Series editors Marcus Cowper and Nikolai Bogdanovic






Basic training phase images Infantry training phase


Rank has its privileges




Uniforms images Desert apparel images Individual equipment



Deployment images Life in the desert images Chow time


All MOPP-ed up images The 100-hour Ground War







The 1990–91 Gulf War was the first true test of the modern US Army in the aftermath of Vietnam. While interventions had taken place in Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989, these were small-scale contingency operations of only a few days’ duration involving special operations and light forces. This Army that fought the 1990–91 Gulf War had long prepared for Armageddon with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, as part of the Cold War army trained to face the Soviet juggernaut. It had also readied itself for a war in Korea and contingency operations any place in the world. As a result of its training and preparation for these missions it defeated the fourth largest army in the world in Operation Desert Storm.

After Vietnam the US Army underwent major changes in organization, structure, and philosophy. Universal Military Service – the draft – was eliminated in 1973 and the all-Volunteer Army (VOLAR) was instituted. Pay was increased, entry standards raised, and numerous incentives introduced ranging from education benefits, improved quarters, and the making of service life more appealing to families. Career opportunities were increased; generous reenlistment bonuses and non-commissioned officer (NCO) development improved with the promise of excellent retirement benefits. While there was no draft, 18-year-olds were required to register for a standby draft registration within 30 days of their birthday.

The Army was armed and equipped with some of the best weapons systems in the world, which had begun fielding just a few years previously. Many of these advanced and as yet unproved systems were controversial and criticized by the lay media. These included the M1 Abrams tank, M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, and the multiple launch rocket system (MLRS). The same media were critical of the Army’s ability to defeat a battle-hardened Iraqi Army, which had fought a long and brutal war with Iran. It made no difference that the US Army had been training long and hard to face the massive and well-armed armed forces of the Soviet Union.

A phrase often heard in the new army, with the recruiting motto of, “Be all you can be,” was, “It’s not your father’s army.” It really was not. Virtually every aspect of the Army had changed; not just uniforms, weapons, equipment, and pay, but its very fiber. The volunteer army suffered its growing pains through the 1970s as it changed and adapted. By the mid-1980s drug and race problems had been minimized. Women were integrated into the force structure after the Woman’s Army Corps was dissolved in 1979, being assigned directly to non-combat arms units.

A major change had taken place in how training was conducted. Individual skills were taught in a method called “task, conditions, and standard” specifying what the task’s mission or goal was, under what conditions and with what resources it was conducted, and the standards to be met. A soldier either passed or failed the test, a “go” or “no-go.” Unit training was conducted in much the same manner, with units required to effectively accomplish a complex series of interrelated combat tasks simultaneously at multiple echelons, the Army Training and Evaluation Program.

Individual initial training changed too. Soldiers used to undertake eight weeks of Basic Combat Training (BCT) given to all soldiers regardless of their future assignment. This was followed, in the case of infantrymen, by eight weeks of Light Weapons Infantryman Advanced Individual Training (AIT). Infantrymen received one common program of instruction regardless of the type of unit they would be assigned to. BCT and AIT were conducted by different training units, often at different posts.

The new system was known as One-Station Unit Training (OSUT). A soldier was assigned to a training unit at Ft Benning, Georgia in the case of infantrymen, and remained with the same drill instructors through 13 weeks of specialized training either as a light infantryman (Military Occupation Specialty 11B) to be assigned to light, airborne, or air assault units or as a mechanized infantryman (MOS 11M) to be assigned to Bradley-equipped units. The Bradley was not just a “battle taxi,” but a weapon system of which the squad was a part. In some ways the squad saw themselves more as a part of the crew rather than merely as a dismountable infantry element.

