CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – “Alert, Alert, alpha, two-eight, Atlanta, alert alert, alpha, two-eight, Atlanta,” blasted Camp Buehring’s sirens as they activated Company A, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, for a noncombatant evacuation exercise, March 26, 2014.
The NEO exercise tested the ability of U.S. forces partnered with the 94th Brigade, Kuwaiti Land Forces to safely evacuate American civilians under the threat of local populace protests, indirect fire and roaming enemy insurgent groups, said Christopher Bookout, noncommissioned officer in charge of the NEO exercise, 2nd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div.
An emergency deployment readiness exercise kicked off the operation.
“The alarm went off for Atanta,” said Sgt. Andreas Bellos, infantry team leader, Co. A, 2nd Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., “We had to get all our equipment staged by our company, get our Soldiers ready, we got into our Bradley Fighting Vehicles and took off for Forward Operating Base Gerber.”
When the unit arrived at FOB Gerber, they began evacuating American citizens who had been escorted into the base by Kuwaiti soldiers from the 94th Bde., KLF.
Bellos and his Soldier, Pfc. Eric Gogart, infantrymen, Co. A, 2nd Bn., 8th Inf. Regt. assisted the contractors manning the entry control point.
“When we arrived at the gate, a giant mob came and harassed the contractors,” said Bellos. “It started getting hostile, the contractors fired warning shots and the crowd dispersed.”
Bellos and Golgart held the gate with the contractors when direct and indirect enemy fire caused increased stress on the gate leave and another mob took the opening to rush the gate.
“We stood our ground, until we were overwhelmed,” said Bellos. “I went through my rules of engagement procedure I shouted, showed, shoved, shot a warning shot.”
A massive unarmed mob posed a dilemma for the U.S. Soldiers, on one hand they were unarmed civilians and other they may have been infiltrated with backpack bombs and suicide bombers.
“There’s not much you can do with unarmed civilians, you don’t want to use lethal force but if they are showing aggression you have to do what you do, you don’t want people with backpacks coming into the base suicide bombing and killing Americans. “We’re here to protect military equipment, military personnel, Kuwaiti personnel and American civilians we are trying exfiltrate out.”
Other Soldiers from the company came to support Bellos and pushed the mob out.
While all the Americans were safely evacuated during the scenario, in case of an actual emergency where noncombatants need to be evacuated out of Kuwait, Bookout emphasized that partnership with the Kuwaitis is the key to a successful operation.
“The most important thing Soldiers need to take out of this, is that the Kuwaiti military is a professional force, and by partnering together, they can put their faith and conference in their partnered units,” said Bookout. “And if something were to happen side-by-side we can accomplish the task together.”
For Bellos and his team, the necessity of the operation to why he raised his right hand when he first joined the Army.
“We have an obligation to protect those that have put their trust in us and if a NEO were to happen, make sure everyone comes home safe,” said Bellos.