Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

Kuwait City - an Airport with Character

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Oil Fires After over 40 days of repeated pounding by allied air power, and nearly 100 hours of armed engagement with our ground forces, the Iraqis finally gave up. Literally thousands of Iraqi soldiers were surrendering to advancing coalition forces. Retreating troops were setting oil well fires in an effort to slow the Allied advance. The smoke from these burning oil wells would affect global weather patterns for more than a decade after the conflict, but at that moment, the only thing we were thinking about was not inhaling the stuff.
Kuwait City Airfield Flying into Kuwait City was a real rush. We had to shoot the Airborne Radar Approach through almost 10,000 feet of smoke from burning oil wells. The runways and taxiways had not been totally cleared of unexploded ordinance yet. Bombed out buildings and burning cars littered the airfield. The first three approaches, we either did not clear out of the smoke by MDA, or we came out of the smoke layer in a bad enough position that the pilot could not maneuver safely for landing. The primary nav on the crew was a 2Lt, and he was working his butt off. I could see actual sweat coming off of his head and neck as I actively tried not to try to "take over" the navigation. Finally, on his fourth approach, he brought the pilot down about 20 degrees off runway axis, aimed directly at midfield. It was the best position we'd seen, and the pilot took full advantage by maneuvering to a landing.
The first thing we saw on the ground was the Skull and Crossbones flying over the MRCC van housing the Airlift Control Element. The first thing we heard from them was a call to tell us that we had landed on the one runway that the EOD guys hadn't cleared yet, and to be very careful about taxiing to the other side of the airfield. The guys in the MRCC were fantastic. The CCT had moved on, and Marine ATC hadn't taken over airspace control yet. So the MRCC guys kept track of flight paths of inbound and outbound traffic on a sheet of graph paper. When it appeared that two aircraft would be close to each other, the RO would get them talking to each other. I am convinced that is the only thing that prevented a midair... I hope they got medals, 'cause they deserved 'em. Skull and Crossbones
I remember thinking that I absolutely had to have proof that I was in Kuwait. Very few of the AF personnel actually went there, outside the airlift community of course. I figured that me being assigned to a headquarters unit, I would need to prove to the "guys back home" that I had actually made it up that far. So I posed in front of the mobile staircase for commercial jetliners. Pretty silly, I know, but it makes for a good conversation piece. Kuwaiti airlines
Me in a Bunker My copilot and I poked around in this bunker for almost fifteen minutes looking for souvenirs before one of the EOD guys came by and warned us that it hadn't been cleared for unexploded ordinance yet. Oops! All of the anti-aircraft rounds laying around should have been our first clue. We did find a large number of shell casings from expended 14.5mm anti-aircraft shells, but it wasn't worth hanging around to see what else was there. When I crawled out of the bunker, I was very careful to place my feet in the existing footprints.
Kuwaiti Herk The Kuwaiti Free Air Force - These guys escaped into Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the conflict with about three of their aircraft... among them, this Herk, which flew the first "official" airlift into Kuwait City following Liberation. It was a big deal for the Kuwaitis to be on the vanguard of liberation, and it was kind of cool to see them taxiing by us.
The Royal Terminal had been used as some sort of headquarters. Apparently, two "smart bombs" found the front door, and just blew the interior all to hell. This is also where I saw my first unexploded hand grenade. We had gone up to look into the building, and it was pretty dark in the entryway. I was standing on some rubble trying to see inside when my co-pilot said, "Hey look! A hand grenade." I looked over to see where he was pointing, and realized he was pointing down towards my feet. I looked down and saw it sitting in the rubble less than three feet from me. One point eight seconds later, I was standing 300 yards away on the taxiway wondering why I was all alone and out of breath. That was when EOD came by and (yes - you guessed it) told us they hadn't cleared that building of unexploded ordnance yet. Royal Terminal
One of the symbols of freedom... a Kuwaiti military vehicle flying the Kuwaiti flag as it drives down the taxiway. The driver and passengers were singing as they drove by me. It was sort of like being at a Mardi Gras celebration... only without the alcohol... and the women baring their breasts for beads... or the jazz music. Come to think of it, it wasn't like Mardi Gras at all. But it was still a celebration. I don't think I met a single Kuwaiti that day who didn't enthusiastically shake my hand with an emphatically spoke "Shu kran". Kuwaiti Truck


E-Mail Last updated on 28 May 2006 by Chris Miller Go Top

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