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Missile attacks on U.S. troops in Kuwait foiled

Missile attacks on U.S. troops in Kuwait foiled
by Pfc. James Matise

CAMP NEW JERSEY, Kuwait (Army News Service, March 20, 2003) -- On the first day of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), out of Fort Campbell, Ky., made it through the first round of surface-to-surface missiles that were launched against them.

"We had two legitimate attacks today, and both were foiled by the Patriot missile batteries," said Maj. Trey Cate, public affairs officer for the 101st. Abn. Div.

This was the first time the PAC-3 missile system has been used in combat. Some Pentagon officials allegdly expressed reservations about using its revolutionary hit-to-kill technology in this operation because they were uncertain it had been tested thoroughly, but as of Thursday night it had successfully protected coalition forces from all strikes.

An Ababil 100 surface-to-surface missile was launched at 12:30 p.m against Camp Thunder in northern Kuwait, where aircraft operated by the 159th Aviation Brigade are stationed.

The missile was successfully engaged and brought down by the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 defense system manned by Battery D, 552 Air Defense Artillery, Cate said.

A pilot with the 159th Aviation Brigade, returning to Camp New Jersey from Camp Thunder Thursday evening, said he was on the flight line when the attack came.

"We had no warning. The first thing we saw was the Patriot firing off," he said. "Then we saw a second one shoot off, and it must have malfunctioned because it detonated -- it's supposed to detonate when there's a malfunction. When we saw that, we didn't know if it had impacted with another missile, or if we had been hit."

A third Patriot missile shot off from the camp's battery, apparently automatically compensating for the malfunctioning missile. The enemy weapon was safely struck out of the sky, the pilot said.

Soldiers at Camp New Jersey, approximately 20 miles southeast of the Iraq border, heard the ominous blare of the camp's Scud missile siren, followed shortly by the dull thud of Patriot missiles firing. They donned their protective masks and quickly made way to survivability bunkers constructed from metal shipping boxes shored up with sandbags. Other soldiers caught inside their sleep tents dove for cover wherever they could.

"We took cover underneath our cots," said Sgt. Kevin Doyle, headquarters commandant, HHC, 101st. "I said, 'Oh my (expletive) God' when I heard the missiles go off."

Within 10 minutes the all clear was sounded, and the soldiers emerged to return to their tasks. Doyle said he and his fellow soldiers were relieved, but added two more rows of sandbags to their tent.

At 1:30 p.m., the siren sounded again. Soldiers again hurried to safety, moving a little faster after getting the kinks out during the first alarm. Shortly after, the "all-clear" was sounded again.

Doyle said some soldiers around him were skeptical of the alarm's accuracy, but, "we reacted to it the same as the first one," he said.

The second missile was either an Ababil 100 or an Al-Samoud missile, and was headed for Kuwait City before it was brought down, Cate said.

No weapons fired against coalition forces have been identified as chemical or biological warheads, Cate said.

Twice more in the afternoon, as forces exchanged fire on the border, the siren warned soldiers in the camp of an impending attack, and they went through the now-familiar drill, but there was no attack.

"It was a false alarm," Cate said. "Friendly missiles were misread."

The division's training apparently paid off as the soldiers did what they were supposed to in order to stay alive on the new, hazardous battlefield they must now operate on, Cate said.

"I think we handled it calmly and professionally," he said. "Everyone masked and moved to the protective shelters, while key essential personnel kept their post and continued to monitor the battle," he said. "After the Patriots successfully engaged the threat, everyone resumed their duties."

(Editor's note: Pfc. James Matise is a member of the 101st Airborne Division's (Air Assault) Public Affairs Office.)

© Scoop Media

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