Aug. 8, 1990
On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered three of his heavy divisions of Iraqi Republican Guards to invade Kuwait, gambling that the United States and the United Nations would not try to stop him.
He was wrong. On Aug. 7, President George Herbert Walker Bush ordered the organization of Operation Desert Shield, authorizing a dramatic increase of U.S. troops and resources in the Persian Gulf. The very next day, a three-man cell of technical intelligence specialists from the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade deployed with XVIII Airborne Corps to Saudi Arabia.
The 513th MI Brigade is a subordinate command of the US Army Intelligence and Security Command, or INSCOM. It deploys in strength or in tailored elements to conduct multidiscipline intelligence and security operations in support of Army components of U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, and theater Army commanders.
During the early stages of Desert Shield, the 513th Soldiers provided CENTCOM with critical intelligence such as terrain analysis that assured the desert area around Kuwait was trafficable by Army vehicles. This information allowed CENTCOM to focus on rushing its combat elements to Saudi Arabia to thwart any further Iraqi expansion.
With the combat force stabilized, the 513th was able to deploy its full range of intelligence assets, including an operations battalion to help staff the CENTCOM Intelligence Operations Center. Intelligence units from Germany and reservists from the United States were “lifted and shifted” by INSCOM to support the battlefield.
Desert Shield and Desert Storm became the testing ground for a number of new systems: the Sandcrab jammer provided electronic warfare support, an improvised Trojan Spirit system established secure intelligence communications links, and the enhanced Trackwolf provided high frequency direction-finding capability. New developments in satellite technology allowed the forward-deployed intelligence support elements to “reach back” and exploit databases located in Europe, the U.S., or other secure areas. Pioneer unmanned Aerial Vehicles received their first combat deployment, and INSCOM personnel also helped man the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or J-STARS, during its first deployment.
All of these systems were ready to go on Jan. 16, 1991, when a multi-nation force launched Operation Desert Storm – an air campaign which was followed weeks later by a successful ground assault. The success of the intelligence operation during this conflict was best stated by a captured Iraqi officer:
“We had a great appreciation of your intelligence system; we knew from our experience in the Iranian War that at all times you could see us during day and night and knew where we were on the ground. If we communicated, you could both hear and target us … On the other hand, as we looked at our intelligence system, we had no idea where you were on the ground, we had no intelligence system capabilities to see what your dispositions were, and we had no way to monitor your communications. We knew you were going to attack only when you overran our front line positions …”
Throughout Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, INSCOM’s 513th MI Brigade served as the principal intelligence and security element in support of the Army Central Command. During this first Persian Gulf War, the brigade fulfilled its wartime mission by providing full-spectrum intelligence support to CENTCOM, winning three Southwest Asian Service battle streamers.