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459th ARW officer reflects on Desert Storm era

Lt. Col. William Short, (far left) poses for a photo, June 1990, while deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia. Short, then an Air Force staff sergeant, was one of 697,000 U.S. troops to participate in the operation. (Courtesy photo)

Lt. Col. William Short, (far left) poses for a photo, June 1990, while deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia. Short, then an Air Force staff sergeant, was one of 697,000 U.S. troops to participate in the operation. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. – Operation Desert Storm, January 17 1991 – February 28, 1991, was the first major foreign crisis for the United States after the end of the Cold War, and this year marks its 30th anniversary. The 459th Air Refueling Wing’s Lt. Col William Short was one of 697,000 U.S. troops who took part in the war.

Short serves as the Director of Operations for the 759th Logistics Readiness Flight, here. He participated in both Operations Desert Shield (predecessor to Desert Storm) and Desert Storm from January 4th, 1990 to June 13th, 1991. His duty locations during that time included King Fahd Airbase, Dammam and Saudi Arabia.

“At the time, I was a command post specialist, 2740 series,” he said. “I recall when I deployed with the 706th Tactical Fighter Squadron as an operations specialist, we would receive daily mission taskings and break out our A-10 Warthog missions. We would also prepare the knee boards for the pilots, pre-brief them, then the flight followed. During their mission and upon return, we debriefed them and prepared the daily situational reports for higher headquarters.”

Desert Storm saw the first use of MIM-104C Patriot missile system in combat, where it was used to intercept Scud missiles. It was also the first time the Air Force used stealth and space systems support capabilities against a modern, integrated air defense.

When asked if he recalled any specific memories of that day, Short shared the following:

“I recall plenty. The ops tempo from the start of the air campaign until weeks after was incredible. We worked 16 to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout combat operations. The A-10s and a forward deployed F-16 squadron were flying 24 hours a day, and the Iraqis were launching Scuds overhead every few hours to keep us from sleeping, but it was so exciting we didn’t mind. It was a successful operation, the A-10 proved itself to be a valuable asset and even included an air-to-air kill when one pilot shot down an Iraqi helicopter with the 30mm gun. We lived in tents with 12 persons to a tent on cots and all other facilities were tents as well - latrines, showers, recreation, dining halls. After combat ops we set up some fairly elaborate patio/lounging facilities competing between tents for décor honors to pass the time. Eventually, Saudi locals set up dining halls for a meal option and those of us that liked spicy food ate there every meal. Also, the difference between Air Force and Army was made very obvious. They lived in small tents and their showers were from 55 gallon drums mounted on wood frames while the lucky ones set up in the parking garage.  

Today, the United States remains in good standing with many of the countries involved in the coalition that began with Operation Desert Storm 27 years ago.

“The camaraderie developed during that time was second to none that I’ve ever experienced in my 30-plus year Air Force career.”