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Kuwait liberated 20 ago

On Aug. 2, 1990, the nation of Kuwait was invaded by its neighbor, Iraq. The next day, the United Nations passed a resolution condemning the attack and demanding Iraq restore the sovereignty of the oil-rich Gulf nation.

The United States took the lead building a “coalition of the willing” of nations prepared to put their troops in harm’s way to protect Saudi Arabia and restore the independence of Kuwait. Named Operation Desert Shield, hundreds of thousands of Americans were alerted, or called up, to deploy.

As part of the Return of Forces to Germany plan of the recently-ended Cold War, most active-duty divisions planned to receive a “plug-in” of a National Guard combat brigade to “round out” to full strength. The tempo of the mobilization caused other active-duty brigades to fulfill the role. When the 24th (Mechanized) Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., needed another combat brigade to deploy to the desert at full strength, the Army ran out of available units. The solution — transform a training unit into a combat brigade. The 197th Infantry Brigade, a school-support demonstration unit at Fort Benning, was alerted to transition from the training mission and deploy as a mechanized Infantry brigade with the 24th (Mechanized) Infantry Division to Saudi Arabia. Within months, the Fort Benning troops were in the desert along the Iraqi border as the 197th Inf. Bde., 24th (Mech.) Inf. Div.

In addition to the 197th Inf. Bde., elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment rapidly deployed to Saudi Arabia from Fort Benning and other posts. Many medical and other units were mobilized to fill combat roles in the desert Army. In addition, thousands of Individual Ready Reservist sand small specialty units arrived at Fort Benning to transition to active duty and travel to join other elements on their way to the conflict. The deployment of many units and instructors to the combat theater left thousands of family members anxiously awaiting news on Fort Benning and in the community.

On Jan. 15, 1991, Operation Desert Storm launched as coalition air force, aviation, artillery, and special operations forces began a systematic destruction of the Iraqi command and control structure to prepare for a ground assault. In order to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation troops, the 197th Inf. Bde., joined a large armored “left hook” deep into Iraq to defeat enemy combat forces on the border and to isolate the occupiers inside Kuwait. On Feb. 24, 1991, coalition forces led by the Marine Corps and the Tiger Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division struck directly across the border toward Kuwait City and formed an anvil, while the two armored corps to the west sliced through Iraqi units to form a giant hammer. Within four days, 100 hours, the coalition had defeated all Iraqi units they made contact with and liberated Kuwait. On Feb. 28, a cease-fire called by the coalition ended the combat phase of the war.

Since the Desert Storm victory of 1991, the United States has maintained a military presence in Kuwait, and in 2003 became the nucleus of a new coalition to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The armed forces of Saddam and his Ba’ath Party never recovered from their defeat in Operation Desert Storm and were defeated by a second allied blitzkrieg in 2003 that rampaged all the way to Baghdad in a few short weeks.

While the 75th Ranger Regiment again served as part of the point of the spear, the 197th Inf. Bde. had been inactivated several years before. Reflagged as the 3rd Brigade, 24th (Mech.) Inf. Div., later the 3rd (Mech.) Inf. Div., the brigade is now known as the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd (Mechanized) Infantry Division, and has deployed four times to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In 2007, as part of the transition from regiments to brigades in the Army, the 29th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning was dual-flagged as the 197th Inf. Bde. to honor the service of the Soldiers of that outfit from World War II to the present. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, conflicts in the Middle East continue to drive deployments and training at Fort Benning in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom