Preface These are some of the highlights of the first few days prior to deploying to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm/Shield. The Ironmen deployed on the 7th of August 1990 and returned 7 months later on the 8th of March 1991. Although, things probably went as smooth as might be expected, at the time it seemed pretty unbelieveable that the 71st almost missed the boat when it came to showing up prepared to go to War. Thanks to our Squadron Mobility Officer we were able and ready when the time came. These are but a few of the highlights that I documented in the 7 months of Desert Storm/Shield as the Squadron Commander.
Lt Col "Pipper" Pope, 71st CC, Nov 1989 - Jan 1991
2 August 1990 – 7 Aug 1990
2 AUG 90 0530 (THUR) KUWAIT: In a BLITZKREIG like fashion, more than 100,000 Iraqi tropps overrun Kuwait City and strike out toward the Kuwaiti oil fields. IRAQ: President Saddam Hussein said, “the attack was support for a coup by the provisional government of Free Kuwait”. USA: Preident Bush denounces the attack and freezes Iraqi assets. USSR: Iraq’s weapons supplier supends weapons deliveries. ARAB WORLD: Arab leaders seek U.S. restraint while they search for an Arab solution.
LANGELY AFB: 71ST SQ CC, Lt Col "Pipper" Pope is recalled by the 1st TFW for a battle staff meeting. Subject: Lighting Recall (Lightning was an alert posture where the squadron had to have 8 jets ready to launch within 12 hours) regarding the invasion of Kuwait. A situation update was presented by Wing Intel. The Wing CC directed the 71st to put all Lightning players on crew rest immediately and alluded to the fact that there was more than just a little confunsion on exactly what plan we were going to deploy under.
Lt Col Pope gathered all 71st personnel in the main briefing room and relayed the Wing CC directive as well as the current situation as it was known.
By 1130hrs all the pilots had been selected and departed for quarters and the remaining squadron personnel began preparation for a Lightning deployment to the mideast, location TBD.
3 AUG 90 (FRI) KUWAIT: Iraqi troops continue pushing south through Kuwait to the Saudi Arabian Border. IRAQ: Saddam announces they would begin withdrawing troops. USA: Several congressman call on President Bush to “Draw a Line in the Sand” ARAB WORLD: The Arab League votes 14-0 (7 Nations abstained) to denounce Iraq’s conduct.
LANGELY AFB:The squadron remained in crew rest, no words, no info, no nothing, CNN/TV is the only source of information.
The Wing DO called and suggested the SQ CC/DO talk with the 27th Sq CC, Lt Col Carbo Kline, since he had completed a tour in Dhahran Saudi Arabia and might be able to provide some information we could use. Lt Col Pope and Lt Col Griffin (71st DO) meet with Lt Col Kline and get what information we can regarding the base and it’s layout along with any other info he thought might be useful.
4 AUG 90 (SAT) KUWAIT: A provisional government is installed, but all cabinet members are Iraqi’s. USA: President Bush steps up efforts to cut off Iraq’s oil pipelines through Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The European economic community join the U.S. and impose trade sanctions againt Iraq. ARAB WORLD: The Arab summit meeting falls apart with no futher action planned. Jordan’s, King Hussein defends Saddam Hussein’s actions and calls him a patriot.
LANGELY AFB:The 71st remains in crew rest, however, no info with regard to what is being planned.
Lt Col Pope calls the Wing DO to advised him he was bringing in the pilots for a intel update at 0900 Sun. The Wing leadership will be there.
5 AUG 90 (SUN) KUWAIT: Reports of Iraqi troops looting in Kuwait City, U.S. reconnaissance satellites show Iraqi reinforcements moving into Kuwait. IRAQ: Again, Iraq announces they are withdrwing troops from Kuwait. USA: President Bush vows that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait “Will not Stand” ARAB WORLD: King Hussein asserts that Iraq’s president told him he would not invade Saudi Arabia.
