CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait--Six Army Reserve Soldiers deployed here with the 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) shared their memories of the First Gulf War as U.S. and Kuwaiti leaders celebrate Kuwait's liberation 30 years ago.
One of the commemorations of the ouster of Iraqi forces from Kuwait was the March 10 ceremony here, when U.S. military leaders hosted joined Kuwait military personnel and other dignitaries for a remembrance event.
"Before I start my speech, I want you to know how I feel," said Kuwaiti Army Land Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Al Dhafiri, who was the featured speaker at the ceremony. "I have tremendous amount of excitement and appreciation for you putting this together."
The general, who was commissioned in 1988, said the relationship between the Kuwaitis and the Americans is both a partnership and a brotherhood.
"Throughout the years, it has become more clear the strength of the Kuwaiti-American relationship and how good it is to strengthen," he said.
"Until today, I still remember Operation Desert Storm," Al Dhafiri said.
"It started with President George H.W. Bush, when he gave the Iraqi forces a deadline to withdraw," the general said. "And, how it ended by Coalition Forces."
Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, the commanding officer of the 36th Infantry Division and Task Force Spartan, thanked Al Dhafiri for his remarks and told him that it was an honor to have him present.
President George H.W. Bush assembled an international coalition to dislodge the Iraqis from Kuwait in what became known as the First Gulf War. The war was divided into different phases, the most important were Operation Desert Shield, Aug. 2, 1990 to Feb. 17, 1991; and Operation Desert Storm, Feb. 17, 1991 to Feb. 28, 1991. The formal armistice ending the First Gulf War was signed April 11, 1991.
310th ESC Soldiers recall memories of their own First Gulf War service.
Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Justin Swanson, the commanding general of the 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the deputy commanding general of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, said he was very happy to have been invited to participate in the ceremony.
"It's just very interesting to be here and I am honored to represent the 1st TSC in this celebration," Swanson said. The 310th ESC staffs the 1st TSC's operational command post.
"As a young enlisted Soldier, I will tell you, my unit was alerted to deploy--we didn't deploy--but, we were alerted, and obviously, as a brand new private that can be a very interesting time in your life," the general said.
"Being here now compared to being here then has been surreal to me," he said. "Now, I'm a senior leader in the Army and I'm here 30 years later--actually getting the opportunity."
Swanson said the ceremony is a great showcase of the military cooperation between the United States and Kuwait. "We're training with them and building their capacity."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Denrick Mills
Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer 4 Denrick Mills, 310th ESC, an air mobility warrant officer with the 1st TSC-OCP's Support Operations, or SPO shop, said he deployed to Operation Desert Shield shortly after the invasion of Kuwait.
"We were one of the first ones to get called up," he said. "We got called on the 25th of August 1990 and we got to Saudi Arabia about the 17th of September."
It was so early into the Desert Shield ramp up that Mills and his fellow Soldiers bivouacked in a parking garage belonging to the Saudi defense ministry, he said.
As a young specialist in the Army Reserve's 142nd Air Terminal Movement Control Team, Mills said he was left to handle all Army cargo and personnel coming through the airport at Riyadh. Some of those personnel included celebrities.
Among the celebrities passing through his passenger terminal were actress Ann Jillian, star of the TV show "It's A Living" and comedian Bob Hope, he said.
"Bob Hope was very friendly," he said. "He shook everybody's hand, and there were a lot of people who came down to the plane, he was really nice, so they had to kind of whisk him away he wanted to stay--he told a few jokes, before he got on the bus--it was pretty cool to see him on the runway and to see him at his show."
Mills said at the show Hope's first joke bombed, but he made a joke about it kept going. "He was very funny. It was classic Bob Hope. I was sitting there pinching myself: 'Gosh, this is Bob Hope. He entertained in World War II.'"
Now, 30 years later, he said it is strange that for his whole time in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he never made it to Kuwait, but now he is in Kuwait with the 310th ESC.
