Service Branch: United States Army Reserves
Rank at Separation: Specialist [E/4]
Combat Action: Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm
Home Town: Omaha
Military Specialty: Medical Supply Specialist/Certified Combat Medic
Unit: 403rd Military Police POW Unit
Decorations, Citations, and Awards: - Desert Storm Award Medal, Combat Medic Certificate
“THIS is CNN.”
For 2½ months from mid-January through the end of March, 1991, millions of American homes had their TVs on 24/7, and 100+ times-a-day, they heard the rich, booming voice of James Earl Jones announce Cable News Network’s broadcast call letters. This wasn’t drama…this wasn’t even “reality” TV. These weren’t week-old images, filmed on site and shipped half-way around the world to be edited in the studio. CNN was broadcasting “live,” via satellite, directly from Baghdad. Real-time sights and sounds included bomb detonations, airborne missile firings, and automatic weapon tracer rounds…Americans simply could not get enough. It was intoxicating.
No one in the 403rd MPs was watching TV. They didn’t have time. They were too busy trying to build a POW camp to feed, house, and care for…oh, say 12,000 POWs…well, maybe 24,000…but 12,000 to start. Fortunately, they had all the equipment, materials, and supplies necessary to build and operate such a camp. UN-fortunately, it was all on a boat…in Houston. HOUSTON? Houston. TEXAS? Tha-at’s right…Houston…Texas…on a boat…in port…in Houston.
SPC Michael Riggs had been certified as a Combat Medic and was an experienced Medical Supply Specialist. His Supply skills were just what he needed to help his unit navigate through this oh-so-typical Army SNAFU. War doesn’t wait until everyone is ready. General Norman Schwarzkopf was at the top of the dog pile. Somewhere, way down at the bottom (with the pooper scooper) were the 403rd MPs and Mike Riggs. When Stormin’ Norman said “I’m taking back Kuwait, prepare to process prisoners.” – “Could ya wait, General? Our stuff is on a boat…in Houston…Sir.” – would have been a somewhat career-limiting response. When the mission goes – ready or not – the mission goes. If your stuff is on a boat in Houston, then you find a way – beg, borrow, or steal whatever it takes to reach your objective. It’s called ”scrounging.” The 403rd scrounged to build the POW camp. Supply Specialists are great scroungers.
Evidently, being a POW in the 403rd MPs’ camp was better than serving in the Iraqi Military. Saddam Hussein’s vaunted Republican Guard caved like a soufflé after a door slams. Back home people were joking “Hey…wanna buy a good used Iraqi Kalashnikov?…never fired and only dropped once.” No one in the 403rd was laughing. They didn’t have time. They were buried with prisoner processing at nearly triple the rate of the duty performance standard. In seven days, they processed 9,853 Iraqi POWs. Mike Riggs didn’t so much as see a Band-Aid or an aspirin for a week.