Besides its heavily armed rifle squad the Bradley M2 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) mounted tremendous firepower, making it a lethal combat vehicle even without its squad: a 25mm automatic gun able to knock out lightly armored vehicles and fighting positions, a twin tube TOW antiarmor wire-guided missile launcher capable of defeating any tank in the world, a 7.62mm machine gun, and smoke grenade dischargers. (For further details, see Osprey New Vanguard 18, The M2/M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle 1983-95.)

Iraq’s illegal invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 saw the immediate deployment of US and other nations’ units to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield. This was followed by months of build-up and preparation for the actual liberation of Kuwait, a feat requiring only three days for Operation Desert Storm – The “100-hour war.” There were 37 US infantry battalions deployed to Saudi Arabia. The ground war is often remembered for the sweeping maneuver of “heavy forces,” armored battalions with their M1 Abrams tanks, armored cavalry squadrons mounted on their more modern steeds, M3 Bradley cavalry vehicles and M1 tanks, and mechanized infantry in their M2 Bradleys. Of the infantry battalions, 18 were airborne and air assault and 19 were mechanized infantry.


Welcome to the US Army. A recruit has his hair shorn; he had to pay for his “scalping.” Once training had been completed they could let their hair grow out, to a point, but most kept it short, especially on the sides and back. In the desert they kept it very short because of the heat and for sanitary reasons.

Three versions of the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) were employed. The M2 (a.k.a. M2A0 or “vanilla Bradley”) was introduced in 1981, the M2A1 in 1987 and the M2A2 in 1988. Including the M3 cavalry fighting vehicle (CFV) there were 2,200 Bradley fighting vehicles (M2 and M3 were collectively called BFVs) deployed to the Gulf. The Bradley was the squad’s tactical transport, home, fire support, and an integral part of the unit that influenced its organization.
  The Bradley underwent a lengthy and troubled development. The goal was to provide a well-armored combat vehicle able to keep pace with the M1 Abrams tank, and allow the squad to fight from it. Previous APCs were “battle taxis” in which the squad merely traveled as passengers. They were blind to the terrain and situation they would face when dismounting and could not fire on the enemy without exposing themselves.
  The media were highly critical of the Bradley, faulting it for being too cramped and having too high a profile (it would have been more cramped with a lower profile). They also criticized it for being vulnerable to antiarmor weapons and too costly.
  The Bradley was a well-armed, high-speed vehicle with a high degree of survivability offering capabilities never before available to infantrymen. It mounted a 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun (1)in the two-man turret along with a 7.62mm M240C coaxial machine gun (2)and an external two-tube TOW launcher (3). Two sets of four-tube M257 smoke grenade dischargers (4)were mounted on the front of the turret with grenade storage boxes beside them. These fired British red phosphorus grenades a short distance to conceal the vehicle with a white smoke cloud if engaged by antiarmor fire, allowing it to change course or withdraw. They could not be fired near dismounted troops as the phosphorus inflicted casualties. The Integrated Sight Unit (ISU) (5)for all turret weapons is on the turret’s left top. It had a three-man crew, the commander (BC) (6)wearing the armored crewman’s uniform and DH-132A combat vehicle crewman helmet, the gunner, and the driver. The driver’s hatch (7)demonstrates how it provided protection when partly opened. The squad’s duffle bags are stowed on the sides (8). The M2 and M2A1 had two 5.56mm M231 firing port weapons (9)on each side and the rear ramp with periscopes. The M2A2 and all M3-series CFVs had only the rear FPWs.
  The on-board armament provided substantial firepower, so much so that often the infantry did not have to dismount to defeat the enemy. They had only to dismount after the enemy had been destroyed or fled, and then to search the area and provide security.
  The stabilized 25mm chain gun could be fired accurately on the move and was provided with a thermal imaging sight, the ISU, which also aimed the other weapons, allowing engagements in the dark, fog, rain, dust, and smoke. The gun could be fired semi-automatically, 100 rpm or 200 rpm intended for helicopters. Targets were typically engaged with 4–6-round bursts to almost 2,000m. Two magazines allowed the ammunition type to be selected. The 75-round magazine was for armor-piercing discarding sabot-tracer (APDS-T) while the 225-round magazine held high-explosive incendiary-tracer (HEI-T). Another 600 rounds were stowed.
To kill tanks the twin TOW II (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-command link guided missile) could defeat any tank to 3,000m, which required a 16-second flight; the Bradley had to halt to fire this. The gunner had to keep the sight crosshairs on the target during its flight. There was storage space aboard the Bradley for five of the 152mm missiles, plus two in the launch tubes. However, two of these spaces were required to store Dragon missiles.
The Bradley was a big vehicle having a higher profile than the M1 tank it accompanied. While often criticized, this height was necessary as the vehicle was designed to accommodate 80 percent of males, to include 6ft-tall soldiers, in moderate comfort. The necessary turret also increased its overall height. It was heavy too, with a combat weight of 49,000 lb (22,200kg) – over 24 tons, about 9 tons less than a World War II M4 Sherman, and with much better protection than the M4. As heavy as it was, the Bradley reached a speed of 41 mph (66km/h) – 38 mph (61 km/h) for the M2A2 – and was amphibious with preparation. The M2 and M2A1 had a 500 hp diesel and the M2A2 a 600 hp. It was difficult to throw a Bradley’s track and its availability rate was extremely high; few ever broke down.


