2nd Radio Battalion
Operation Desert Storm
by 1stLt Soren P. Ashmall
(circa October 1991)
In the midst of the largest ground offensive since the Korean War the United States can claim many successes. Most observers, however, did not notice several accomplishments that occurred in the signal intelligence arena. None are as earth shattering as the destruction of the world's fourth largest army, but they did play an important part in making victory in the Persian Gulf possible.
On the morning of December 11, 1990 the first elements of 2nd Radio Battalion deployed from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to southwest Asia in support of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. Within a month the entire battalion was fully deployed to Saudi Arabia and ready for operations. This marked a milestone in the unit's history. It was the first time the battalion had deployed in total to support a real world commitment. In the past it has sent detachments world wide; over twenty a year in some cases. But never had the unit fully deployed as a battalion.
After acclimatizing to the Arabian Desert, the battalion moved north from Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia, to an area near the border with Iraqi-occupied Kuwait. The unit began operations initially with one company forward and the other in reserve. Within two weeks, however, hostilities had begun and both companies were in forward positions and the battalion's support elements were in place conducting full-scale operations. At this point the companies were truly at the tip of the spear. There were no friendly forces between them and the enemy.
On the night of January 28, 1991 Iraqi forces launched an armored attack across the border into Saudi Arabia. Both lightly defended companies found themselves in the path of the advancing enemy armor. Both were ordered to execute their escape and evasion plans. The battalion's Alpha Company moved to the designated rally point without incident. The Iraqis, however, were already on the heels of Bravo Company and closing in fast.
Indirect fire pelted Bravo Company's positions as its Marines began their movement south. Several rounds just missed their mark. Luckily, the company moved out just fast enough to elude the Iraqis. Close air support also arrived on scene and made short shrift of the Iraqis.
Following the Iraqi incursion into Saudi territory, the bulk of U.S. and coalition forces moved up to pre-assault positions near the border. Second Radio then began its pre-assault operations as well. The goal: position the battalion to support a major offensive to liberate Kuwait.
Extensive coordination and planning was conducted with First Radio Battalion to develop a concept of operations to provide signals intelligence support to I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) during the assault. This action highlighted a number of milestones in Marine Corps cryptology. Operations Desert Shield/Storm was the first time both Radio Battalions were deployed as battalions together. It was also the first time the First Radio Battalion supported I MEF with all of Second Radio Battalion reinforcing it. Within a month another landmark would be set. It would be the first time both radio battalions would enter combat together as battalions.
As U.S. forces pushed through the breach and began the ground war in the early hours of February 24, 1991, portions of Second Radio Battalion were collocated with almost every major element of the Second Marine Division. Signals intelligence support spanned from the lead echelons of the attack to the MEF command level. A large detachment from the battalion was also poised offshore in the waters of the Persian Gulf with the Fourth Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB).
After the liberation of Kuwait and the retrograde of First Radio Battalion from the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO), Second Radio Battalion assumed full responsibility for all cryptologic support to I MEF in country. The unit then conducted its own retrograde to Camp Lejeune from March 20 to April 12, 1991. Six days later, the battalion's detachment with Fourth MEB returned home.
All U.S. forces that deployed to southwest Asia in support of Operation Desert Storm returned stateside with a list of accomplishments and lessons learned. Second Radio Battalion is no different. Long-standing procedures were revalidated. New ground was broken in the area of joint operations with First Radio Battalion. New equipment and concepts were used for the first time in combat. The battalion, however, does not plan to rest on its laurels. New challenges undoubtedly lie ahead ready to test the unit's ability to respond quickly and effectively as a key intelligence asset of the nations force-in-readiness.