Master Sgt. Lesa A. Dash
Army Reserve Master Sgt. Lesa A. Dash, 310th ESC, who leads the 1st TSC-OCP Sexual Harassment-Assault Response Program office, said she deployed with the Army Reserve's 766th Transportation Battalion as a traffic dispatcher, who volunteered to drive trucks in supply convoys.
One of the highlights of Dash's deployment was the parade and formation she and her unit participated in on a runway in Saudi Arabia, the SHARP NCO said. The centerpiece of the event was the meeting between Saudi King Khalid and Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., the commanding general of U.S. Central Command and the overall commander for Operation Desert Shield, the buildup, and Operation Desert Storm, the air and land offense that dislodged the Iraqi Army from Kuwait.
However, that event identified an issue for her unit. Her battalion deployed with the Army's woodland Battle Dress Uniform, or BDU, unlike virtually every other unit in the gulf theater, who wore the tan camouflage Desert Dress Battle Uniform. The desert camo was better known as "chocolate chips," because of the dark spots in the pattern.
"We had to go out on the runway. They lined us up and we had the BDUs and we were the only ones who showed up in BDUs," she said.
"General Schwarzkopf came off one plane and then, King Khalid," she said. "They had two planes nose-to-nose--they walked off their planes and shook hands, because that was their meet-and-greet."
After shaking hands with the king, Schwarzkopf walked over to the Soldiers in formation and reviewed them, she said. "The general walked through the whole formation and when he came to us he's like: 'Where's you guy's uniforms?' and we were like: 'We never got 'em.'"
Sgt. Maj. Anibal Roche
Army Reserve Sgt. Maj. Anibal Roche, 310th ESC, who is the chief signal noncommissioned officer for the 1st TSC-OCP G-6, or information systems and communications shop, said during his deployment to the Gulf War, Schwarzkopf visited his camp in Saudi Arabia.
"He was a big guy. He came to our compound--we were at a distance--he just came by for a couple of hours, and then he left," he said.
"Schwarzkopf was a great general," he said. "His presence, his confidence, his trusting of his units, his trusting of the Soldier--he cared about the lowest level Soldiers and he thanked them."
Roche said people think the war was easy, because it was over so quickly, but going into the war, nobody thought the Iraqis would be a pushover. "It was not easy. The Iraqis had a huge Army. It was amazing that they gave up so easy, when they saw our tanks roll in."
When Roche looks back at the First Gulf War, he said it is amazing to him how things changed from fighting the First Gulf War to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We went from building foxholes to working out of FOBs," he said. FOB is the shorthand for a forward operating base, such as the built-up installations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"And, now, we are going back to foxholes," he said.
1st Sgt. Stephen E. Jones II
Army Reserve 1st Sgt. Stephen E. Jones II, 310th ESC Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said he enlisted in the Army July 31, 1990 in his hometown of Lima, Ohio, and he was at the Military Entrance Processing Station when he heard there was trouble brewing in the Middle East.
During his time in the desert with the 3rd Armored Division, he saw both the M1-Abrams tank and the Apache attack helicopter in action, Jones said.
Watching the Apaches fire their Hellfire missiles brings things into the perspective--and he was glad they were on his side, he said. "It's real."
Immediately after the cease-fire, Jones and his unit stayed in theater longer than other units to help create a demilitarized zone along the Kuwait and Iraq border, as well as holding areas for the Iraqi soldiers left behind when the Iraqi Army retreated north to their own country.
Maj. John Gates
Army Reserve Maj. John Gates, 310th ESC, who serves as the battle major for the 1st TSC-OCP's Support Operations Center, said he lost a military intelligence assignment with Special Forces because he was needed to join a military intelligence battalion deploying to the Gulf War.
It takes more than your military training to survive on a desert deployment, he said.
"The biggest thing I took away from the First Gulf War was making sure you stay mentally healthy," he said.
"After you deploy, everyone has a little PTSD, it's a normal occurrence and how you handle it is going to define you," Gates said.
"You have to learn to appreciate the small things," he said. "You have to be open to say: 'Hey, I just saw the sun rise.' Or, 'Hey, I just made it another day and saw the sun set.' Those little things will get you through the stress here."