DESERT STORM AT 25 – AMERICANS SUPPORT AMERICANS

Posted: July 4, 2015 in Uncategorized
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This will appear in the Bernice Banner, Bernice, Louisiana, USA the week of July 6th, 2015.

It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty-five years yet it seems just like yesterday. It was like the first time that you heard that Elvis was dead or that President Kennedy had been assassinated. It was one of those moments in time that seem to remain as fresh as the day it happened regardless of how long it has been since it took place. For me it was a nine month time stamp that ended when Saddam Hussein’s troops were pushed out of Kuwait, and it all started twenty-five years ago; Operation Desert Storm During this period in history that helped to rebuild the world’s confidence in the American fighting man, the press from all corners of the globe descended on tiny Dhahran and documented the massive build-up of American forces. What was not captured was the support provided by American civilians for the American Military.
Civilians have historically helped the soldiers that either march off to war or are defending its own soil during time of strife. What is so unique about Desert Storm was that American civilians of large numbers were living in the new theater of operation before American troops arrived.
The American, Canadian and British civilians were not going to stand by and let the soldiers land on Arab soil without providing some level of support. It all started soon after the 82nd Airborne arrived.
On August 2nd 1990 Saddam Hussein launch a major attack against small and almost indefensible Kuwait. The expatriate community waited to see what was about to happen. I had my vehicle ready and planned to go south past Qatar and skirt Abu Dhabi en-route to Dubai. I later learned that the SEALS had identified the same route if things went wrong after the early entrants to the country had to leave over land.
The Saudi government for two days did not acknowledge on its television stations or in the press that the invasion had taken place. The workers were glued to the news on BBC, the British Broadcasting network. Since it was summer many people were on vacation in the states and had no idea what they were flying into. After five days Aramco finally rallied all the workers and proclaimed that everyone was safe and continue with the day to day work. Do not be concerned. The same day the Philippine government issued a letter to it citizens living in Saudi. The letter said that the country did not have the money to evacuate its’ citizens so if Saudi Arabia was invaded the Pilipino workers were on their own. Then it was announced that the 82nd Airborne was on its’ way. Many a spouse would frantically call to tell their loved ones that if Iraq would attack it would be immediately before American troops landed. Saddam Hussein never did and lost his biggest opportunity to control the majority of the oil produced in the world.
Once the troops landed the civilian workers sprang into action. A hundred troops a night were brought into Dhahran to be treated to home cooking, a chance to call home and get their clothes washed; all at the expense of the civilians. On week-ends convoys of volunteers drove to pre-arranged staging areas and treated hundreds of soldiers to fresh meals, soda and ice cream. They would spend the night with the troops and provide a large fresh cooked breakfast.
Never has the world witnessed such an outpouring of unselfish acts as was witnessed at that time. Workers dug deep in their pockets and I knew one that was so caught up with the excitement of American troops arriving that he was finally terminated. Several Saudis could not believe that all of this was self-funded. They were certain that the American government was supplying the money. This assumption was incorrect. But how did all this begin.
When the troops arrived they had no idea of where they were and what was happening. Most didn’t know where in Arabia they were and many didn’t know where Arabia was. They were just in the desert.
Gary Howze had been in Saudi for about 10 years when the troops arrived. He was a graduate of Berkley and was there when the Viet Nam War protests took place. He was walking down the street when two police crossed the street and beat him thinking he was a protestor. He would laugh when he said that he was in Naval ROTC and later served as an officer in the United States Navy. Todd Marlott had been in Saudi two years longer than Gary. He was a graduate of a Washington State school and had his masters in business administration. He was a former recon marine and pulled a tour in Viet Nam. He was also an avid triathlete and had participated in the Iron Man challenge in Hawaii on several occasions.
The two decided that they had to do something so they loaded up in Gary’s topless VW Golf and went into the desert looking for troops and they found them. The two would come across soldiers in fox holes and the shocked soldiers watched as two men climbed out of their vehicle, clad in shorts, t-shirts and floppy hats and then hear them say, “Want a Pepsi”. The disbelieving troops accepted the ice cold drinks while sitting in the middle of the Arabian desert waiting to be attacked in 110 degree weather. The number one thing that the soldiers craved was not food or drink but information; information about what was happening. They had not seen a paper or heard a radio broadcast in weeks. This would soon change as future expeditions would carry newspapers and in some cases workers would buy portable radios to give to the troops.
This was the beginning of weekly jaunts into the desert and this would last until the first week in January. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Desert Storm I will periodically post stories from Desert Storm.

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