On Friday, November 11, Delaware Technical and Community College Owens Campus honored veterans with a presentation in recognition of the 25th Anniversary of Desert Storm. Three veterans who served in the conflict spoke about their experiences, including Milford Police Officer, Brent Geyer. The program opened with Del-Tech Owens Campus President, Jason Stewart explaining how Desert Storm was a momentous occasion.
“It is hard to believe that it has been 25 years,” Mr. Stewart said. “Before, I never understood why we recognized veterans. War was something I had read about, believing I would never see it in my lifetime. Since then, there has been significant conflict in that region. On August 2, 1990, 100,000 Iraqi soldiers invaded Kuwait. At the time, Sadaam Hussein threatened to turn Kuwait into a graveyard if anyone attempted to intervene. It was a very scary time for everyone.”
Officer Geyer was deployed to support Desert Storm. He said that as a 23-year old sergeant in the Air Force, he was stationed in Sicily. There were not many combat units at the time so when Iraq invaded Kuwait, his unit was called to duty and sent to Qatar. He stayed in the area until November 1990 when he returned to the United States. After leaving the Air Force, he joined the Dover Police Department and eventually joined the Milford force.
“One thing I want to say before I turn it over to your next speaker,” Officer Geyer said. “If you know of a veteran who is struggling, who is having problems, please get them help. There are 22 veterans per day committing suicide. We need to help our soldiers when they come home.”
The next speaker, Bill Wood, entered the Navy after high school and was selected for Riverboat Training as well as advanced tactical training. He was sent to Vietnam where he worked with Navy Seals. After Vietnam, Mr. Wood joined the Naval Reserves and was called to duty during Desert Storm. He was sent to Saudi Arabia and then on to Al Jabel on the Arabian Sea, south of Kuwait. His unit was responsible for creating a hospital from the ground up in the desert.
“We were under constant SCUD missile attack,” Mr. Wood said. “SCUD missiles were the cheapest missiles available and they really couldn’t hit anything. We were getting warnings every night and we would have to get up, put our gas masks on and grab our hazmat suit kits. We did this five to ten times a night and then had to work all day. It was exhausting. The biggest fear was that Hussein would use chemical or biological weapons as he had used them on his own people.”
Mr. Wood said that the hospitals were nothing more than tents, but that they were air conditioned and heated, unlike the housing units which were not. He said the heat could be unbearable, as high as 120 degrees during the day. When Hussein set the Kuwait oil fields on fire, Mr. Wood said the smoke often engulfed their camp. He said you could smell and feel oil in the smoke. Everything was covered in black soot and oil.
“This was the first war in which we used modern technology,” Mr. Wood said. “Patriot missiles were used as a counter measure. It was the first time we used guided coordinates, the B1 Bomber and the first war where women were deployed in large numbers.” Mr. Wood said that they went to Iraq prepared for a long conflict and were surprised that it ended as quickly as it did.
Russ Hammond entered the Air Force and was a tech sergeant during Desert Storm. He served for 13 years and was trained to for chemical attacks. Mr. Hammond said that soldiers put on hazardous material suits and gas masks. They were placed in a chamber where they were exposed to tear gas and required to remove their masks in order to understand what it was like during a chemical attack since there was significant concern that Hussein would use chemical weapons.
“Luckily, he never did,” Mr. Hammond said. “I volunteered to go in winter because I knew the summer would be unbearable. The heat was so bad in the summer, you worked at night because you could not handle the extreme heat during the day. The sand is not like the sand here. It is more like a thick, sticky dirt and it got into everything. We were constantly cleaning guns and other equipment because the sand was so invasive.”
Mr. Hammond, who served with the 4404th Wing said that they lost 19 airmen from the wing and 350 service members and civilian were injured during the conflict.
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