I don’t remember exactly where I was or what I thought when I learned the news that Saddam Hussain had invaded Kuwait. Having been to the Persian Gulf region once before, I have experienced my ship having a change of plans in order to respond to a world crisis. In 1987 when the USS stark was struck by in Iraq he missile, I was part of the crew of a forward deployed Adams class destroyer based in Yokosuka Japan.
Being a forward-deployed vessel, we were on the nation’s front lines as far as the Navy goes. Most of us were single men without families. Most of us volunteered to work on a ship based in Japan. That ship was always ready to be sent anywhere it was needed. Our operational tempo was high. We spent a lot of time at sea, a lot of time drilling and practicing doing the things we do. But after two years of that, I was ready to transfer back stateside mostly because I was homesick. I miss being able to see my family my brothers and sisters mom and dad I was the oldest of five kids. But honestly being stationed in Long Beach California, I didn’t really return home all that much more than I would have had I stayed in Japan.
I would say within a month or six weeks or something like that after the invasion of Kuwait, we were well aware that we would be deployed to the Gulf region sometime before Christmas. Make plans to spend Thanksgiving with your family because we won’t be here come Christmas time. Maximum leave was granted in Thanksgiving of 1990 so almost anyone who wanted to could be sent home. I know I was aware a month or two before that that we were going.
That trip home for Thanksgiving was very special. I still have some video footage I recorded from that holiday. No one that I remember really spoke of the reality that I would be soon going to the Persian Gulf and things could get bad there.
We left in early December, with stops along the way in Hawaii, Philippines and Thailand. I have some video footage from these port visits too. For example, I saw a snake show with poisonous snakes in Bangkok. After we left there, we went through the Strait of Malacca, near Singapore, where pirates are a real problem, so we posted extra guards for that transit. After that, we entered the Indian Ocean and it wouldn’t be long before we passed through the Strait of Hormuz, and entered the Persian Gulf.
Our first day in the gulf, I remember we responded to a distress call from a small vessel that had caught fire. We also visited the port of Manama, Bahrain. Before Desert Storm started, I think I only went ashore one time. There was an American base there, surrounded by sandbags, with a beer garden – a bunch of picnic tables where we could have a few beers for an evening of relaxation before the storm. The thing that struck me there was before our bus could enter the base, they inspected it thoroughly at the gate. The had a big mirror on a pole with which they looked at the underside of the bus for explosives. I had seen that sort of thing on television before, but when it happened for real, I knew I was at long last in the middle east and things were serious here.
For more on the days leading up to Desert Storm, see Lock and Load