Desert Storm: Looking back after 25 years

Desert Storm: Looking back after 25 years

January 16 marked the 25th anniversary of Desert Storm, the U.S.-led coalition effort to destroy Saddam Hussein’s war machine and his invasion to overpower Kuwait. It was the largest air campaign since World War II and established the United States Air Force as the dominant presence in the modern battlespace. 

More than 60,000 total force Airmen were deployed, nearly 70,000 sorties were generated with 30 different airframes, more than 9,300 laser guided bombs were deployed, 39 Iraqi aircraft were downed in air-to-air combat, more than 130,000 passengers and 700,000 short tons of cargo were transported in support of Desert Storm. 

The total force at Hill Air Force Base played a vital role in build up to the fight, known as Desert Shield, and in Desert Storm itself. Here is a look back at some notable headlines from the Hilltop Times. 

August 17, 1990

Hill supports Desert Shield

The Ogden Air Logistics Center has sent support people and provided supplies to units deploying to the Middle East in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Operation Desert Shield, the military response to Iraq’s invasion was ordered by President Bush Aug. 6 after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein failed to pull his force out of Kuwait as promised, four days after the Aug. 2 blitzkrieg-like invasion.

August 31, 1990

Hill members deploy to Gulf

Elements of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing and other Hill units deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield beginning Aug. 28, accompanied in spirit by 20,000 Hill AFB workers. Portions of two of the wing’s squadrons, the 4th and 421st Tactical Fighter Squadrons, are participating in the deployment. Behind the fanfare of the of the wing’s highly visible departures, workers at the Ogden Air Logistics Center provide essential support of those leaving.

September 7, 1990

Final group deploys

The final major contingent of people deploying from Hill AFB in support of Operation Desert Shield departed Sept. 2. Additional supplies continue to be shipped from Hill. The day’s activities did not represent any new or additional commitments by Hill units, but were a continuation of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing deployment, which began on Aug. 28.

September 14, 1990

Reservists face another call-up

More Air Force Reservists may be called upon to deploy by Oct. 1 to support Operation Desert Shield. Department of Defense officials foresee a call-up of as many as 14,500 reservists and Air National Guardsmen by late September.

October 5, 1990

Shield to postpone DOD cuts

Operation Desert Shield, the largest U.S. military deployment since Vietnam, is expected to only delay plans to reduce the size of the U.S. military, according to DOD’s top personnel official. “The department is going to get smaller,” said Christoper Jehn, assistant secretary of defense (force management and personnel), in an interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. “What may well be affected is the timing of some of those reductions.”

October 12, 1990

Movers support Desert Shield big-time

Reservists in the 67th and 68th Aerial Port Squadrons at Hill AFB are taking an active role in Operation Desert Shield even though they have not left Utah. Between Aug. 9 and Oct. 3, the two Reserve units, helping the air freight terminal meet its mission requirements, moved more than 12 million tons of cargo in and out of Hill AFB that was destined for the Middle East to support American military units there.

October 19, 1990

Deployed troops adapting well

A Hill commander writes for the Hilltop Times about the conditions Airmen face. “Although there’s plenty of sun and sand, members of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing are not mistaking their deployment for a day at the beach. The desert area the wing is in is similar to its home station of Hill AFB. That’s one of the reasons the 388th TFW people have adapted so well here and have been able to accomplish the wing’s mission despite the harsh conditions, according to Col. Bob Petersen, deputy commander for maintenance.”

November 2, 1990

Commander says Shield units busy

A Hill commander writes for the Hilltop Times about how Airmen are adjusting to the deployment. “I’m glad to have this opportunity to update everyone on what we have been doing in operations. At one level, we have been doing the same as everybody – finding a place to be, getting set up and organized, adjusting to the heat and getting over jet lag. Beyond that, we have been busy getting ourselves ready to fly. This has required study and preparation. Once the wheels are up, it’s too late to start finding out what the local procedures are. We are grateful to the pilots in our fellow fighter squadrons who gave us the information we need and actually led us on our first sorties.”

November 16, 1990

 Shield leader impressed with wing teamwork

A Hill Airman writes for the Hilltop Times about the maintenance role downrange. “From the aircraft maintenance community, I have been impressed with our teamwork. It was noticeable from day one with our ability to show equipment. This is certainly still true today. The same cooperation has been evident as we pulled together to support details for the good of the wing. Our ‘can do’ attitude has come through time and time again. That same emphasis of teamwork has been evident in our aircraft maintenance unit and operations fighting team. Building schedules on short notice, delays due to weather, and refueling – all have been absorbed with a desire to complete the mission.”

