PORTLAND, Ore. --
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Operation DESERT STORM, the coalition campaign to forcibly remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s military forces from the Kuwait in an impressive air, land and sea effort. The 142nd Wing’s connection to the desert reaches back to this era, and has continued through the years since then. Some Air National Guard units were called up to serve in the desert of Southwest Asia in 1990-1991, while others kept watch on the Homefront and contributed in a more indirect way. Oregon’s 142nd Wing was then designated as the 142nd Fighter-Interceptor Group (142FIG), assigned a mission of aerospace control alert, and was primarily one of those indirect contributors. But in the earliest days before war erupted, in the Operation DESERT SHIELD portion of the campaign, it was unclear as to how the unit would be affected.
Sufficient force structure existed in the days immediately following the Cold War to meet most military requirements in the desert. Given the number of units involved, it did put a stress on combat support capabilities as operations were set up at multiple air bases in the region. And here it is found that the 142FIG began its desert connection.
To the Kingdom
The National Guard Bureau asked in September, 1990 for volunteers to support the active duty DESERT SHIELD deployments. Volunteering for active duty as many Air Guardsmen did, TSgt Cliff Warrick of the Communications Operations section in Oregon’s 272nd Combat Communications Squadron (CCS) was selected for deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Warrick deployed on October 18, 1990 on 90-day orders and joined the 228th CCS of the Tennessee ANG, volunteers also out of McGee-Tyson AFB, Tennessee, deployed to King Faisal Air Base, in Tabuk, a remote location in northwestern Saudi Arabia. There, he and the 228th supported the operations of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional), an F-15C Eagle fighter unit deployed from Eglin AFB, Florida.* Thus, TSgt Warrick became the first Oregon ANG member to serve in SW Asia.
In theater, Warrick worked 12-hour shifts for six or seven days a week. Most of the time he and the others were restricted to base and the “freedom to come and go” was something he missed. “Most of us didn’t expect the long wait when we first deployed to the Middle East. There wasn’t a deadline looming when I arrived, and once it was imposed it didn’t mean much. We were on alert and ready for war to break every single day,” he later recalled.
Warrick served his 90-day tour of duty in the desert “…supervising communications from a mobile van, sending and receiving telegraphic messages, and providing telephone access via satellite” wrote Base Public Affairs Officer Mona Spenst Jordan after his return. Warrick returned home on January 14, 1991, one day shy of the expiration of the deadline for Iraqi forces to leave Kuwait.
DESERT SHIELD also affected other Oregon Air Guardsmen when 10,000 additional Guard and Reserve personnel were mobilized. It was the first such mobilization affecting multiple Oregon Air Guardsmen since the Korean War callups in 1951.
The Chief of the Consolidated Base Personnel Office, Col Bernie Verbout, compared this to his Korean War mobilization in 1951, as conveyed in the January, 1991 issue of the Air Scoop: “He said there was more time allowed for mobilization in 1951, and the entire 142nd FIG was called up, unlike the current incremental approach that takes reservists with certain specialties but does not necessarily activate entire units.” Little did anyone know at the time this piecemeal template would set the pattern for most OreANG personnel deployments to SWA for the next 30+ years.
Ironically, these desert callups occurred as the 142FIG was heavy into Operational Readiness Inspection (OARI) exercises and preparations for a scheduled First Air Force ORI in March, 1991. So, the group was at a high state of readiness to be able to handle these deployments.
And so, during the 12-13 December, 1990 UTA, 12 firefighters of the 142nd Civil Engineer Squadron (142CES) were mobilized and deployed to the desert, the Mojave Desert and George AFB, CA (home of the deployed 35TFW F-4G Wild Weasels), on 12-month orders. The dozen firefighters only received two-day notice of their call-up.
Mrs. Cindy Sabin was at work when her husband, TSgt Roy Sabin called her to tell her of orders. “At first, I thought he was joking. I told him it wasn’t funny.” Then she realized it wasn’t a joke. “”With the release of the hostages, we’d thought we were home free.”
More callups came after the start of Operation DESERT STORM on January 16, 1991. As the desert campaign lengthened, deployed units needed help to keep their home bases stateside functioning.
