An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Combat Art Articles

Ghost Over the Highway

  • Published

Ghost Over the Highway

lithograph      in the press link

Artist: Lt. Col. Warren Neary
Medium: Oil
Date: 2016
In the Press: USSOCOM sees a 'Ghost'

In February 1991, Citizen Airmen of the 711th Special Operations Squadron assigned to Air Force Reserve Command’s 919th Special Operations Wing, left their home station at Duke Field, Florida for combat in Operation DESERT STORM. After only a few days in theater, these Citizen Airmen found themselves in the midst of chaos along Highway 80 connecting Kuwait City and Basra, Iraq as Allied forces liberated Kuwait City.

On the night of 26 February 1991, while en-route to their target, Captain Richard “Beef” Haddad noticed his aircraft’s autopilot control had failed. Haddad and co-pilot Lieutenant Randal Bright normally relied on the autopilot’s altitude-hold function to keep the aircraft at a fixed altitude while they banked and fired the aircraft’s weapons. To compensate, Haddad manually controlled the ailerons to turn the aircraft while also firing his aircraft’s guns. Bright crouched down in the seat to work the aircraft’s throttles and yolk simultaneously to maintain a fixed altitude. The 0014 crew remained on station, firing their weapons with little resistance.

As they began to egress to “killbox,” Master Sergeant Don Dew, the illuminator operator, excitedly yelled “missile launch” over the radio. Haddad increased power and dove while Captain Jose Davidson, the aircraft’s navigator, released flares to counter the missile. Unaware of the navigator’s actions, Haddad and Bright thought they had been hit after witnessing the noise and light produced by the flares. Haddad recalled “my hands were gripping the throttles, thinking we were going down.” After seeing more flashes, Haddad and Bright realized they were in no danger.

The stretch of road the crew of 0014 fired on became known as the “Highway of Death” due to the enormity of destruction caused that night. While the exact number of causalities remains unknown, the attack destroyed or caused the enemy to abandon an estimated 2,000 vehicles. The 0014 crew destroyed at least 20 enemy trucks and 4 armored personnel carriers. The crew received the Air Medal for their actions that night. More than 23,500 Citizen Airmen served from August 1990 through the end of May 1991 in what was the sixth major call-up of the Air Force Reserve since its establishment in April 1948.