Adjutant General's Corps Regimental Association

Army HR Innovations in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990-1991)

The 18th Personnel Group deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm under austere conditions, but with Soldier ingenuity, personnel operations consistently improved.

By COL (Ret) Gary L. Gresh, former Commander, 18th Personnel Group

Fate has a way of throwing you a curve ball when you least expect it and perhaps when you are the least able to react quickly enough.  So it was in August 1990 as I unpacked boxes in my newly assigned quarters on Pelham Road, Fort Bragg, NC, in preparation to become the next Adjutant General of the 18th Airborne Corps and the first Commander of the 18th Personnel Group, a new structure being fielded in 1990.  Little did I know that the next day, while continuing to unpack boxes, I would receive a telephone call from the Corps Operations Center asking me to report to the headquarters immediately to meet with the leadership team of the Corps.  I would not return to live in my quarters until May of the next year, as we were quarantined, briefed, and began immediate preparation for deployment to Saudi Arabia to begin Operation Desert Shield and subsequently Operation Desert Storm in January 1991.

Kuwait had been invaded by Iraq, and the 18th Airborne Corps was going to make the Iraqi army go back home.  Fate had struck again and this time I felt particularly unprepared.  I had not even been to my office, I knew only a few of the assigned Officers and NCOs of the AG office in the Corps, and I was completely unprepared for the firestorm of activity with which I was about to embark.  I was immediately plunged into the most stressful and action packed preparation I had ever witnessed and quite literally felt like a cork floating on a fast running river,  which I had absolutely no control over and knew nothing of where the river was taking me.

I had arrived at Fort Bragg ready to transition the Corps AG Office to the 18th Personnel Group for which I had been selected as the first Commander of that Group, which was to stand up sometime between October 1990 and January 1991.  I next remember sitting on a 747 jet headed for Saudi Arabia with the advanced party of the Corps, a group of superb Officers and NCOs who would together begin the next 6 months of round the clock preparation to plan, receive, and set up a deployed Airborne Corps on the sands of Saudi Arabia, an absolute Human Resources (HR) nightmare of planning, coordination, and execution.

Since 1776, the American Army ran on paperwork – forms starting with the unit morning report of who was present, to who was sick, and where all units were stationed.  Nothing really changed in the Army from 1776 to 1980 in regards to paperwork!  We still shuffled paper to accomplish most anything.  When the 18th Corps deployed in August 1991, we had no internet, no laptop computers, no i-Phones, no wi-fi, no Facebook, no Twitter, and perhaps biggest of all, NO E-MAIL!  We had CNN on TV if we were lucky and telephone lines.  The Army Personnel Community had been planning for automation for almost 20 years, but everything was bulky, cumbersome, and had to be tied together by phone lines.  The TACCS box alone, the Army’s basic automation device, was the size of two-foot lockers and took two Soldiers to load and unload from any vehicle.

When we began leaving Fort Bragg on 10 August 1991, we were unplugged from the Army personnel system, SIDPERS, and had only the database we had taken with us into Saudi Arabia.  We had about a dozen TACCS boxes, each supporting about 500 troops, and absolutely no electronic connection with the Department of the Army, except over long distance phone lines.  I was convinced that I was about to become the first Commander of the 18th Personnel Group, but also the first Commander to be relieved when I could not even tell the Corps Commander how many troops we had in country on any given day!

Lest I forget, it was not only those of us at Fort Bragg who were putting in 24 hour days, as all HR professionals in the Army were working overtime to help the effort.  The DCSPER mobilized every personnel asset he could to help support the coming battle.  Korea, Europe, and the Reserve components, and the Commandant of the AG School ramped up to support the effort with deployed units, deployed individual  fillers and replacements, and the DCSPER himself, called me several times to ask what I needed and how they could support.  It was a model of cooperation among personnel support agencies.

Pulling on the basics of Personnel Doctrine, we knew we had four core competencies and seven functions we had to be prepared to accomplish while protecting, sustaining, and taking care of the Soldiers assigned to us to do the personnel mission.  I soon learned that giving only mission-style orders, and allowing individual ingenuity and innovation to run wild among the Company Grade Officers and NCOs was the only way to succeed in this environment.  You just had to trust your subordinates until or unless they proved unworthy.

For this web article, I will concentrate on the four most demanding tasks we had to overcome while trying to support a deployed and growing Corps: OrganizationAutomation, Mail, and Logistics.

The 18th Personnel Group with personnel assets spread across the XVIII Airborne Corps Support Command in Saudi Arabia faced daunting challenges to construct a new Group structure in theater.

