Zinni Would Pre-position More Equipment in Gulf
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAIRO, Egypt, Oct. 25, 1999 Equipment for a fourth Army brigade would be pre-positioned in the Persian Gulf region if Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni is able to float the idea.
Zinni, commander of U.S. Central Command, discussed his proposal here Oct. 22 while in Egypt to command Exercise Bright Star. He first surfaced the idea earlier this week in Doha, Qatar, while traveling with Defense Secretary William Cohen.
He said Central Command has long wanted to pre-position equipment for a fourth brigade, which means it would have enough in theater to field a reinforced Army division of about 30,000 troops, including support elements. Zinni stressed his announcement to reporters in Qatar was just a proposal and one not yet formally submitted to Cohen.
Currently, one brigade's worth of equipment is positioned in Kuwait and another in Qatar. Equipment for a third is afloat in the region. Zinni told reporters the fourth brigade set would be positioned afloat if Cohen approves his recommendation. That ended speculation in the Gulf states that the fourth set would be land-based.
Zinni described brigades as combined arms units with tanks and artillery, infantry and engineers. "It's the smallest unit we use or employ by itself, in usually any kind of situation that might involve serious combat," he said.
The Marine Corps also maintains one pre-positioned squadron afloat in the Mediterranean and another at the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Marine expeditionary forces can be as small or as large as a contingency demands, a Central Command spokesman said. "They're very flexible," he noted.
Zinni estimated the squadrons can each equip up to 17,000 Marines in both air and ground units. He said there is no timeline for pre-positioning the equipment. The United States has not even finished pre-positioning the first three brigade sets yet, he said. "We're roughly 80 percent done in Qatar," he estimated.
Pre-positioning equipment in strategic areas makes deployments easier and faster, Zinni said. The long-standing U.S. practice stems from the Cold War. Then and now, in the event of a crisis, the idea is to fly U.S. troops into the theater, issue their stored equipment and send them to the front. The United States and its Gulf allies practice this constantly -- a reinforced infantry company, for example, drew equipment from the Qatar stocks in July.
Pre-positioned stocks in the gulf region include everything from tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery pieces to engineer vehicles and signal equipment.