Arrival in Kuwait & Preparation for Movement to Iraq
The 507th Maintenance Company arrived in Kuwait from Ft. Bliss on 20 February 2003. The company consisted of 82 Soldiers and their assigned vehicles. The unit became a part of U.S. forces under the operational control of V Corps, which was located at CAMP VIRGINIA in Kuwait. From 22 February until 20 March, the 507th prepared for its mission in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM--to repair and maintain vehicles and equipment of the 5th Battalion, 52d Air Defense Artillery (Patriot), supporting the Central Command (CENTCOM) battle plan.
Unit preparation at CAMP VIRGINIA built on training that had been conducted at Fort Bliss, which included individual and crew-served weapons qualification, tactical communications, land navigation, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) defense tasks, first aid, spot reporting, equipment maintenance, leader certification, force protection, deployment and redeployment operations, tactical employment, and sustainment operations. Once deployed and in CAMP VIRGINIA, Soldiers of the 507th conducted additional training and preparations at CAMP VIRGINIA that included rules of engagement, unit rehearsals (movement, actions on contact, ambush procedures), and weapons and vehicle maintenance. During this time, all Soldiers received their basic combat load of ammunition for their personal weapons (210 rounds for M16A2, 1000 rounds for M249 SAW, 45 rounds for M9). The company commander ordered issue of ammunition for the unit’s crew served weapons (.50 caliber and MK-19, 40mm) prior to movement, however, all pyrotechnics, hand grenades, and AT-4 Anti-tank weapons were consolidated and secured.
The plan to move V Corps units from CAMP VIRGINIA to OBJECTIVE RAMS (See FIGURE 1) involved the organization of convoys and movement of those convoys along designated routes—initially on ROUTE BLUE, then ROUTE JACKSON, then returning to ROUTE BLUE —and through three intermediate attack positions: DAWSON, BULL, and LIZARD (See FIGURE 3). The 507th Maintenance Company was under the tactical control of the 3d Forward Support Battalion (3d FSB) for this movement. According to the 3d FSB Orders Brief, the 507th Maintenance Company convoy would be directed from BLUE to JACKSON by Soldiers at a manned tactical control point (TCP) at the site where the routes separated.
The Operations Officer of the 3d FSB gave CPT King, the commander of the 507th, a CD-ROM disc that contained orders and route information. Route information consisted of the battalion orders briefing and annotated large-scale maps. The 507th had commercial Global Positioning Systems (GPS) (Garmin, ETREX VISTA), (FIGURE 2), which had been issued in the United States prior to deployment. The GPS gave CPT King directional signals via a display arrow that indicated the direction and distance the convoy should go. Five additional GPS were distributed to other leaders in the company. The unit was also issued 1:100,000 scale maps of the area of operations-- the theater standard. The review of this incident revealed that CPT King relied primarily on his GPS and one of the annotated maps from the orders brief while traveling in his HMMWV(See FIGURE 1 – Note the map from the brief did not have Routes and Objectives annotated here for clarity). CPT King had highlighted only ROUTE BLUE on the annotated map, and believed in error that BLUE was his assigned route.
On 20 March, at approximately 1400 hours, 64 of the original 82 Soldiers of the 507th departed CAMP VIRGINIA in 33 vehicles and moved northwest as part of a larger convoy. Their ultimate destination was OBJECTIVE RAMS more than 350 kilometers distant. The other 18 Soldiers (maintenance contact teams and medics) from the 507th were attached to and moved with other units.