LANGELY AFB: 0900 HRS. Wing Intel presents the situation update. The Wing CC gives his assement of what’s going on and where we stand. At the conclusion the Lightning boys head back into crew rest and quarters by 1200hrs. Lt Col Pope informs the Wing DO that there has been no preparation for this deployment and we need to get into the squadron and do some preparation and study. He plans on bringing everyone in on Monday AM unless told otherwise.
6 AUG 90 (MON) KUWAIT: Iraqi troops begin rounding up hundreds of foreigners and transporting them to Iraq. 39 Americans are in that group. IRAQ: Saddam Hussein now vows to hold on to Kuwait. In Baghdad he is providing civilians with weapons. UN: The Security Council imposes arms and trade embargos against Iraq. USA: President Bush proposes a multinational Naval force to enforce the embargo.
DESERT SHIELD: There is now have a name for this operation, DESERT SHIELD. Secretary of Defense Cheney visits Saudi Arabia to discuss defensive options. The Saudi’s request U.S. assistance. ARAB WORLD: The Palestinian Liberation Organization Leader Yassar Arafat calls on Egypt’s President Mubarak to support Iraq. Egypt mobilizes it’s Military, but does not state who it is supporting.
LANGELY AFB:The Lightning pilots begin detailed study of South West Asia, the threats and the entire spectrum of what might be expected in this deployment. The Squadron is still under the impression that if we deploy it will be a Lightning Package, ie, 8 planes and pilots.
2030 HRS. The Wing DO calls Lt Col Pope at home and informs him that the Wing is being recalled and that the entire 71st pilot continent is to stay at home in crew rest. Lt Col Pope informs the the squadron to stay in crew rest and that only essential personnel are to report for work the next day.
7 AUG 90 (TUES) 0230 KUWAIT: Iraqi ground forces expand to 120,000, with hundreds of tanks. IRAQ: Saddam continues to vow to hold onto Kuwait, stating: “We would rather die than be humiliated”. USA: The President orders ground and air forces to Saudi Arabia as part of a multinational force. DESERT SHIELD: F-15C'S deploy from Langley AFB and the USS Saratoga Battle Group leaves for the Middle East.
LANGELY AFB: At 0230hrs the squadron mobiltiy officer calls and tells Lt Col Pope they need to meet. At Lt Col Pope’s quarters the mobility officer informs Lt Col Pope that the deployment will not be a Lightning Package as planned, but the entire squadron and the first chock time (Takeoff) is 1130hrs. Lt Col Pope and Lt Col Griffin immediately begin to replan the deployment to include the entire squadron. A recall is initiated at 0400hrs with all the deployment changes in place. At 0500 the Wing DOX (Mobility) calls and tells Lt Col Pope that there has been a change to the deployment plan and the he might need to reorganize the pilot deployment roster. YGBSM! Thanks. At 1030 hrs Lt Col Pope calls Lt Col "Goober" Smith, 94th CC (Future Ambassador to Saudi Arabia), who is working in the command post, to find out what is going on. Lt Col Smith informs Lt Col Pope that the entire squadron is being deployed and the deployment briefing is scheduled for 1330hrs. Lt Col Smith thought the information had been passed along. Well not exactly!
At 1300hrs everyone shows for roll call except one pilot who was late getting the word, he arrives late but gets the essential information.
The briefing begins at 1330hrs, it lasts 20 minutes. It took 3 days to prepare and this is the first time we get to hear any of it. The briefing is fairly complicated, but there are not a lot of questions to be asked because there is no time to ask them. Deployment location is Dhahran Saudi Arabia. The flight is non-stop and scheduled to last over 17 hours.
We step to our jets and strap in and are promptly put on a 30 minute hold as a result of the tankers having problems. Finally, we take off (1730hrs) for the midnight ride to sandland. We deploy in 4 cells of six aircraft, thirty minutes apart, loaded for bear, 4x4xGuns. Lt Col Pope, Capt Kennedy, Lt Col Griffin, and Capt Chapman are the cell leads. It’s going to be a long ride, but we’re finally enroute!
2 days later the 27th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed another 24 F-15s.