Days after the war started, there was then a voluntary deployment of 18 of the 142nd USAF Clinic’s staff to fill in for medical needs at Langley AFB,VA (home of the deployed F-15C-equipped 1TFW and Headquarters, Tactical Air Command. This deployment ran from January 20 to February 3, 1991.
Clinic volunteers included doctors, nurses, medical supply and technicians, as well as bio-engineering techs. Lt Col Edward Conrad led the team and later said “This wasn’t our regular training scenario, but it did involve work most of us in the group do day to day in our civilian medical careers. It was a real positive experience and we did our part very well.”
On January 29, 1991, nine personnel from the 142CES Services Flight, including the first Oregon ANG woman to be federally activated, SSgt Ann C. Lichtenberg, were deployed to the desert, the High Desert of Mountain Home AFB, ID (home of deployed 366TFW Gunfighters) on 12-month orders. SMSgt John Miller led the Oregon team – “Although it’s hard to leave our families, we’re ready to go. There’s a job to be done, and we’re going to accomplish it well.”
Callups continued in February, when 61 Air Guard members were activated. This included 33 medical personnel and 26 members of the 142nd Security Police Flight, all on 12-month orders. In addition, two members of the 142nd Mission Support Squadron’s Air Base Mobility section (MSS/AO) were activated on 139-day orders. This brought the number of 142FIG Airmen mobilized to 82.
142nd Medical Clinic doctors, nurses and medical technicians deployed to March AFB, CA (home of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing and its deployed KC-10A Extender tankers – as the adage goes, there’s no kicking @ss without tanker gas!) The clinic’s commander, Col Steve Mosely, said “The hospital is counting on us to fill positions left vacant by active duty personnel deployed elsewhere…Our unit is comprised of a highly-trained, motivated and dedicated group of professionals…I’m confident that we will work hand-in-hand with the active Air Force.” The clinic was also tasked with placing 19 other members on duty to provide for ongoing medical requirements at the base.
Given the nature of the conflict and the uncertain future ramifications, the 142nd also beefed up its own home station capability to sustain a higher level of military readiness. This saw activation of 26 Security Police to augment permanent AGR and state personnel who had been working 12-hour, six-day workweeks required to bolster security at Portland ANG Base.
Chief of the SP Flight, Capt Rick Williams, didn’t expect this callup to happen so suddenly but was pleased with the response of his personnel: “Everyone was very positive and seemed happy to comply, even though it meant loss in pay from civilian employers. It also means some extra time away from families for those commuting long distances.”
Air Base Operability
The two MSS personnel, MSgt Larry Andersen and TSgt Tamera Alverson, deployed to the desert, the New Mexico desert at Cannon AFB (home of the 27th TFW, which provided support personnel and equipment for ODS/ODS). There MSgt Andersen became the NCOIC of air base operability, and TSgt Alverson provided initial and refresher chemical warfare training to deployers.
Despite the impact of the callups and prospects for more, 142FIG Commander Lt Col Terry “Spike” McKinsey kept a calm and firm hand on the unit. Some “nay-sayers” doubted the 142nd‘s ability to pass the upcoming ORI, not due to the callups, but because they doubted the readiness of Air Guardsmen. These sources even suggested the group should request First AF cancel the ORI.
But in a written message to group members in the March, 1991 Air Scoop, Col McKinsey wrote: “I told them that canceling the ORI would deprive all you people of the opportunity to shine. I told them that you have worked much too hard in preparing for this “blessed event” to cancel it now. I told them you have the right, after nearly nine months of preparation, to show “them” what you can do…Now, let’s go get ‘em!”
Other Southwest Asia Impacts
During December, 1990, the sixth grade, 12-year-old daughter of 142FIG logistics officer Capt Gail Christmas returned to the US from the capitol of Saudi Arabia, at Riyadh, where she, her brother and father, a USAF officer assigned to logistics liaison position with the Saudi military, was living. Thus, she got out of harm’s way not long before the war began and Iraqi Scud ballistic missiles began to fall on Riyadh. The daughter was fortunate in her transition back to stateside life to begin school in the US in the classroom of a Lake Grove Elementary School teacher who had taught at her school in Riyadh.
