Tales of Head Hunter
The History of 2nd Battalion 227 Aviation Regiment during the Persian Gulf War as extracted from the film produced and narrated by Maj Christopher Sargeant and as remembered by SFC (Ret) Dave White.
The 2-227th Aviation Regiment was constituted on 1 February 1963 in the Regular Army as Company B, 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion and assigned to the 11th Air Assault Division. The unit was activated on 11 February 1963 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
On 1 July 1965, the unit was reorganized and redesignated as Company B, 227th Aviation Battalion. Concurrently, it was relieved from assignment to the 11th Air Assault Division and assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. The unit served with great distinction for the next six years in the Republic of Vietnam.
The unit was inactivated on 19 November 1974 at Fort Hood, Texas. On 21 May 1978, Company B, 227th Aviation Battalion was reactivated at Fort Hood, Texas where it served until its inactivation on 30 September 1983.
On 16 July 1987, the unit was redesignated as HHC, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment. The unit was relieved from assignment with the 1st Cavalry Division and reassigned to the 3rd Armored Division in Germany where it was activated. The unit served in its present location of, Hanau, Germany, until its inactivation on 26 June 1989.
In September of 1989 at Fort Hood, Texas, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment began its reconstitution as part of the Apache Training Brigade. On 17 March 1990, 2-227th Aviation Regiment was activated at Fort Hood, Texas, and on 17 July 1990, the Battalion deployed as a unit to its current home of Hanau, Germany, where it was again assigned to the 3rd Armored Division.
On 28 December 1990, the 2-227th Aviation Regiment deployed as a unit to Saudi Arabia as part of Operations Desert Shield and Storm. The Battalion flew numerous combat missions during the campaign and was instrumental of the 3rd Armored Divisions attack into Kuwait. The Battalion redeployed to Germany on 17 May 1991.
In the fall of 1991, 2-227th Aviation Regiment was relieved of its assignment to 3rd Armored Division and was assigned to the 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division under the operational control of the 8th Infantry Division(Mechanized). In early 1992, 1st Armored Division assumed operational control of the 4th Brigade, which 2-227th Aviation Regiment served under.
On 19 December 1995, the 2-227th Aviation Regiment was the first aviation unit to deploy to Bosnia. Elements of the Battalion deployed with the Division Assault Command Post. It was the first unit to conduct reconnaissance of the Zone of Separation.
On 16 February 1997 soldiers of 2-227th Aviation Regiment were reflagged as 1-501st Aviation Regiment.
August 1990 – Invasion of Kuwait
On the day of the invasion of Kuwait, 2nd Battalion 227 Aviation Regiment was in the middle of deployment from Ft. Hood, Texas where we had formed as a unit that past year, to Fliegerhorst, Kasserne located in Hanau, Federal Republic of Germany. 2-227 Aviation had been assigned as part of the Aviation Brigade of the 3rd Armored Division, V Army Corps. Because the battalion was built from scratch at Fort Hood, all the families had to also be moved to Germany as well as soldiers and equipment. There was much planning that went into the move. Because we were moving families, that also meant that we were moving household goods, pets, cars, etc. On the day of the invasion one half, two out of four flight of soldiers and families were residing in Germany.
A couple of days before 2-227’s last flight arrived in Germany, 3-227 Aviation, our sister battalion, was ordered to Saudi Arabia to be attached as an element of XVIII Airborne Corps. What this meant to the battalion was that our mission from that day on was to help prepare 3-227 for Saudi. This preparation was undertaken as if 2-227 Aviation was going. Plans were made and Operational Orders (Op Orders) were prepared. Each Unit or section helped our sister battalion prepare. Cooks helped cooks, mechanics helped mechanics, etc.
September 1990 – B Co. 2-227 Aviation was attached to 3-227 Aviation to augment the number of apaches in country. B Co was detached and returned to Germany November 1990. We should have known that it was a sign that we would be deploying soon.
