On 2 August 1990, I was driving to California to assume command of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and the Marine base at Camp Pendleton. Somewhere in west Texas I heard on my car radio that Iraq had invaded Kuwait. We hurried on to Pendleton, and a few days later I was on my way to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Prior to arriving in California, I knew MEF headquarters was not prepared to direct such a force in combat. It was undermanned on the premise that the Marine Corps was unlikely to fight as a MEF, and manpower was too precious to waste on a headquarters that was not going to war.
The supposition was that if it did go to war, the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) headquarters at Twentynine Palms would augment the staff. The 1st Marine Division in turn would subsume the brigade. Not only was the MEF headquarters undermanned, but in my opinion it had not spent enough time in the field to know how to direct a MEF in combat on a 24/7 basis over a sustained period of time. In short, my judgment was that the senior headquarters was unprepared for war.