(Only the arrival of heavy US divisions are listed.)
August 2 100,000 Iraqi troops invade Kuwait.
August 6 Saudi Arabia requests US military support.
August 7 First US troops arrive in Saudi Arabia commencing Operation Desert Shield.
August 28 Iraq “annexes” Kuwait.
September 24th Infantry Division deploys.
October 1st Cavalry Division deploys.
November Second wave of US forces begins deploying from Germany: 1st and 3d Armored Divisions with brigades of the 2d Armored and 3d Infantry Divisions. Deployment completed in January.
November 29 UN orders Iraqi forces to withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991.
December 1st Infantry Division deploys.
January 17 Operation Desert Storm commences with cross-border attacks at 0238 hours local time.
January 22 Iraqis ignite Kuwaiti oil wells.
January 29 Battle of Khafji (Iraqi cross-border probe), lasting until February 1.
February 20 1st Cavalry Division conducts feint.
February 22 Final ultimatum given to Iraq.
February 24 Ground War begins when Coalition forces invade Kuwait and Iraq at 0400 hours local time. US Army troops are the first to cross the border.
February 26 Saddam orders his forces to withdraw from Kuwait.
February 27 US and Saudi forces enter Kuwait City.
February 28 A ceasefire is ordered at 0800 hours local time.
March 2 Iraqi forces attempting to escape Kuwait are destroyed by 24th Infantry Division.
March 17 First US troops return to the United States.
March 28 Most US POWs are released.
June 8 A victory parade takes place in Washington.


The US Army attracted all types of men and women motivated by a wide variety of dynamics. Some joined for reasons of patriotism and the desire to begin a military career. Many joined up to learn a skill – not necessarily the case for an infantryman, but for the more technical MOS. Although the infantry is often considered a simple non-technical MOS, this is far from true. There are scores of skills necessary to operate and maintain the many weapons, target acquisition, observation, communication, and navigation systems, to say nothing of the tactical, battlefield survival, land navigation, and NBC defense skills. There were powerful incentives to join the infantry. It was here that leadership skills, teamwork, and the ability to work with others were the most critical skills in the Army. It taught a great deal in terms of self-confidence, initiative, and motivation. It was also highly physically demanding, and challenged each soldier to push himself to the limit, to see just what his capabilities and limitations were.

It was true that the poorly educated and less skilled tended to end up in the infantry, including many at the lower end of the US social scale. A score of 70 on the General Technical (GT) test (a form of IQ test) was necessary for the infantry. For comparison, a GT score of 110 was required for Special Forces or officer training.