Home25th Anniversary of Operation Desert Storm

AFIMSC members share their memories of Desert Storm

“I was deployed to King Faisal AB in Tabuk Air Base, Saudia Arabia, with the 832nd Air Transportable Hospital.  It was my first time deploying so I was quite apprehensive about what to expect as most of us in the post-Vietnam Air Force weren’t expecting war -- I don't recall my recruiter ever bringing up the possibility of war.  Prior to departure, I remember paying very close attention, for the first time, to chemical weapons gear training.  I recall the very long C-130 ride, and that when we landed we had to immediately take shelter as an Iraqi SCUD missile was said to be airborne and heading toward Israel.  At that point, it very much felt like war … We exercised a lot in anticipation of the significant casualties we could expect once the ground war began.  As it turned out, we never saw one casualty of war in our third echelon treatment facility as casualties were far lighter than expected.”
-- Gary Gualano, Air Force Financial Services Center

“I was a first lieutenant assigned to the 4th Wing Provisional at Al Kharj AB, Saudi Arabia.  I had been in theater for five months at that point with the 4th Civil Engineer Squadron from Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina,  first in Oman and then at Al Kharj.  We had just spent two months with RED HORSE and another Prime BEEF unit from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, bedding down the largest composite wing in theater comprised of F-15Cs, F-15Es, F-16s, C-130s and other aircraft.  That night, shortly before midnight, I stood outside our operations center and watched F-15s launch one after another on their first missions to Iraq.  Later, as the only CE officer working the night shift, I reported to the SRC as the CE representative.  Shortly after, we donned our chem gear as we were alerted to the first SCUD missile launches toward Saudi Arabia.  The next morning we drove the ramp counting tails to see if all our planes made it back (they did … at least that first night).  After more than 27 years, the Gulf War remains one of the most significant events in my career and probably the main reason I opted to pursue an Air Force career.”
-- Col. John Balzano, Air Force Civil Engineer Center

“I was in high school at St. Gerard's Catholic High School on the east side of San Antonio.  When my father picked me up from school, I had just tried out for the junior varsity basketball team and made the position of point guard.  As I shared with him the good news that I had made the team and was given a uniform, he told me ‘That’s great, now take it back and tell them you can't play.’  Devastated, I looked and him and ‘why?’  He then told me his Reserve unit had been activated and he was going to war (again; he’s also a Korean War veteran).  Upon our arrival at home, my brother called from Ft. Bliss in El Paso to let us know he was loading his Bradley assault vehicle on a train and he was meeting it in Kuwait as one of the support vehicles to push the Iraqis from Kuwait.  I wouldn't see my father or my brother again for almost a year.”
-- John Guerra, Air Force Civil Engineer Center

“I had just finished AAS installation at King Khalid Military City, in Saudia Arabia, on the border with Iraq when I received a call from the United Arab Emirates. My boss directed me to send my team back to Riyadh (Saudia Arabia) and for me to catch a C-130 from KKMC to Al Dhafra Air Base to assist with two BAK-12 expeditionary AAS installations. We completed installations around 11 p.m. Jan. 15. F-16s launched from Al Dhafra around 2 a.m. Jan .16 to kick off Operation Desert Storm.  We were locked down at Al Dhafra for a week before we were able to travel back to Riyadh. My biggest recollection is donning chem gear and seeking cover during SCUD attacks, hearing the explosions when Patriot missile batteries intercepted SCUDs and when SCUDs made it through and landed nearby.

-- Glenn Deese, Air Force Civil Engineer Center

“The morning of Jan. 1, 1991, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe surgeon general sat up in bed and wondered how he was going to track patients through the field hospitals and then either back to duty or back to care in the rear.  He called the commander of the 1856th Computer Support Group, and a few of his senior software team had a requirements gathering meeting that day.  The team we put together worked non-stop from then until the system was fielded.  Stopping to sleep was just like stopping to eat, just a short break in the work day.  At that time, each field hospital was equipped with exactly one personal computer and no method of connecting it to anything external.  We built a system that met the patient reporting and tracking needs, and could even provide information to a phone bank of people answering questions from the next of kin.  The additional computers, MODEMs and centralized server were in place and communicating before the first American crossed the border as part of the action.  My favorite memory was when the system identified the specific bed at Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center, in Germany, where the U.S. Army could find a general that they had lost.”
 -- Jeffrey Huston, Air Force Security Forces Center

“As a law enforcement flight chief at Zaragoza AB, Spain, my most poignant memory was of the Guard and Reserve troops stopping enroute to or from the desert.  They reminded me of ordinary citizens and I felt they were just as likely to succumb to the heat and physical stress as they were to being killed in combat.  They were grandfathers and grandmothers that probably never thought they would deploy to an actual armed conflict.  Not all were ill-prepared or scared and I am sure some active-duty troops were just as scared, but I will never forget the fear I saw in their eyes.”  
-- Darrell J. Adams, Air Force Services Activity

“It was a very scary time for my family and me, as we had five members of our family there. It included my husband Marcus McPeters who served from August 1990 to April 1991, my brother-in law Jerald Mikle, my brother Wesley Coleman, my brother Michael Coleman and his fiancée Melissa Rathbun Nealy (who was captured and held prisoner of war for 33 days by the Iraqis). Thankfully Melissa was released unharmed and was able to return home to my brother who had been sent home a few weeks before Melissa was captured due to injuries he received while serving in the Gulf. The rest of my family members also returned home unharmed. I am very grateful for that, as well as their commitment to serving their country. I asked them all if they had to do it again, would they ... and all of them ... without hesitation ... said ‘Yes.’ I am very proud of them all.”

-- Karen McPeters, Air Force Services Activity

aF commemoration

Visit the Air Force's Desert Storm 25th Anniversary site here.

Visit the Air Force Civil Engineer Center's Desert Storm 25th Anniversary site here