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191st National Guard


Yesterday marked the start of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. 632 members of the ND National Guard had been called up for active duty for the conflict, which lasted just a little over a month. The war erupted after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. 200,000 National Guard and Army Reserve troops had been mobilized, including the 191st military police company out of Mandan. Their job was to supply security and help process prisoners of war.

Ray Lagemann was a member of the 191st. He said military planners were caught off guard when Iraqi soldiers began surrendering in droves. The 191st had designed a long-term detention center for 2,000 prisoners, but they quickly ran out of room. Lagemann said the camp ended up holding about 10,000 prisoners at any given time. The camp soon became a processing center where the captured soldiers were held only until they could be sent on to other facilities. Lagemann said the Iraqi captives were in pretty bad shape when they came in. The allied coalition’s front-line soldiers brought prisoners to the camp, unloaded them as quickly as possible, and kept going back for more.

Lagemann didn’t remember many problems with the prisoners, saying they were actually glad to be in a place safe from the bombing where they could receive food. Lagemann reported seeing a video taken during a night mission by a helicopter crew. He said, “You could see the soldiers coming out of the bunkers trying to surrender to the helicopter. They were already starving. They had no food or water.” Altogether, more than 71,000 Iraqi prisoners were captured during the Gulf War.

The North Dakota guards remained in the Persian Gulf while the drawdown of troops took place. In 1997, the 191st military police company was deactivated.

Dakota Datebook by Merry Helm

Source: Fargo Forum article by reporter Dave Olson 2-24-03