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My Last Overseas OP with Special Boat Unit 13 -  Jim Gray MCPO DBG Ret.
(04-27-12)


 

 

Desert Storm came and went, and I sat out the war at Naval Special Warfare Group ONE in the Training and Readiness Cell much to my disappointment….but in 1992 I transferred back to SBU-13.

After Desert Storm the Country of Kuwait was in shambles and much of its infrastructure was  in ruins. The surviving Kuwaiti Military that escaped to the South and fought their way back formed the backbone of rebuilding its military branches. Coalition Forces moved to Kuwait to help in the process, especially in aiding to get rid of tons of un-exploded ordinance everywhere in the country. USCENTCOM tasked USSOCCENT to help with building the Kuwait Special Forces.  Naval Special Warfare Command sent the SEALs in first to train the Security Service of Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti Navy wanted to build a Small Combatant Craft Unit like the US Special Boat Units that they saw during Desert Storm. The Kuwait Coast Guard wanted to rebuild its service as well. Soon enough NSWC made the connections and SBU Combatant Craft Crewmen were now tasked with helping rebuild the Kuwait Navy.

For SBU-13 its first taste of Post War Kuwait came when ARG Bravo pulled into Kuwait to participate in Exercise "Eager Mace".  SBU-13's RHIB DET Bravo with its 24' Willard Ribs were off loaded and set up shop at Ras Al Ard marina in Kuwait City. There they met their Kuwaiti counterpart unit, under KN Capt Salman, which he called the "Kuwait Fast Strike Craft." During the exercise SBU-13's Rib Det established a rapport with the Kuwait Navy and together they conducted gunshoots on land and underway and other training such as Board and Search.

SBU-12 would send Mobile Training Teams (MTT) to Ras Al Ard and begin training  the Kuwaiti Coast Guard as well as the Navy.

My turn in the barrel came when SBU-13 was tasked to send a MTT to support an NSW exercise call IRIS GOLD 93-1 part of a USSOCENT exercise. This MTT formed up in Oct 92 and its SBU-13 roster was:       

  • LCDR Kneemiller to Staff TaskUnit

  • LT Yasui  OIC of MTT and would ride with both KN and CG

  • LTJG Hanson AOIC to KCG

  • GMCS Gray Senior Enlisted to KN

  • BMC Sinclair to Liaison and Advance party

  • GMG1 Munoz to CG

  • GMG2 Williams to CG

  • GMG2 Chandler to KN

  • BM2 Ekberg to KN

SBU-13 MTT would not take boats but use what the Kuwaiti's had. On Jan 6/93 BMC Sinclair left with SEAL Team 3's advance party to "grease the skids" and make sure all assets and units were lined up and ready for the main task group to arrive. You really can't say enough about the behind the scenes logistics of the advance party making it happen. On Jan11/93 the NSW Task Unit with Staff, Mobile Comm Team(MCT), Hotel Plt. from SEAL TEAM 3 and SBU-13's MTT flew out on a Chartered TWA 747. We made a short stop in Fort Campbell Kentucky and picked up several ARMY SF ODAs. On the way over we were briefed that Saddam Hussain was acting up again near the Kuwaiti Border…hmm that was a new unexpected twist!

We made the LONG boring flight and landed in Kuwait 12Jan/93. While getting off the plane and on busses I could already see bits of Desert Storm history. Free Kuwait A-4 and F-1 Mirage jets and Gazelle helos. The busses departed and the NSW Task Unit was quickly moved in the dark to Ras Al Ard.

The next day was a off day so we went to Camp Doha and had lunch and prepped our personal gear and were issued ammo for our pistols. Then we reviewed the exercise schedule and lesson plans for the next day. We heard that Iraq got hit by another airstrike.

Finally 14 Jan/93 the exercise began starting with morning PT with the SEALs. I thought man I'm getting old. Then we broke off to our assignments for the exercise with staff, SEAL Plt, MCT, and SBU-13 MTT going to the Kuwait Coast Guard (KCG).  From this point on I can't speak for the SBU-13 MTT with the KCG. They went to a different marina in Kuwait to train the KCG. I do know they were good and professional at their tasks.

