The 1st and 2d Marine Divisions, the ground maneuver elements of the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), were positioned along the northern boundary of Saudi Arabia with the mission to attack north into Kuwait. The I MEF was tasked to breach (clear openings in) two heavily defended minefield belts,[2] advance past Ahmed Al Jaber air base taking key sites along the way, and converge on Kuwait City to liberate the capital. The areas of operations are shown in Figure 2. The 1st Marine Division eventually opened 14 lanes; the 2d Marine Division opened six.[3]

A full list of the units involved in this case is provided at Tab B. The 1st Marine Division was made up of units from the 1st Marine, 3d Marine, 7th Marine, and 11th Marine regiments (as well as units of other Marine regiments assigned to the 1st Marine Division). For the conduct of the ground war, the 1st Marine Division was further organized into Task Forces (e.g., Ripper, Papa Bear). The 2d Marine Division was comprised of units of the 6th Marines; the 8th Marines; the 10th Marines; the Army’s 1st Brigade, 2d Armored Division; and other supporting Marine units.

Final preparations and briefings took place on day G-1 (February 23, 1991) as commanders reiterated to their troops the high potential for use of chemical warfare agents by the Iraqis,[4] the need for speed through the minefield breaches,[5] and, above all, to "take care of your men."[6] Lieutenant General Carlton W. Fulford, Jr., who, as a Colonel, commanded Task Force Ripper, testified[7] that


...we took this threat of chemical involvement very seriously. We had intelligence ... that the Iraqi forces had the potential, had the capability. We [had] the very best NBC equipment that the Marine Corps had in its inventory at that time. And throughout many months in Saudi Arabia, we trained very, very hard on the detection, protection, and decontamination of our forces.


Figure 2. US Marine Corps Area of Operations


Prior to leaving their assembly areas, personnel assumed Mission-Oriented Protective Posture 2 (MOPP2)[8] in which they were clothed in a chemical protective over-garment, including boots. They carried their protective masks and gloves, which could be donned in seconds should there be any indication of chemical agent attack. The 7th Marines assumed MOPP2 at 1600 hours on February 23rd.[9] These actions were consistent with Marine doctrine which defines the MOPP levels and the threat assessment process. It also advises commanders to balance the threat of exposure and the mission-degrading effects of wearing the protective overgarments against the "factors of mission, environment, and soldier."[10]

Although the I MEF officially began the assault at 0400 hours on February 24, 1991, the 1st Marine Division started moving forward through the first minefield to their defensive positions earlier in the night with infiltration Task Forces Taro and Grizzly. The 1st Marine Division breached the first minefield from positions just west and south of the "elbow" of the southern Kuwait border. The 2d Marine Division entered Kuwait between the Umm Gudair (south) and Al Manaquish oil fields about 25 kilometers northwest of the 1st Marine Division.

The Marines breached the minefields "by the book" to "locate the leading edge, breach the lane, proof[11] the lane, and mark the lane."[12] However, the specific methods and order of maneuver for each Marine division differed slightly. After locating the leading edge of the minefield, combat engineers, using mine-clearing explosive line charges, opened lanes through the minefields. The over-pressure of the line charges detonated the mines in the minefield or blew them out of position. The line charges were followed by armored equipment with plows, rakes, or rollers that cleared and proofed the lanes. A team of combat engineers followed and marked the edges and/or center of the lanes. While doing so, they cleared mines or obstacles that might have fallen back into the cleared lanes and destroyed anything too dangerous to move. Using these procedures, the Marines cleared lanes wide enough for their attacking forces to pass.

During breaching operations, all personnel were told to be alert for evidence of chemical contamination or attack, such as chemical alarms, chemical agent monitor alerts, or individuals exhibiting symptoms of chemical contact. If anyone suspected a chemical incident, they were directed to call a Fox[13] reconnaissance vehicle to check out the area. Each Marine division was allocated four Fox reconnaissance vehicles, and usually one was assigned to each maneuver regiment.

The Fox reconnaissance vehicles were designed to monitor and identify persistent liquid chemical ground contamination, however, the Fox was also used for on-the-move vapor detection. It is not optimized for this mission, nor is its alerting capability in this method of operation as good as that of other chemical detectors. To completely detect and verify the presence of a chemical agent requires the Fox to perform a spectral analysis using the Fox’s on-board MM-1 mobile mass spectrometer,[14] followed by an analysis of the spectrum printout by a qualified expert trained in the chemical analysis of ion masses.[15] It requires several minutes to obtain a good spectral readout of the agent and collect a sample to assure that initial indications are not affected by contaminants from the battlefield (e.g., smoke, diesel exhaust, oil, etc.)


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