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Orange County Troops In Gulf Await Decisions About War

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

About 36,000 Orange County-area troops, almost all Marines, will be in the Persian Gulf by the Jan. 15 United Nations deadline for an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, based on Times estimates from various sources. They are prepared, if the decision comes, to battle Iraqi forces on the land, from the sea and in the air. Marines from Orange County and Camp Pendleton make up a significant portion of the 80,000 to 90,000 Marines in the gulf. The 3rd Marine Air Wing, based at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and including combat helicopters from Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, is trained to help control the skies in support of ground troops. About 140 aircraft, ranging from fighter jets to transport helicopters, have departed from the bases. In control of all Marine operations in the gulf is Lt. Gen. Walter E. Boomer, commander of Camp Pendleton. The 52-year-old North Carolina native and father of three was a company commander in Vietnam. He arrived with the first Marines in Saudi Arabia, soon after the invasion of Kuwait. O. C. Troops in the Gulf U.S. troops expected in gulf by Jan. 15: 430,000 County-area troops expected in gulf by Jan. 15: 36,000 Supply Lines:

About 6,000 troops from Pendleton’s First Force Service Support Group would aid combat troops. They provide myriad services, including construction of living quarters and facilities, equipment maintenance, motor transport, communication, electricity, medical care, food and water. They are led by Brig. Gen. James A. Brabham Jr. from Camp Pendleton. He served two tours in Vietnam, where he was commander of a shore party company and later engineer adviser to Vietnamese marines. On Reserve:

Up to 1,000 Army reservists from this area have also been called up in support of Operation Desert Shield. Notably, specialists able to maintain, recover and repair armor and heavy equipment are likely to see gulf duty. In event of hostilities, these men and women will have the key mission of keeping the tanks and helicopters and planes flying and equipped with spare parts. Medical reservists have also been called up; many are likely to fill in at hospitals stateside that have lost personnel to gulf deployments. A small number of county Navy and Marine reservists have also been called to duty. Hafar al Batin: Hafar al Batin is the northernmost of Saudi Arabia’s major military bases. Arab and French forces are using it as a staging point. Jubail: Jubail is the largest petrochemical city in the world and the core of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. It is about 185 miles south of the Kuwaiti border. Some key oil pipelines and refineries are even closer to the border, only 100 miles to the south. Dhahran: Dhahran is the capital of Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern province. Its port and air base serve as staging areas for allied forces in the gulf. Help From The Sky:

Aircraft and pilots from Tustin, El Toro and Camp Pendleton are part of the 3rd Aircraft Wing based at El Toro, which provides air support for Marine combat troops. The Times estimates that 5,000 Marines are involved. Tustin-based helicopters such as the Sea Knight would move troops in a land assault. El Toro pilots flying the deadly F/A-18 Hornet fighter will provide air support for ground forces, while Pendleton-based Sea Cobra helicopter gunships would move in with advancing troops to lay a protective blanket of “close-in” cover fire against Iraqi positions. The 3rd Aircraft Wing’s commander, Maj. Gen. Royal N. Moore Jr., controls all Marine air operations in the gulf. He is a veteran helicopter and jet pilot who flew 287 combat missions in Vietnam and is a former assistant commander of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, N.C. Ground Troops:

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About 15,000 troops from Camp Pendleton’s 1st Marine Division are in Saudi Arabia. If war breaks out, these soldiers will be involved in any ground assault against Iraqi positions. Leading them is Brig. Gen. James M. Myatt, who served two combat tours in Vietnam. The division has trained extensively in desert warfare and is backed by heavy weapons and tanks. It is the main Marine ground force in Saudi Arabia.

An unknown number of Pendleton infantrymen have been in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the crisis, when they arrived after the Kuwaiti invasion as part of the Twentynine Palms-based 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The 7th Brigade is a Marine quick-response unit, which can arrive anyplace in the world within days; the only faster response force is the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. The brigade is led by Maj. Gen. John I. Hopkins, who served two tours in Vietnam and was involved in the evacuation of Phnom Penh and the recovery of the U.S. Mayaguez. Sea Assault:

Camp Pendleton’s 5th Marine Brigade of 10,000 troops would be a part of the assault force if the United States attacked from the sea. The 5th Brigade recently left San Diego for the gulf and should be in the region by mid-January. The troops could hit the beachhead, possibly in a bid to retake Kuwait city, using either landing craft or helicopters in a classic example of a Marine assault. Leading them is Brig. Gen. Peter J. Rowe, a specialist in amphibious assaults. He saw action during Vietnam in Hue City and Khe Sanh. F/A-18 Hornet

Considered the most versatile and formidable single-seat aircraft in the world, the Hornet is equipped with a 20-millimeter rotary cannon and Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. Its mission is to provides cover fire for ground troops and keep the skies over the battlefield clear of enemy aircraft. The fighter is also used for precision bombing and low-level runs to knock out enemy radar and anti-aircraft installations before invasions. About half of the estimated 48 Hornets in the gulf are from El Toro. AV-8B Harrier

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Capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, the Harrier moves in with advancing ground troops and keeps the airspace above them clear of hostile aircraft. About half of the estimated 60 Harriers in the gulf are from Yuma, Ariz., and are attached to the 3rd Aircraft Wing at El Toro. KC-130 Hercules

One of the most reliable transports ever built, the Hercules provides aerial refueling and transportation of Marines and equipment. It can deliver combat cargo by parachute and transport the wounded. About a dozen are in the gulf, half from El Toro. OV-10 Bronco

This multipurpose observation aircraft is used primarily for reconnaissance, including pinpointing targets for long-range artillery and naval guns. Sometimes it is used for low-level photography and to escort helicopters into enemy territory. About eight are in the gulf, half from Pendleton. CH-46 Sea Knight

Often referred to as the workhorse of the Marine Corps, the double-rotor Sea Knight carries Marines during both land and sea assaults. It can also be used to move equipment, weapons and supplies and for search and rescue. About 50 Sea Knights are in the Persian Gulf, about half from Tustin. CH-53E Super Stallion

The heavy-lift Marine helicopter--it is the largest built outside of the Soviet Union--is used to carry trucks, 155-millimeter howitzers and light armored vehicles and to ferry them from position to position. It is one of the few helicopters capable of lifting its own 16 tons. About 30 are in the gulf area, half from Tustin. CH-53D Sea Stallion

Smaller than the Super Stallion, the Sea Stallion carries troops, equipment and ammunition and can be launched from amphibious assault ships. Used extensively during the Vietnam War, it can carry 37 combat-equipped troops or 24 injured soldiers and four attendants. About 30 are in the Gulf area, half from Tustin. AH-1T Sea Cobra

Just 58 feet long, the Cobra provides close air support for amphibious invasions and ground maneuvers. The helicopter’s pilot and gunner control a 20-millimeter gun and a variety of small rockets, including the laser-guided, tank-killing Hellfire missile. Nearly 50 Cobras are in the gulf area, half from Pendleton. UH-1N Huey

One of the most durable and versatile utility helicopters ever built--the distinctive “whop” of its rotor blades is often associated with Vietnam--the Huey is used for moving troops, light equipment and for battlefield medical evacuations. It can carry eight to 10 combat-equipped Marines or six wounded soldiers with one attendant. About 30 are in the gulf, half from Pendleton.

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