How logistics was instrumental in the Persian Gulf War

28 Oct 2011 | Pfc. Timothy Childers 1st Marine Logistics Group

At the time, the Marine Corps’ deployment to the Persian Gulf was the largest movement of Marine forces since World War II. This movement was only made possible by the Marines and sailors in the logistics combat element, of which were the predecessors of Combat Logistics Regiment 17.

According to “U.S. Marines in the Persian Gulf, 1990-1991 Combat Service Support in Desert Shield and Desert Storm,” by Maj. Steven M. Zimmeck, Ret., the first month after Iraq invaded Kuwait was chaotic for Marine units as American forces rapidly moved to defend Saudi Arabia. The 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was the first U.S. combat organization to arrive in the Persian Gulf with the essential capabilities to defeat Iraqi forces in the open desert. Supporting I MEF, was 1st Force Service Support Group.

On Aug. 2, 1990, 1st FSSG, now 1st Marine Logistics Group, was organized into eight battalions that provided engineer, motor transportation, supply, landing support, medical, dental, and other services. Brig. General James A. Brabham Jr., Ret., commanded 1st FSSG during the time.

Like most Fleet Marine Force units, the group had the ability to task, organize and deploy into smaller organizations such as Marine expeditionary unit service support, and brigade service support groups. Among the BSSG’s was Brigade Service Support Group 1.

BSSG-1 provided general logistics support to the units of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The support group was dedicated to maritime prepositioning ship operations. The group would later merge with the Headquarters and Support Co. of 1st FSSG to form what is now Combat Logistics Regiment 17.

1st FSSG administratively and medically screened every deploying Marine and sailor. The unit also issued orders, administered vaccinations, exercised training for nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, taught Arab customs, and ensured all departing Marines fired their rifles.

During the month following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, 7th MEB entered the Persian Gulf and arrived at the Port of Jubayl. The port was a major stop used by Marines during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  1st FSSG played a major role in the deployment of equipment and supplies from the beginning of 7th MEB’s arrival.

It was essential for 1st FSSG to unload the ships in order to set up the defense of the port. The rapid unload allowed 7th MEB to announce its readiness to defend the Port of Jubayl on Aug. 25, 1990. From that point on, the focus of 1st FSSG was mainly to occupy the infrastructure of the port and surrounding airfields in Saudi Arabia.

“There’s been a lot of changes since I joined the Marine Corps 26 years ago”, said Col. James W. Clark, regimental commander, CLR-17, 1st MLG. “The Gulf War conflict was an operation of amphibious character. Since 9/11 we have gotten away from our amphibious roots. In these past years, we became a second land army, but the touchstone that we always hearken to as Marines is the expeditionary nature of the Corps.”

More than 20 years have passed since Marines landed in the Persian Gulf. A lot has changed since that time, but the Marines who served during the Gulf War are not.

“The spirit of the Marine Corps has not changed since the Gulf War,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Roderick W. Coleman, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Group Safety, Headquarters Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG, who deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm/Desert Shield. “Marines are still willing to fight, to look out for each other, and push forward.”

The Marine Corps is returning to its amphibious roots today. Specifically, CLR-17, the logistics combat element for 1st MEB, has been vigorously trying to get back to operating primarily as an amphibious force, said Clark.

“Marines have always taken care of each other but now the Marines are better trained, smarter, and safer than before,” said Maj. Roy L. Miner, commanding officer, HQ Co., CLR-17, 1st MLG.

It has been a long time since Marines were pushing back Saddam Hussein from Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War, but the values, spirit and power of those Marines remain strong today.

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