The SBU Kuwait Navy (KN) guys were introduced in the classrooms of Ras Al Ard. It was awkward start, teaching Navigation and Comms for the day while learning to listen to new accents. Afterward SCPO Saif, my counterpart, and I got to know each other over CHAI a super sweet hot tea. He was a Desert Storm veteran and he explained his units mission and men. He said they had ordered French built  MANTA patrol boats but they had not arrived yet so they would use the al Rasheds, a local built civilian catamaran hulled speed boat converted to mount a 50 Cal. and powered by twin 225hp outboards. The Men were made up of an Officer and  Veteran CPOs and the young crewmen were new. He said it took 3 months to train a qualified crewman and that "WE" Americans were the last of the "Foreign Trainers" for awhile. They already had the French and British and now us Americans. I liked his honesty and we got along well. He gave me an idea of the level of experience to teach at, rather than starting with the basics. SCPO Saif liked that! He also said the Kuwait Military was on High Alert because of Iraq. With this info in the evening the LT said to change the exercise script and meet the Kuwait needs. We heard Iraq got hit with F-117 stealth fighters and missiles. That was an interesting day.

Now we started focused training for the KN Fast Strike Craft Unit. We got underway on the  Al Rasheds doing Comms, Formations and Nav, rotating new guys thru the positions and tasks. When we got to Kubbar Is we had a 50 Cal gunshoot.  Each boat shot 2000 rounds that day. The KN Unit worked in a 3 boat patrol under LtJG Mohammed who was very friendy and spoke very good English. Of our many gunshoots a Kubbar Is during the Exercise we  would start with a static shoot then shift to an Underway race track pattern with 3 boats. Underway was the way of the boatguy and that's where they learn best! Jan weather in Kuwait was cold and seas sometimes pretty choppy but we went out and got them wet!

A couple days it was just too rough to go out so we did do classroom work but shifted from "basics" to Mission Planning, Board and Search and Prisoner Handling. We would usually finish a classroom day over Chai and  getting to know each other better. I know the SBU-13 guys with the KCG were very active as well because they often dragged in late and tired like us.

On 17 Jan/93 we heard that more Tomahawks were fired and an Iraqi fighter was shot down. I would be a liar if I said we didn't talk about "Bugging Out" if the Iraqis flowed across the border like in the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Our Task Unit was linked to USSOCENT who kept us supplied with Intell and said we may have to move down to the KN Naval Base at Ras Al Qualayh. I spent time talking with SCPO Saif and LTJG Mohammed and they said "if you see streams of Kuwaiti cars flooding the highways heading south it was time to go!" I approached Capt McTye with this info and said if this really happened our trucks and busses wouldn't make it. I suggest we grab a couple of DHOWs near the Falaka ferry, load our gear and everybody and sail down to Ras al Mishab in Saudi Arabia. He said he liked that Idea and will keep that in mind.

The Exercise continued its pace. One evening the LT and I went up to the "White House" the KN HQ to discuss upcoming training after-hours, but we spent two hours up their socializing drinking "Gawa" a STRONG Arabic coffee that puts hair on your teeth! The discussion was on what the KN called "Smuggling Operations." that the Kuwaitis were engaged in and what we could do to help them? We learned at the White House the KN veteran CPOs and Officers were doing "Smuggling Ops" into Iraq supporting the Shiites hiding in the Marshlands on the Iraqi Coast and also gathering intell. They used local Boston Whaler type boats and a 27' Scarab speed boat and dressed like locals. They had done broad daylight intell up by Warbah Island using only pistols and cam-corders, but they mostly operated at night.

These Senior enlisted were Operational!!! So for the next two nights after the day’s events we linked with the CPOs talking Insertion and Extraction techniques, Challenge and Reply, Mission Planning, calling in Gunfire Support from helos and aircraft and the use of indigenous craft in S.O. They picked our brains for details and I picked theirs! All over Gawa and Chai in a friendly atmosphere.