Organization – we had none.  We deployed as an AG section only to find all of our personnel assets spread across the Corps Support Command with little in the way of vehicles and life support to stand on their own as we transitioned to a Personnel Group Structure.  Innovative Company Grade Officers, NCOs, and Professional Civilians came together to advise, plan and support the construction of a Group structure while deployed in the challenging and taxing environment of Saudi Arabia.  The DCSPER and MILPERCEN provided individual fillers as needed to flush out a Group staff and the P&A Battalion Commanders and staffs came together to form an effective Group structure.  The Corps Commander decided to form the group early and to detach all units from the COSCOM so that the COSCOM could focus on its huge mission of bringing ammunition and supplies into the Corps.  This left the Personnel Group on its own to form, set up operations, and support itself as it almost doubled in size weekly.  The Officers and NCOs took on this challenge with absolute resolve and “got–it-done.”

Automation – we had some.  We had 12 TACCS boxes loaded with the basics of the Corps Headquarters.  But we needed a huge database, which we did not have, nor did we have the capability to store a huge database.  Once again the American Army NCO stood up to the challenge.  The head of my SIDPERS section politely asked me to go get some coffee while they pondered the situation and came up with a proposal to solve the problem.  Their solution was absolutely brilliant.  They coined the phrase “Five Digit Midget” or “FDM.”  The FDM was a way of changing the coding in the TACCS box to hold only five pieces of critical information on each Soldier in the Corps – Name, Rank, SSN, MOS and Unit of Assignment.   These were the basic elements needed to report strength accounting, location, casualty and units.  It also allowed the section to dump thousands of pieces of information currently stored in the TACCS boxes allowing much more room in the database.  By linking the TACCS boxes together in tandem much like a string of Christmas tree lights, they were able to use these same TACCS boxes to upload an entire Corps strength.  This required placing HR Soldiers at every incoming air and sea terminal to collect manifests as units landed and to deploy LNO teams to each hospital and aid station to collect casualty data.  All of this was made possible by the DCSPER and MILPERCEN who sent us NCO fillers from Korea.  Meanwhile, and largely unknown to us, the DCSPER was pulling out all the stops to buy and deploy laptop commuters to theater as quickly as possible to give us a database capability.  These laptops would eventually begin arriving to our area in December 1990 to January 1991.  But in the meantime, the brilliant database built by the NCOs of the 18th Personnel Group and the 18th P&A Battalion stood the tests of time.

Mail – yes, we had mail.  Perhaps our biggest challenge was the U.S. Mail!  Even in 1991, the Soldier still penned hand written letters and dropped them into the U.S. Mail to loved ones back in the states.  There was no e-mail, no text messages, no Facebook, no Twitter and lastly few phones to call home.  Perhaps even worse, stamps in 1991 were of the lick ’em, stick-em type which would quickly become a mass of glued paper in the Soldier’s sweaty pocket in Saudi Arabia.  The DCSPER helped us out with that by getting Congress to pass free mail.  The 18th Personnel Group did have one Postal Company, but just one Company, of 50 Soldiers, to support an entire deployed Corps!  It soon became apparent that this would become the monster under the bed!  It took action by all levels of leadership to mobilize people, equipment, and storage for the tons of mail that arrived everyday into the theater.

Postal personnel and unit assets alone would account for almost 35% of the Group by the time the deployment came to an end.  The 18th Personnel Group quickly became the largest deployed Personnel Brigade in history since WWII.  When over 1,700 replacements began filing into the Corps, through the Replacement Detachment, the 18th Personnel Group actually became the largest unit in the Corps rear detachment.  We fed, housed, and supplied newly arriving troops.  The Reserve component quickly became the savior to the Corps as it sent Postal Companies, fillers, Mess Teams, U.S. Postal employees and sorting equipment into the Group.

The 18th Personnel Group’s postal mission required many forklifts and huge storage areas just to place and sort the tons of mail received from the United States.

Then fate struck again.  A wonderful lady named Ms. Ann Landers decided to print a series of articles in every newspaper in the country telling Americans that Soldiers, particularly women Soldiers, needed personal sanitary toiletries and to send them addressed to Any Soldier, 18th Personnel Group, Saudi Arabia!  Tractor trailers began delivering TONS of boxes to be distributed to Soldiers requiring forklifts and huge storage areas just to place and sort.  Thank God, it does not rain often in Saudi Arabia, as all of these packages had to sit out in the weather until distributed.