November 30, 1990

Desert Shield logistics a tough task

A Hill Airman writes back for the Hilltop Times the role logisticians have during the deployment. “The objective of the logisticians in a situation such as ours is to get the unit, personnel and support equipment where it’s needed, when it’s needed. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Before we left, we had to contend with a significant shortfall in airlift. This caused us to make some hard choices in terms of people, materiel and support equipment. We scaled down the numbers to the bare minimum, just enough to recover aircraft and to get our birds ready for initial flying. Thank goodness the decisions we made at Hill were correct because we were ready in less time than expected.”

December 7, 1990

Deployed find desert brutal to the point

A Hill Airman writes back for the Hilltop Times on challenges Airmen are facing downrange. “Service personnel deployed to Operation Desert Shield are finding the desert brutally inhospitable in many ways. The obvious concern of sun, heat, wind, sand and lack of water must constantly be respected and protected against. Numerous lifeforms are just waiting to take advantage of a prospective new host in the desert wastes.”

January 11, 1991 

388th Tactical Fighter Wing pilot killed in Iraq

Capt. Michael Chinburg, of Durham N.H.; was killed in a crash in Saudi Arabia during a training mission while deployed to “an Airbase in the Middle East.” Memorial services were held on Jan. 11 at 10:30 a.m. at the Hill AFB chapel. 

Buildup in Gulf continues

The Air Force called up 1,000 reservists from a variety of specialties during the second and third weeks of December 1990. Another 1,600 volunteered for active duty. 

January 18, 1991

Hill commander proud of U.S. effort

Desert Shield becomes Desert Storm at midnight on Jan. 17. Since the initial deployment of Hill Airmen in support of operation Desert Shield, daily operations have remained unchanged although the tempo picked up since the bed-down of the aircraft and people was completed. “There is a very strong sense of purpose and of accomplishment by the people here,” said Col Michael J. Navarro, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, deployed. “They are very proud of what they’re doing and who they represent.” 

January 25, 1991

Air Force Logistics Command supports Storm effort

More than 44,000 tons of cargo flowed through AFLC bases and accelerated work was completed on more than 50 aircraft. As the first reports of successful air strikes against targets in Iraq and Kuwait made their way to the United States, it quickly became apparent that AFLC’s hard work had paid off.

Hill military wives express pride, hope 

Cheryl, the wife of a deployed enlisted personnel specialist, admitted that she was in quite a bit of turmoil as the Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait drew near. “Now I feel very comfortable and at peace. I turned it over to the Lord.”

A Falcon’s Eye view from the “Storm Front”

An Airman writes back for the Hilltop Times reporting on the work Airmen do in launching a mission at night. “It’s 11:55 p.m. Jan 16…The air is thick with tension as Airmen prepare the jets for war. It’s not long until it’s official. This is no longer Desert Shield, it’s Desert Storm… and the pilots take off.”

February 8, 1991

Hill workers keep Storm aircraft flying

Nearly 300 workers at Hill Air Force Base’s Aircraft Directorate strive to cut time off of the 13,000 man hours and 138 days it takes to perform depot level maintenance on C-130s. They receive letters from units in the field thanking them for providing quality aircraft.

Hill units support munitions effort in Desert Storm

The Armament Division of the Ogden Air Logistics Centers Commodities Directorate is spearheading a monumental effort to provide needed munitions for Operation Desert Storm. The 24-hour work schedule is necessary to complete a movement that hadn’t been seen since “the 1969-1970” Southeast Asia effort. 

Hill pilots fly into “Eye of the Storm”

Pilots from the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing have flown in combat daily since Operation Desert Storm began. For the majority of pilots, this is the first time they’ve flown in combat and the first time the United States has used the F-16 in combat. Pilots call the aircraft “very effective.” 

March 1, 1991 

Allies crush Iraqis, ceasefire declared

Less than 100 hours after a massive allied land offensive kicked off to oust Iraq from Kuwait, President Bush declared Kuwait liberated and Saddam Hussein’s military machine defeated. “Kuwait is once more in the hands of Kuwaitis, in control of their own destiny,” said the president. The 388th Tactical Fighter Wing has flown numerous combat missions and is ready for a swift return home. 

March 8, 1991

Those at home react to allied victory

The “Storm” was over at Hill Air Force Base, everyone listened with cautious amazement. Reactions were as varied as the words used describe victory, yet a common theme emerged. A patriotic home front hoped it was true. “I watched the casualty count hourly, every minute. I thought Mark might die,” said the spouse of a deployed 388th TFW member. “Now I cry because I can have a coming-home party.”

March 15, 1991 

Troops get heroes’ welcome

Some of the first Hill AFB service members returning from Operation Desert Storm said they were overwhelmed by and appreciative of the warm welcome home they have received. “The first week we took a lot of fire. A lot of anti-aircraft and missile systems were launched at us. But (we) were lucky and didn’t take a lot of damage… It’s great to be back. You don’t realized until you’re away what a great country this is.”

Portions of this article provided by Air Force Public Affairs.

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