November 9, 1990 – President Bush orders the 3rd Armored Division to Saudi Arabia.
Elements of the battalion started deploying to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in mid December 1990 with the entire Battalion deployed prior to New Years Eve. Our arrival in Saudi was met with wonderment as we stepped out into the hot Saudi night wondering what to expect.
Daharan was a seaport in Saudi Arabia, were all incoming ships with U.S. equipment arrived. Sticking out on a finger like peninsula, which could have previously served as a dock, was tent city. Tent city was a series of General Purpose (GP) medium tents that were to serve as our home for the next few weeks. We had all the comforts of home, a PX tent, a dining facility set up in a German beer tent and run by Pakistanis, shower and toilet facilities built by the engineers and they even had near beer (beer that had no alcohol content) for New Years Eve. What we didn’t expect was the mud. When you go to the desert you expect heat and no rain, but when we arrived in Saudi we experienced a lot of rain, enough so that we were up to our eyeballs in mud, enough so that several tents were flooded.
After the rain stopped we all decided that it would be prudent to construct some type of bomb shelter. Some soldiers constructed individual foxholes, buddy foxholes or fox holes as deep as a mans height. Some company bomb shelters were constructed, complete with escape hatches, food, water and lights. As you can see we had way too much time and energy with nothing to do but wait. We also became very proficient in volleyball when we weren’t digging.
Across the channel from tent city was the port which had several ships tied up and off loading equipment. Next to tent city about 200 yards down the road was the Patriot Battalion which provided a feeling of safety as we were mainly worried about weather Iraq had the ability to load chemical weapons on their rockets and the ability to hit targets in Saudi. We were to find out later that the Scud missiles that were fired from Iraq could not carry chemicals and have enough fuel to make to Saudi, so instead they carried high explosives.
While we were in the port we received our equipment and made it ready for the long road march to the border, which was 200 miles north of the port. Our helicopters were prepared to operate in the harsh desert environment by adding tape and elastic paint to each blade to protect the leading edge of the blade from erosion from the desert sand. The cost of protecting the blades was $800.00 for every Apache, what an investment.
Seeing the Elephant
Upon arriving in Saudi Arabia, I received a letter from my father (a decorated WWII Veteran) in which he described what was referred to as "Seeing the Elephant." During the civil war when the soldiers moved out to seek the enemy they said that they were off to see the elephant because seeing combat in those times was as rare as seeing an elephant in South Carolina. On January 16, 1991 the air war commenced. We were still in the port waiting on our equipment when the sirens started up. From that time on, we became combat soldiers as now somebody was shooting missiles at us. We had finally caught a glimpse of the elephant. At the sound of the sirens, we all put our chemical masks on and then proceeded to put on our chemical suits. The Army training environment gives a soldier 2 minutes to get all his protective gear on, which, to a lot of people is a challenge, but it was apparent that when your are scared you can do it in less that a minute. It seamed that the Iraqi plan was to disrupt anything a soldier was doing as the missiles came during dinner, while you were taking a shower but mostly every night while you were trying to sleep. It started to become routine but sometimes the Iraqi’s would surprise you by shooting more than once at night. After the first round of Scud’s, the sirens quit, and the command sounded the all clear, you would start to relax. An hour later the sirens sounded again taking your nerves to the limit again, this time when the sounded the all clear you didn’t relax as you were anticipating the next round. That meant no sleep for that night.
To add to our excitement while we were in port, we were told of a possible suicide attack by Iraqi Special Forces on tent city. Plans were made, orders issued, and for the first time in Saudi, ammunition was issued to all soldiers in tent city. Machine gun emplacements were positioned in between rows of tents to suppress enemy activity among the tents. Bradley Fighting Vehicles with their 30mm cannons and 50 cal machine guns were positioned at several locations in tent city, including the only entryway on to the peninsula. In addition to all the preparation, we were given a warning order to prepare evacuate the port and to road march to a location 20 miles from the port. The problem with an evacuation was that we would have to walk. Fortunately, this never came about as the Navy caught this group trying to infiltrate into Saudi and destroyed the force.
