqi soldiers cartwheeling and flipping off of the vehicles and a fireball from one of the trucks exploding. The Hummer made a large circle back around just for the soldiers to have a look, only to find themselves coming up rapidly behind the now-terrified Iraqis in the other vehicles who had stopped to render aid to the burning lead. JD from the turret and the brothers from the starboard side of the Hummer brought the SCUD-ion down hard onto the rallied Raquis with just one pass and then traveled on.

Mother Deuce in basically the same configuration since she was created by John Mozes Browning over 100 years ago (Wikipedia commons).

“Dude… did you see the looks on their faces — good Christ!”

“Yep, one of those boys back there is laying in the sand right now jotting this down in his notebook under ‘Lessons Learned’.”

And so it went.

Hunting was good but not completely barren of the pucker factor on occasion. Pulling away from some good shooting on a two-carrier SCUD battery, the patrol came under pursuit by a much larger Iraqi patrol, one that they were not likely to outrun under the ponderous cargo they carried. To stand and fight was the alternative, though not a desirable one as the opposing force was considerably larger than their own. Air assets were on station in logger sites waiting for calls to provide close air support.

As deplorable luck had it, the Air Force Combat Controller supporting the patrol zeroed out the crypto on both of the satellite radios that the patrol carried. There was now no way to talk to the orbiting aircraft overhead. As the situation reduced itself to the realm of the very grim, JD pulled out his PRC-90 survival radio, and, dialing in the Bravo Channel, came up on comms with the flight lead of the circling jets above.

Rather than burning the precious few minutes trying to point out individual targets to the airpower, JD skillfully spent the time carefully identifying his own position to the aircraft, declaring everything else as hostile targets subjects for immediate engagement. Heinous SCUD-ion was immediately and for the next near-hour brought down on the Iraqi pursuit below. When the attack was over, there was nothing but smoking burning vehicles and the occasional dazed and confused brethren of the Levant, inflicted with sudden incidental leisure and wandering the desert.

The hunt had been prolific. The days had been kind — very very kind. The only friendly casualties had been Firestone and the acutely wounded ego of one USAF CCT brother who was forbidden from touching any satellite radio set again for the duration of the war.

“That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
let him depart. His passport shall be made,
and crowns for convoy put into his purse.
We would not die in that man’s company
that fears his fellowship to die with us.”

(William Shakespeare’s King Henry)

By Almighty God and with honor,
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