News>Reservists renew bond with Desert Storm AC-130A gunship
Maj. Gen. Richard S. “Beef” Haddad, left, and Col. Randall Bright get reacquainted with the cockpit of No. 55-0014, the AC-130A gunship they flew in combat in February 1991. Haddad is vice commander of Air Force Reserve Command, and Bright is chief of plans in the AFRC Directorate of Plans and Programs at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Chance Babin)
Aircraft No. 55-0014 looks less menacing on display at the Robins (Ga.) Museum of Aviation than it did over the “Highway of Death” during the Gulf War. The crew of the AC-130A gunship was credited with destroying at least 20 enemy trucks and four armored personnel carriers on the night of Feb. 26-27, 1991. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Chance Babin)
Maj. Gen. Richard S. Haddad, left, vice commander of Air Force Reserve Command, and Col. Randall Bright, chief of plans in the AFRC Directorate of Plans and Program, review the orders that directed them into combat over the “Highway of Death” during Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Chance Babin)
6/12/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- It's been more than 23 years since Maj. Gen. Richard S. "Beef" Haddad and his copilot, Col. Randall Bright, flew No. 55-0014 on a combat mission over the "Highway of Death."
On June 12, they boarded the AC-130A gunship again - this time at the Robins (Ga.) Museum of Aviation where the aircraft is on display for the public to see.
"It was an exciting time for me and the other members of my crew," said Haddad, vice commander of Air Force Reserve Command at Robins AFB, commenting on his mission in February 1991.
"That experience helped me go to war in the future as we went to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom," he said. "It helped in terms of realizing the risks, and what it was like to be a crew member going into that kind of environment."
The mission also made an impact on 1st Lt. Bright, now chief of plans in the AFRC Directorate of Plans and Programs at Robins AFB.
"As a youngster in the Air Force, I had seen combat," Bright said.
In early February 1991, No. 55-0014 and four other AC-130A gunships assigned to the Air Force Reserve's 711th Special Operations Squadron left home station at Duke Field, Florida, en route to the theater of operation.
After flying several missions along the Kuwait and Iraq border, the 711th SOS reservists found themselves in the midst of chaos along the road connecting Kuwait City and Baghdad, Iraq.
During a mission on the night of Feb. 26-27, 1991, the pilot of the lead aircraft instructed Haddad to "hurry up and get up here."
The captain and his crew moved up and fired their weapons on the Iraqi forces. As they began to leave the "killbox" area, Master Sgt. Don Dew, the aircraft illuminator operator, yelled "missile launch" over the plane's radio.
While Haddad increased the engines' power and put the aircraft in a dive, his navigator, Capt. Jose Davison, released flares to divert the path of missiles. At first, the pilots thought they had been hit but then realized the flares had taken them out of danger.
The stretch of road that they had fired on later became known as the "Highway of Death" because the attack that night resulted in the destruction of 1,400 to 2,000 vehicles.
For their part, Haddad and his crew destroyed at least 20 enemy trucks and four armored personnel carriers. They received Air Medals for their actions.
6/13/2014 2:44:12 PM ET The Ac 130 A's were great weapons I worked on them in the 919th at Duke field for 8 years retired in 1991 as a Msgt.
Paul Wishart, Gainesville Fl
6/12/2014 3:48:36 PM ET It's good to see that the gunships are being preserved for future generations of airmen so they can see their history. I was a proud member of the 919th SOW from 1978 to 1999. I retired as a Mastersgt from the reserve in 2007.