Logistics – the Group had little in the way of logistics personnel, vehicles, tentage, mess facilities, or even office basics such as tables and chairs.  Thankfully, the DCSPER in conjunction with the DCSLOG and Fort Lee, started funneling supplies and logistics to the 18th Personnel Group as quickly as possible.  But this required Officers to construct hand written property books and ways of tracking supplies and equipment.  This challenge was with us every day until the end of the deployment and even had us setting up Arms Rooms and secure storage facilities for weapons that were funneled back to the 18th P&A Battalion Replacement Detachment from hospitals and aid stations that could not hold them while on the move.  Remarkably, there were only two reports of survey needed at the end of the deployment to account for the few lost items during the entire operation.

Desert Shield and Desert Storm was the first ever overseas deployment of an entire Army Corps in less than six months, many of the units taking their own equipment and many deploying without TOE equipment requiring Reserve component depot support from across the USA.  Everyday felt like you were inside a blender being spun in 100 different directions at once.  But incredibly, the Officers, NCOs, and Soldiers of America made it all happen.  It was an honor to serve with every one of them.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you unleash the potential and ingenuity of the American Soldier.

History – Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Activation

Photo above – MG William G. O’Leksy (far right) dedicated the Adjutant General’s Corps Colors and activated the Corps (Regiment) in ceremonies at Fort Benjamin Harrison on 17 June 1987. Photo by Shirley Startzman.

By COL (Ret) Frank C. Foster, Jr.
(Article first written and published in the Summer of 1987)

On 17 June 1987, the 212th Anniversary of the Adjutant General’s Corps, the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment was activated at the home of the Corps, Fort Benjamin Harrison. This special occasion united key members of the Corps from around the world to celebrate the Regiment as a focal point of pride and energy. The festivities started early 16 June with a 12 event Regimental Athletic day. LTC Arthur Dupay led a team from Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to capture gold honors. Over 870 Regimental Crest medals were awarded for individual excellence. The entire athletic day was managed by MSG Dewey Williams and Noncommissioned Officers of the Adjutant General’s Corps. Competition was keen and enthusiasm high as hundreds of participating AG Soldiers agreed to continue the event as an annual competition. Soldiers participated in swimming, softball, horseshoes, litter carry, combat push ball, sprint relays and 5K and 10K races.

The Club Management School, under MAJ George “Pete” Martin, hosted a “Reunion Buffet” for all Officers and Noncommissioned Officers. Music, an ice carving and a buffet capped by a sailboat full of shrimp were all part of the festivities. BG Ronald Brooks unveiled a plaque dedicating the Regimental Mess for both the Officer and Noncommissioned Officer Clubs at Fort Harrison.

Activation day began early with Regimental workshops organized by MAJ Gary Williams meeting to concentrate on key issues facing the Corps now and in the future. LTC Mike Shane chaired a workshop on Officer issues with the help of MG (Ret) Verne Bowers. LTC Don Traub led a workshop on Enlisted issues; he was assisted by BG Brooks. The third workshop concentrating on Adjutant General’s Corps issues was overseen by MG William O’Leksy and guided by MAJ Dennis Marcel.

After a quick lunch, the crowds gathered for dedication of the Adjutant General School entrance at the south end of Gates-Lord Hall. The guest speaker, BG “Lex” Dilworth, The Adjutant General, presented a beautiful three panel plaque to the Noncommissioned Officers of the Adjutant General’s Corps. The plaque which shows the forging of the Enlisted Adjutant General insignia will become the centerpiece of the new Adjutant General “NCO” Hall of Professional Development. Once BG Dilworth and COL Frank C. Foster, Jr. cut the ribbon, visitors entered the beautifully paneled hall.

Two glass wall cases showed historical AG displays. The first display depicted MG Horatio Gates, the first Adjutant General and “Hero of the Battle of Saratoga.” The second display was dedicated to BG Archibald Campbell, “Warrior Adjutant General” and Assistant, The Adjutant General. A special circular case presented the new Regimental Order of Horatio Gates in both gold and bronze editions. The main wall greeting visitors displays pictures of all The Adjutants General since 1775. This exhibit was donated by BG Dilworth from his former Adjutant General office in the Pentagon. The entrance way was built by SSG Michael Bigos and supervised by the Regimental SGM Eddie Bass. The displays were designed by CPT David Niekerk. The official activation ceremony was held on the parade ground following the dedication. British Army MAJ Robert Dibley acted as narrator, reflecting the fact that Horatio Gates was a British Major before his appointment as our first Adjutant General.

SGM Eddie Bell passes the new Regimental colors to COL Frank Foster, Jr. with BG Robert L. Dillworth and MG William G. O’Leksy on 17 June 1987.

