Reflections on Desert Storm
It’s hard to believe now that the war I went to was 25 years ago this year. So I thought I’d do a blog series more or less over the time frame of the war (I’m a little early). It’ll be about what I remember about getting ready to deploy, and the war itself.
In early 1990, just a few months after I’d gotten settled into my new company at Fort Lewis, Washington, I got orders that I would be transferring to Germany (called a PCS, which stands for Personnel Change of Station). No! I’d just gotten here. I didn’t want to leave, and I hoped it would be changed.
Sometimes wishes are not a good thing …
August 2, 1990
According to Frontline, “In the early hours of August 2, 1990, more than 100,000 Iraqi troops moved tanks, helicopters and trucks across the border into Kuwait. Iraq maintained the world’s fourth–largest military and had mobilized an overwhelming invading force. Within an hour, they reached Kuwait City, and by daybreak, Iraqi tanks were attacking Dasman Palace, the royal residence.”
I can’t say if I saw it on the news on that day, but by the next day, we all knew it. I read the then Tacoma Morning News Tribune (they later dropped the Tacoma from the name) and USA Today, and the invasion was all over the news.
August 7, 1990
On August 7, 1990, President Bush gave the military operation a name: Operation Desert Shield. Naming things is never a good sign.
Soldiers from the elite divisions headed to Saudi Arabia, so this sent a collective chill through my company. We were a transportation company, with M915 tractor trailers. If war started, we would be needed. But what we knew, and what we would know would come from what we read in the newspaper and saw on TV.
It was a reality that no one thought about, except maybe two people in our company, who were both Vietnam veterans. We all enlisted, but we never actually thought we would deploy to a war. So we were all vaguely uneasy and ignoring it at the same time.
Because, really, there was no point in worrying about when we didn’t know what was going to happen. One of the things I told myself every time worry surged was the President Bush would resolve the situation. It didn’t help much, but it was all I could do.
None of us really talked about it at first, as if talking about it would make it come true. My platoon sergeant commented at one point that he’d been on a plane deploying somewhere, and while they were in midair, it was called off. They turned around and came back.
Yeah, I could deal with that. I added everything to my mental portfolio of hope. But even that didn’t help much.
Our first sergeant told us all PCS orders had been canceled. No Germany. Stop-loss was also activated. That meant anyone close to getting out of the Army was going to be involuntarily extended. This was getting serious.