During Desert Storm the 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment provided artillery support to the 24th Infantry Division throughout the invasion of Iraq. During one phase of the war they took out 41 Iraqi battalion, two air defense sites, and a tank company in less than 72 hours.
3-27 entered Desert Storm with a new weapon that had never seen combat, the Multiple Launch Rocket System. Nearby soldiers took notice, to put it mildly, as the rockets screamed past the sound barrier on their way out of the launcher and then roared away from the firing point. A first sergeant from the 3-27 told The Fayetteville Observer that the first launch created panic in the American camp. Soldiers that had never seen an MLRS dove into cover and tried to dig hasty foxholes.
“It scared the pure hell out of everybody,” Sgt. Maj. Jon H. Cone said. But the Americans quickly came to love the MLRS.
“After that first time, it was showtime,” Cone said.
Like everyone else during the invasion, the 24th Infantry Division wanted to push deeper and seize more territory than anyone else. That meant their artillery support would be racing across the sand as well. 3-27 came through and actually spent a lot of time running ahead of the maneuver units, looking for enemy artillery and quickly engaging when any showed.
During a particularly daring move, the battalion’s Alpha battery moved through enemy lines and conducted a raid from inside enemy territory, engaging artillery and infantry while other U.S. forces advanced.
The largest single attack by the 3-27 was the assault on Objective Orange, two Iraqi airfields that sat right next to each other. 3-27 and other artillery units were assigned to destroy the Iraqi Army’s 2,000 soldiers, ten tanks, and two artillery battalions at the airfield so the infantry could assault it more easily.
The launchers timed their rockets to all reach the objective within seconds of each other, and used rockets that would drop bomblets on the unsuspecting Iraqi troops.
A prisoner of war who survived the assault later told U.S. forces that the Iraqis were manning their guns when the rockets came in. When the rockets began exploding in mid-air, they cheered in the belief that the attack had failed. Instead, the bomblets formed a “steel rain” that killed most troops in the area and destroyed all exposed equipment.
By the time the infantry got to the airfields, the survivors were ready to surrender.
The battalion was awarded a Valorous Unit Citation after the war for extreme bravery under fire.
(h/t to The Fayetteville Observer‘s Drew Brooks and to “Steel Rain” by Staff Sgt. Charles W. Bissett)