One event that occurred was that the people running the dining facility were not issued gas masks. When the first Scud alert happened, what we saw was the Pakistani cooks running for their bus with there headdress' up across their nose and mouth. There was real panic in that bus and we were lucky that solders were not run over by the bus driver driving the bus like it was a dragster. The next time we saw the cooks, they all had gas masks. The problem with that was that no one taught them how to use them and this particular model had a plug that had to be removed before you could breathe with the mask on. You can imagine what happened next. Sure enough, the next scud alert, the Pakistani cooks put on their masks and started to grab their throats and fall down. At first we thought that there was chemicals in the air but then a soldier figured what happened and removed the plugs and saved them from suffocating. Life was never dull in Saudi.
A large shipment of brand new Humvee’s arrived at the port. These vehicles were so new that their original issued equipment that came with the vehicle (shovel, pick, top, book etc, ) were still packed in boxes. They were so new that there was no painted unit designations or bumper numbers painted on them. These Humvee’s were all parked in a large holding lot. We heard on Radio AFN (Armed Forces Network) that they believed that there was enemy soldiers or terrorists loose in the port because someone had taken several of these vehicles. About that time several soldiers were seen driving new Humvee’s with freshly painted bumpers. Fortunes of war ? Anyway, word went out, that if anyone were caught with a vehicle that didn’t belong to their unit, they would be in deep trouble (what are they going to do, send me to war?) It was amazing that no one was seen driving new Humvees again. Figure that!
Early February 1991 most of the battalion was deployed to the desert with about ½ of the battalion equipment because the rest had not arrived. Our first assembly area called “Henry” was located 200 miles inland and 100 miles south of Kuwait. The landscape at Henry was that of the moon, flat with little rock all over and the ability to see 20 miles in all directions.
The reason the rest of the battalions equipment had not arrived was that the equipment was loaded on several ships and by coincidence a couple of the ships that had battalion equipment on them broke down. 70 personnel were left in port to receive the rest of the equipment and procure any other needed equipment. The port detachment was moved from tent city to the warehouse on the side where the ships were unloaded. As aircraft arrived in port, they were taped and painted and prepared to move to the assembly area and when ready, pilots would come back from Henry and fly them to the assembly area.
Finally all the equipment arrived, extra equipment that was purchased in Saudi was loaded on the trucks and the two-day trip to Henry was ready to begin. One Hemmit was loaded with all the additional tires that were ordered or purchased and by the time it was loaded it looked like the “Goodyear Tire Man.” One other problem that occurred was there were not enough licensed drivers to move the equipment that had to be moved. The reason for this was that the battalion had been issued several more fuel and ammo Hemmit’s to be able to support an extended attack. Some quick lessons on what not to do with a vehicle that large, a couple of spins around the parking lot and a trip to the fuel site and we were ready to go.
The road trip to Henry was quite exciting as the route taken to the assembly area was the equivalent to the “Road from Hell.” It seems that one of the Saudi customs, while driving, was to trust in Ala, as in “it is the will of Ala” so, the Saudi drivers would pull out on the two lane road to pass someone in front of them and would not pull back in until finished. If there happened to be a truck going the other way, so be it, they would not pull back in. Consequently, there were smashed cars from head on collisions littered all over the highway. No one came to pick up the cars, but just pushed them off the road on to the side where they remained for all time. A rusty reminder of “the will of Ala.” Driving those Hemmit’s became a challenge as to how fast you could swerve off the road and avoid a head-on collision. To the very great credit of all the young soldiers on that road march, there was not one incident.
Life in Henry was at a little faster pace. We practiced common soldier skills, with a deep concentration on chemical warfare and first aid.
To be continued…………………