Starting Jan 20/93 Kuwait had a  3 day holiday!!!! So the Task Unit got to play tourist seeing the sights, sounds and smells of Kuwait city. Amazing some parts were destroyed while others still had unexploded ordinance, some ultra modern and they all had the Gold Souks displayed. Kuwaits love their GOLD! We Americans were well liked by the natives and I noticed a lot of new western restaurants , Arby’s, Chilies’, the Sizzler! Yep! Jan 20th is a day I won't forget because President George H. Bush turned the reins of the US presidency over to President Clinton. and the Kuwaitis civilians were crying in the streets. The praise we heard was amazing! US and Kuwaiti flags were displayed everywhere. In the evening we got back to Ras Al Ard and  the KN Fast Strike Unit came in and set up a traditional Arab dinner for us. We sat on the floor and ate bare right handed chicken and rice. All the while watching the Kuwait nonstop news about  President Bush. A good day to be a American. It was a surreal 3 days acting like a tourist, and having steak dinners at the Sizzler while the families at home worried about us,

We got back to work on Jan 23rd. Saddem Hussein had enough and had been withdrawing and backing his no fly zone so tensions were easing. But we kept  the Exercise going. This day we took the KN unit  for an all day Land gunshot at a range near Ras al Qualayha Naval Base, and shot M-16/203 40mm HE, RPG-7s M-60s, M-16s and the HK G3.  I really like a that 7.62 cal with a 3 shot burst. Then we returned back home to clean our weapons.

Finally we were coming to a end of our Exercise and a FTX was planned and Warning Orders were delivered to the KCG and KN Units. In this final battle problem the KCG would be the defenders and the KN the aggressors. We, SBU MTT, would ride the boats as observer /umpires.

Next Day a SOCCENT General took a look around Ras Al Ard so we were "spit and polish" that day, but I checked on the KN guys to see how their PLO was going.

On Jan 25/93 the FTX began and we in the Rashed boats left port individually at various times during the day not to attract attention if being watched. The mission was to penetrate the Coast Guards defensive grid at a certain time at night.

The FTX was a complete success in both phases of the problem using good Mission Planning, Distraction and Surprise to defeat the KCG. We pulled in at midnight and the crews were too tired for a debrief. The Kuwait Navy "Major" was happy with the results and congratulated them, so the crews were very happy.

Our KCG SBU-13 advisors were not real happy with us KN guys when we linked up at the barracks. By all accounts they should have won, having faster boats, new radar, comms, etc. etc. Oh Well….. I finally got to sleep about 0230 

I slept in the next morning. It was an easy day doing my lessons learned to be turned in. Our KN Fast Strike Unit guys got to go on leave.

On my next to the last day LTJG Mohammed took us on a personal tour of Kuwait all day. We visited the Kuwait Alamo, the Resistance House which was very sobering to anyone who has walked thru it. We saw The Highway of Death and it still had some wrecks. We also climbed over several Iraqi destroyed tanks and gear. I saw T-72s, T62, T59, T55 and 56 tanks and BMPs and a wide array of soviet bloc weapons that the Iraqis left behind. This was stuff you usually got to see only in photos and intell briefs. We went up in the Kuwait Towers and saw the city and had dinner at the Dragon Restaurant, a Filipino place! 

The night I was to fly out ,with gear and crews box packed, I puts some items together from our gear that I would give to the Officers and CPOs of the KN Unit that they needed and liked but had no access to such as compasses, sunglasses,  Multi-tool, etc. I took a walk up to the White House. to say goodbye. Everyone was gone and on leave but LTJG Mohammed was there and said he would make sure they would get the items and thanked me for his gift. He then gave me a Kuwait Flag signed by him and SCPO Saif and all of the other CPOs and a bottle of Sand that said FREE KUWAIT, and said he would send me a plaque later. (which I did get. Dan Knuffman delivered it to me)

It was my last Overseas OP at SBU-13 which would decommission OCT 93, but it was a special one for me. It wasn't perfect. There was Bullshit and tempers flaring like all of them involved. But I made peace with myself for missing Desert Storm. I learned Smuggling Ops from the Kuwaitis and feel that made me a better Boatguy. I did other Exercises with Host nation navies, but this one was special to me.