The Officers and Noncommissioned Officers of the Corps stood proud behind the colors of the units that comprise the Adjutant General’s Corps. The Commander of Troops was COL Mary C. Willis, Commander of Troop Brigade. The ceremony featured the unveiling of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Flag which depicts the American eagle on a blue background with the words “Adjutant General’s Corps” on a scroll underneath. The Regimental Motto, “Defend and Serve,” is on a scroll held in the beak of the eagle. MG William G. O’Leksy, Director of Military Personnel Management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, was given the honor of officially dedicating the AG Colors and activating the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment. The ceremony was attended by representatives and colors from the following units:

• Chicago MEPS
• Detroit MEPS
• 14th AG Battalion, Fort Jackson, SC
• 30th AG Battalion, Fort Benning, GA
• 42nd AG Battalion, Fort Dix, NJ
• 43rd AG Battalion, Fort Leonard Wood, MO
• 46th AG Battalion, Fort Knox, KY
• 67th AG Battalion, Fort Bliss, TX
• 95th AG Battalion, Fort Sill, OK
• 120th AG Battalion, Fort Jackson, SC
• 369th AG Battalion, Fort Jackson, SC
• 100th Reception Battalion, Louisville, KY
• 21st Replacement Battalion, Frankfurt, Germany
• 347th Replacement Battalion, Marion, IL
• 1st Personnel and Administration Battalion, Fort Hood, TX
• 18th Personnel and Administration Battalion, Fort Bragg, NC
• 22nd Personnel and Administration Battalion, Frankfurt, Germany
• 38th Personnel and Administration Battalion, Stuttgart, Germany
• 90th Personnel and Administration Battalion, Kaiserslautern, Germany
• 326th Personnel and Administration Battalion, Indianapolis, IN
• 335th Personnel and Administration Battalion, Butler, PA
• 387th Personnel and Administration Battalion, Wichita, KS

Troops stand behind the colors of the units that comprise the Adjutant General’s Corps Regiment.

Part of the activation ceremony included the investiture of the three Honorary Members of the Regiment and their award of the Order of Horatio Gates in Gold. MG (Ret) Verne L. Bowers was invested as the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, CW4 (Ret) Donald E. Hess as Honorary Warrant Officer of the Regiment, and SGM (Ret) Daniel P. Daly as Honorary Sergeant Major of the Regiment.

The “Grand Finale” was the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Ball held that evening, under the planning of LTC “Dick” Cregar. Most significant was the award of the Order of Horatio Gates which was bestowed upon many distinguished Officers and Noncommissioned Officers that have made a significant contribution to the good of the Corps.

The Soldier Support Advocate was an early prelude to today’s 1775, the Journal of the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental Association.

Other key events of the evening included a musical tribute to the Regiment written and sung by MAJ Curtis B. Taylor, with assistance by MAJs Robert J. Malkemes and Keith H. Williams of the Adjutant General School Advanced Officer Training Division. The “Salute to the Corps” was written and choreographed by the Team Leaders / Members of that division.

The evening concluded with the Grand Tattoo. The ceremonial Tattoo was commanded by LTC Joseph Greenlee with music provided by the 74th Army Band, who also introduced the Adjutant General’s Corps Regimental March. The Regimental March was written by CPT William A. Foss.

Pictured is a copy of the original AG Corps Regimental March put to music by CPT William A. Foss.

AGCRA Editor’s Note:  Re-publication of AR 870-21, The U.S. Army Regimental System on April 13th, 2017 officially eliminated the term AG Corps Regiment.  The Corps is now a separate Corps and simply called the Adjutant General’s Corps or AG Corps.

AGCRA.com’s New History Web Page

We have a new web page on AGCRA.com that is dedicated to the history of the AG Corps and AGCRA.  Historical posts can now be found under the “News & Publications” button at the top of our Home Page (click History).

This portion of the Association’s web site will capture articles and historical events that walk us through our AG Corp’s history, prestige, culture and relevance to the Army and the Nation, as well as how the AGCRA was created and thrives today.

We also request that our prominent “Grey Beard” population contribute their stories when they were in uniform to provide a more personal perspective of our Corps’ distinguished past from those who walked before us.  Grey Beards can tell their story by submitting their respective article to Adjutant@agcra.com or History@agcra.com.

The historical AG Corps and AGCRA articles posted on the History web page should resonate with all Army HR professionals, both Soldiers and Civilians, whether you serve in a support role of maintaining personnel readiness and preparing units to deployed, to the execution of direct HR support across the force either in garrison or in combat.