Editor’s note: This feature is part of a Hill Air Force Base 80th anniversary series. These articles will feature the base’s historical innovations and achievements, and will highlight mission platforms that have been operated and supported throughout the decades.
HILL AIR FORCE BASE — With the justification that Kuwait historically belonged to Iraq and the intention of taking control of the country’s rich oil fields, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ordered his military forces to invade Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. After incurring large debts to its southern neighbors during the eight-year war it waged with its eastern neighbor Iran during the 1980s, the Cold War Soviet ally and nearly landlocked Iraq entered a dispute with its western-friendly Arab neighbors following the Iran-Iraq ceasefire in 1988 that escalated quickly into armed conflict. On Aug. 7, 1990, President George Herbert Walker Bush ordered the organization of Operation Desert Shield in response to Iraq’s hostile actions in Kuwait.
The United Nations Security Council condemned Iraq’s actions on Nov. 20, 1990, giving Saddam Hussein the deadline of Jan. 16, 1991, to withdraw Iraqi forces from Kuwait or risk a military response. Negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Iraq’s foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, failed and the U.S. Congress authorized the use of American troops in a military intervention in Kuwait. Just after midnight on Jan. 17, 1991, President Bush gave the order for U.S. troops, as part of an international coalition, to launch an attack on the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait. This began Operation Desert Storm.
Operations Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm significantly impacted Hill AFB operations. Nearly every organization across the installation increased its operational tempo in support of the Operation Desert Shield. During August and September of 1990, personnel from three major commands deployed from Hill AFB to the Middle East. These included personnel from the Air Force Logistics Command’s Ogden ALC and 2849th Air Base Group (the base command predecessor to the 75th Air Base Wing), Tactical Air Command’s 388th Fighter Wing, 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, and 729th Tactical Control Squadron, and detachments from the Military Airlift Command’s 17th Weather Squadron and 1365th Audiovisual Squadron. Teams that deployed from the Ogden ALC and 2849th Air Base Group included the 2952nd Combat Logistics Support Squadron, 2721st Munitions Maintenance and Test Squadron, 2701st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and the 2849th’s Civil Engineering Squadron, Security Police Squadron, Services Squadron, and the Hospital and Chapel. Hill AFB deployed in total more than 1,300 personnel.
Additionally, while personnel not deploying extended work shifts to 12 hours, the installation provided training to those deploying on chemical warfare, small arms, and select unit equipment — such as F-16 electronic countermeasures pod programming. In preparation for departure, deploying teams marshalled and loaded hundreds of tons of individual and unit equipment. The Ogden ALC accelerated the repair and procurement of nearly 2,000 aerospace components, as well as prioritizing maintenance and modification of needed F-16s and C-130s. By the end of August 1990, the Ogden ALC had moved large quantities of materiel in support of Operation Desert Shield. The Directorate of Distribution’s air freight terminal increased its average of 17 flights per month to 30 throughout the autumn of 1990. Many of the shipments to the Middle East included Standard Ammunition Packages.
As the 388th Fighter Wing departed Hill AFB for the Middle East, Col. Michael Navarro (wing commander), stated, “The support we’ve received the last few weeks has been phenomenal. The judge advocate’s office helped us fill out hundreds of powers of attorney and wills; the hospital visited many shops of the shops so we could get all of our shots; the Consolidated Base Personnel Office took time to check and update our records. The entire base worked around the clock to help fill equipment shortfalls in our aircraft.”
Due, in part, to the dedication of those assigned to Hill AFB and their efforts in supporting Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the coalition successfully defeated the Iraqi forces by the end of February 1991.