SBU-12 would continue to work with Kuwait on Exercises and even ride their French Manta patrol boats. ….the legacy probably still goes on.

I will close saying it’s a sad thing if a SWCC acts like the Arrogant American and thinks he's better than any Host nation boatguys while teaching, he should learn what they may have to offer. 

Cheers, Jim Gray MCPO DBG Ret.

         
Kuwait and note the Kuwait islands . Landing in Kuwait I saw A-4s also F-1s and Gazelle helos of the Free Kuwait Airforce. An A-4 Sky Hawk taxi's down runway. The Kuwait Navy!!! which I would work with at Ras Al Ard. A pre war post card of Ras Al Ard which would be our base.
Ras Al Ard and 3 KN Navy boats The Building on top left as "The White House" HQ of KN NAVY. Home Port of the Kuwait Coast Guard in their Main Marina in Kuwait The Large DHow was a Restaurant.
 
Me Beside Kuwait Coast Guard Boats arriving to pick up SBU-13 MTT Trainers/Advisors These boats English Cougar Marine comparable to our HSBs, My KN Navy had not received their ordered boats from French yet. Kuwait Coast Guard with a new 35' Cougar Marine Boat underway.
 
 KCG 41' Cougar Marine boat. Note the SBU-13 crewman hanging on tight to the engine cover.

Swari Class Iraqi Patrol boat left from Desert Storm outside Gate of Ras Al Ard

Rear of Iraqi Swari Note Black Cat taking Nap on boat. I thought That was Appropriate as the Black Cat was a symbol of SBU-13

Note Twin Soviet block 51 cals weapon on bow  And red Iraq triangle on bow.. there are also bullet holes in bow. On Nav Exercise with Kuwait Navy Al Rashed boats CPO Waleid wearing Sbu-13 ball cap

KN unit insigina on  Al Rashed Boats

 

GMCS Jim Gray on  Al Rahsed KN boat.

BM2 Brian Ekberg on the KN boats and ready for lunch.

CPO Ali and his crew.

SCPO  Saif and CPO Faisal.

 

Air view of Oaruh Island.

 

A sunken Iraqi Patrol boat in the shallows.

Shooting The M-16 with C-mag at Kubbar Is. GMG2 Chandler shooting M016 with C-mag.

GMCS Gray showing C-mag on M--16/203 allot of firepower.

Shooting long burst with C-mag very controllable.

KN Spec Boat Leaders Left CPO  Abdulla  center SCPO Saif, right LTJG Mohammed after gun shoot at Kubbar Island. Jim Gray in the latest Combatant Crewmen Gear of 1992/3.

KN Patrol boats running in the Shallows near Failaka Island.

KN  Land Gunshoot RPGs, HkG3s M-16s Sig 226s. SCPO Saif KN screws on propellant charge tp RPG rocket.
Safety Pin being Removed SCPO Saif prepares To Shoot SCPO Jim Gray Shoots RPG-7 at Land Range near Ras Al Qualayah Liberty in The OLD Sook Kuwait City Left to Right BMC Sinclair, BM2 Ekberg, GMG2 Chandler, Lt Yasui The Famous Kuwait Towers FTX SCPO Gray in Indig clothing.

FTX The KN excelled in Mission Planning and performance only the  interm boats held them back.

The Kuwaiti Coast Guard with their excellent Boats played a defensive role in FTX.

We saw leftovers from the war "The Happy Ducks" Twin with Bridge blown off.

 

In Arabic called Bayt al Shohada'a ... The siege  Feb 24 1991... we were humbled.

In this house some Kuwaiti Resistance Fighters were surrounded by a large Iraqi force and almost killed to the last man only 2 survived wounded. The spilled blood is still visible in the rooms.

Jim Gray on one many many Knocked out Iraqi Tanks seen this on a T-55. SBU-13's Boyz examine war wreckage. After FTX KN Lt Muhammed took us on tour and showed us The Kuwaiti Alamo . This House.. called "The House of Martyrs" one of the martyrs posters hung in doorway. The Official Emblem of Kuwait...Free Kuwait.