During the Persian Guld crisis, President George H. W. Bush issued a “stop loss” order that temporarily froze retirements and separations for ANG personnel holding certain critical Air Force Specialty Codes. During Operation DESERT SHIELD the order applied only to Guard units which were activated or placed on alert. During DESERT STORM it was extended to include all ANG units.
As things turned out, the 142FIG passed that ORI, the first one following the unit’s conversion from the F-4C Phantom II to the F-15A Eagle, garnering an overall Excellent rating and many individual areas rated as Outstanding. And allied coalition forces successfully defeated and ejected Iraqi military forces from Kuwait in Operation DESERT STORM which lasted from January 17 to February 28, 1991. Oregon’s deployed personnel soon began to filter back to their units, as early as March, 1991.
In all, some 94 Oregon Air Guardsmen from eight different units were activated or volunteered to serve during Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, including 15 who served voluntary tours of duty. The units included the 142 USAF Clinic (38 personnel), 142 Security Police Flight (26), 142 Resource Management Squadron (2), 142 Mission Support Squadron (2), 142 Civil Engineering Squadron (15), 142 Services Flight (9), 244 Combat Communications Squadron (CCS) (1) and 272 CCS (1). All but one (TSgt Warrick of 272CCS) served stateside in support of other units.
On August 11, 1991, the 142FIG held an official “Welcome Home” to fete all the deployers. Nearly 100 group members and those from tenant units were honored. They were part of the 75,000 ANG personnel nationwide who served in the war. Col “Spike” McKinsey addressed the gathering in the hangar “One year ago, it was impossible to foresee the outcome of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. We faced challenges and uncertainties…We’re very proud of you.”
The Oregon ANG’s Commander, Brig Gen David E.B. Ward said that the deployed members “…represented the Oregon Air National Guard, Oregon and our great nation professionally.” He acknowledged that even stateside deployments caused difficulties for families, and thanked the families and employers for their support. Ms. Ann Jacky, Family Assistance Program Coordinator for Oregon, was recognized and awarded by Gen Ward at the ceremony for her work done to support the family members of deployers.
Speaking on behalf of the Adjutant General was Col Keith Hallmark, Assistant AG for Air. He noted that reserve forces are well trained and professional: “We should be the first option, not the last. He said the reserves were a cost-effective resource, especially with the defense budget cuts following the end of the Cold War.
In the 30 years since then, the Oregon ANG has deployed units and many individual personnel to the deserts of SWA. The 123rd Fighter Squadron deployed to patrol the Iraqi No-Fly Zones in 1996 and in 2000. The squadron also deployed in a non-combat mode to participate in Exercise Iron Falcon in the United Arab Emirates in 2010. The many individual deployers have served in a wide variety of units, and an equally wide number of locations and countries, throughout Southwest Asia.
Many people may think that DESERT STORM was only a few weeks long, and combat operations after 9/11 in Afghanistan (Operation ENDURING FREEDOM) and Iraq (Operation IRAQI FREEDOM) were only for a few weeks before transition to peacekeeping. To some extent that view is correct.
But for those in uniform, their families, and for the reserves their employers, their units of assignment, the reality is that the Air Force and the air reserve components in the ANG and AF Reserve, have been engaged in continuous operations in SW Asia, often with shots exchanged, for more than 30 years now. Not to mention the stateside impact of the post-9/11 world, with Operation NOBLE EAGLE, adding requirements for air surveillance, alert detachment operations and special missions such as combat air patrols for Olympic games and events.
Through it all, the men and women of the 142nd Wing remain ready to answer the call of duty, 24/7 on alert in the Pacific Northwest, and for whatever taskings may emerge at a moment’s notice, whether in service of community, state or nation. We salute the service and sacrifice of these initial Oregon ANG desert deployers, and all who have served since then in the dusty reaches of SW Asia.
* Note: The 33rd TFW (P) was credited with 16 aerial victories during DESERT STORM, the most of any allied unit in the war. One of the victors was F-15C pilot Capt Rhory “Hoser” Draeger, who later joined the 123rd Fighter Squadron. Draeger was credited with two aerial victories (a MIG-29 and a MiG-23) in the conflict. Unfortunately, he was killed in an automobile accident in Virginia on March 20, 1995 at the age of 37. That accident tragically also took the life of 123FS pilot Capt Michael K. Smith.