Tag Archives: desertstorm

Oh Shut Up

In response to a query about Desert Storm Syndrome in an online veterans group we were all recently treated to this delightful comment:

Oh shut up, it was only a fart of a war.

In one little post, I was reminded of one of the reasons that I decided to leave the service and choose another path. There was always someone around quick with a put-down. Now, this is probably true wherever you go, but it is particularly true in the armed forces.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m very proud of my military service, in fact, it is probably one of the things in my life of which I am most proud. I miss being part of something so much bigger than myself. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the brotherhood. But I don’t miss the machismo, the always a tough-guy theme. As much as I am truly thankful for that part of the experience because it helped me to toughen up, in the end, it wasn’t where I wanted to be day after day throughout adulthood.

There are more ways to be a man than the hard-exterior tough guy. Much of our culture tells us that this is the only way for a man to be though, and anyone who is made differently doesn’t quite measure up. And we wonder why some men are confused about what it means to be a man. The truth is, there are many ways to “correctly” be a man and tough-guy is only one of them.

At first, I laughed at the “fart of a war” comment along with some of my other comrades in arms. After I returned from the gulf war, I had a chance to talk with my grandfather about his wartime experiences as an infantryman and combat medic in the Pacific jungles of WWII. It made me realize that my difficulties aboard ship during a couple of months in Desert Storm were minuscule in comparison to those of an infantryman in the second world war, or any war for that matter.

However, as I think about it, dismissing the misery of an unexplained illness or the trauma of serving in combat really isn’t a laughing matter. Undoubtedly, some of us still suffer from mental health issues if not physical issues, but to the macho man, these are unspeakable things.

I don’t typically engage in online arguments, particularly one so obviously desirous of stirring up contention. It is like the old saying,

“You shouldn’t wrestle with a pig. You’ll just get yourself dirty and the pig will enjoy it.”

Instead of wrestling with pigs, I’ll just have my say in this space. We should support each other better.

Lock and Load

One of the most memorable moments for me during operation desert storm was the night before hostilities began. I had duty as petty officer the watch on the Quarterdeck. I knew something new was happening, something big. This is because I was ordered to place a magazine clip of ammunition into my Colt 45 pistol.

At that point in my career as a United States Navy sailor, I had stood numerous watches as an armed guard. On my previous ship, the US S Cochran, I was a part of the ship security force. That ship was nuclear capable and had specialized training associated with protecting special weapons. We had orders to shoot anyone who attempted to enter the ass rock magazine. I never had to shoot anyone. In fact, even in that situation, I was never given permission to load a clip of magazine of ammunition into my gun. Until desert storm, I had always carried an empty firearm with my ammunition safely tucked away on my belt.

The night before Desert Storm commenced, I was given the order to go ahead and place a chamber of no scratch that I was given an order to place a clip of ammo into my weapon. Even at that point, I wasn’t allowed to chamber a round. But it marked the first time in my naval career that I had carried a gun with ammunition in it while on duty.

At that point, rumors were floating about. Rumors that the harbor had been mined. Rumors that something big was going to happen. Everyone was on edge, but excited at the same time.

A lot of news reports from earlier in the year talked about how hot it was in the golf region. Operation desert shield started in August 19 90. I never experienced the heat. That night that I was standing watch outside on the quarterdeck as petty officer of the watch was quite chilly. We were bundled up in our pea coats. The air was cold and damp. Most definitely an eerie feeling about.

I have transferred to the battleship Missouri for a number of reasons. Partly because I was home sick. My previous ship, the Cochrane, was homeported in Japan. My first two years in the Navy were spent in training in Illinois. I got to go home frequently when I was in Illinois. So I experienced a number of bouts of homesickness while I was in Japan. I was ready to come back stateside. The opportunity to join the crew of the battleship Missouri appeal to me.

I couldn’t have known that war was looming on the horizon. However, I had had a taste of the danger on the Cochrane. The Cochrane had been deployed to the Middle East in response to the USS Stark being struck by an Iraqi missile. This was during the Iran/Iraq war. At that time the belligerents were shooting missiles at oil tankers.

When the Stark was hit, our ship which was forward deployed out of Japan, had to make haste to the gulf region. However being in the weapons department, we were a little disappointed that our ship was not permitted to enter the Persian Gulf because of its lack of a CIWS anti-missile system. So we were left to do circles in the Gulf of Oman just outside the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran. Not long after we left the golf, another U.S. Navy ship, the USS Vin sans was involved in a skirmish

Also about that time, our sister ship the USS corral was called into the golf even though it had the same limitations of the Cochran, and was given orders to shell Iranian oil platforms. Oh how we fire control and gun types would’ve enjoyed we would’ve enjoyed actual live fire missions.

Little did I know that by transferring to the battleship Missouri I would get my taste of many hours on the ground right.