The Eyes of Orion: Five Tank Lieutenants in the Persian Gulf War

The Eyes of Orion: Five Tank Lieutenants in the Persian Gulf War

The Eyes of Orion: Five Tank Lieutenants in the Persian Gulf War

The Eyes of Orion: Five Tank Lieutenants in the Persian Gulf War


A highly personal account of the day-to-day experiences of five platoon leaders who served in the same tank battalion during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. While professional soldiers and historians will undoubtedly glean much from this narrative, the heart of the account concerns the experiences of the five young lieutenants. The authors treat their combat experience in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from the perspective of junior officers who served on the front line -- facing physical, personal, moral, and leadership challenges.


On the afternoon of 24 February 1991, I flew at low level by Blackhawk helicopter to link up with the forty soldiers, Bradley fighting vehicles, and a tank platoon that constituted the 24th Infantry Division Command Post (CP). the sky was overcast, eerie, and the weather bitingly cold. the attack aircraft of our powerful air force shrieked overhead. the dull roar of the 101st Airborne Division's massive air assault could be heard off to our west. To the right flank, more than nine thousand armored vehicles of Lt. Gen. Fred Franks's five armored divisions smashed across the frontier in the biggest armor attack since that against Kursk, Russia, in 1943. Up ahead of my Assault cp, in the gathering storm, five armor lieutenants — Alex Vernon, Neal Creighton, Greg Downey, Rob Holmes, and David Trybula — were about to lead their platoons into battle for the first time.

These five lieutenants did not know what to expect. Would they make the right decisions at the right time? Would they perform with honor? Would they even survive? in the words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, "The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

Unlike most of the green troops of the division, I was one of just a handful of senior leaders who knew from Vietnam the cost of battle — shattered bodies and lost dreams. My exposure to combat as a young infantry officer had left me with the bitter taste of battle. I had been wounded three times. I understood the shock of dragging screaming, mangled, or dead U.S. soldiers onto medical evacuation helicopters. and I was terribly aware that my own son was about to go into this Desert Storm attack as an infantry first lieutenant in the 82d Airborne Division.

We were about to embark upon one of the most violent and rapid military attacks in the history of mankind. I would lead these five lieutenants as well as thousands of other young men and women of our division combat team on a three-hundred-kilometer assault north to the Euphrates River Valley and then through a left-hook, seventy-kilometer exploitation attack down Highway 8 to the outskirts of Basra.

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