- Posted December 18, 2011 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Stories from the Iraq war
21 Years of War
What the End of the Iraq War Means To Me
When we talk about the war in Iraq, we often speak only of the assault and invasion of 2003. However, for me and 500,000 other US veterans, the war began in August 1990. Moreover, for the thousands of USAF OPERATION Southern Watch/Northern Watch veterans, this was not a 9 year war. December 2011 marks the closing of a chapter on a 21 year war.
My introduction to Iraq was in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. President Bush #1 declared “this will not stand” and OPERATION Desert Shield launched. Many of my close friends rushed to remote, austere airfields across the Middle East. They stood vigil as we built a force to contain Saddam Hussein, and watched to see if he would strike. I was placed on deployment alert, finally going forward in January 1991. I arrived in theater at Al Bateen Air Base, United Arab Emirates, two days before the original shock and awe known as Operation DESERT STORM.
The close of Desert Storm was not the end of the war with Iraq. We established no-fly zones that became OPERATIONS Southern Watch and Northern Watch. Thousands of American Airmen rotated through Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other Gulf States to keep Saddam and the Iraqi military in check.
Combat operations continued throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s. Bombing Iraqi sites in the north and south was near continuous. Iraqi air defenses frequently fired on our aircraft. All this time, Airmen experienced rotational deployments lasting 90 to 179 days, spending untold months and years separated from families and friends.
While stationed at Aviano Air Base, I again joined the ongoing battle with Iraq. I took my turn in OPERATION Southern Watch, deploying to Al Jabar Air Base in Kuwait at the end of 2002. During my team’s 90 day rotation, our pilots and aircraft dropped a record amount of munitions on sites in southern Iraq.
From the beginning of my 25 years of active service to the near end, the war with Iraq has defined my life. This end is merely another phase but thankfully a much safer phase.