Units from Springfield, Paris, North Riverside, Chicago, Scott Air Force Base, Rock Falls and Fort Sheridan Supported War Efforts in Kuwait
SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/23/2011)(readMedia)-- Twenty years ago troops were mobilized and ground combat operations marked the beginning and the end of the Gulf War Feb. 23, 1991 in the deserts of Kuwait. Capt. Brad Sinkler of Sullivan, commander of the 1544th Transportation Company in 1990 was one of those Soldiers.
"It was a surprise," said Sinkler. "August 2 Saddam had invaded Kuwait. We'd heard some rumblings and were following the news. My operations sergeant said we had a pretty good chance to get called up ... and a week later we got the call."
The war lasted only 100 hours after months of U.S. military forces, both active and reserve components, preparation to meet with heavy resistance from the Iraqi forces that invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
Twenty days after the invasion of Kuwait, President George Bush authorized the mobilization of National Guard and Reserve units to support combat operations in Kuwait.
With the mobilization of reserve components, the Illinois National Guard supplied 11 units and roughly 1,400 Soldiers and Airmen to support Operation Desert Storm.
The 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside, the 1544th Transportation Company in Paris, the former 108th Medical Battalion in Chicago, the 1644th Transportation Company in Rock Falls, the 233rd Military Police Company in Springfield, the 126th Air Refueling Wing and two of its subordinated squadrons all based in Scott Air Force Base, the 182nd Tactical Air Support Group in Peoria and the 933rd Military Police Company in Fort Sheridan were deployed to support the combat efforts in Kuwait.
The first Illinois National Guard unit mobilized was the 1244th Transportation Company on Sept. 20, 1990; the 1544th Transportation Company followed one week later.
The 1544th went to Fort Campbell, Ky., a few days later and was in Saudi Arabia Nov. 6, 1990.
"We were nervous," said Sinkler. "We didn't know what to expect, how long we were going to be gone. It was just a new experience. We just listened to what the people in the states were telling us and making sure our families was taken care of. We just went through the process and didn't really know how to feel."
Sinkler said once in Kuwait the Soldiers of the 1544th were still uncertain of what they would do out in the Kuwaiti desert. They later found it would be what they do best: take to the roads transporting cargo.
The 1544th conducted transportation missions and moved supplies and people throughout the country. They traveled of more than 750,000 miles with no accidents.
"My biggest fear was losing one of my Soldiers," said Sinkler. "I made sure we did things as safely as we could, made sure the Soldiers were getting the sleep they needed and that they conducted the proper maintenance on their vehicles."
Life in the deserts of Kuwait was a drastically different experience for many of the Soldiers, said Sinkler.
"We really didn't have the things the Soldiers have today," Sinkler said. "We had a TV, but we couldn't pick up (American Forces Network TV). The only way we could watch anything is if we had a VHS player and VHS tapes. Nobody had a laptop or Internet. Back then it was mainly just mail and maybe once a week a telephone call."
A few of Soldiers in 1544th were Vietnam veterans, said Sinkler. He said the veterans had the experience to take care of fellow Soldiers who had never been in a combat.
This was the first major combat operation U.S. forces had participated in since Vietnam, but Desert Storm was not viewed in the same controversy.
"The support we had back home was just overwhelming," said Sinkler. "Really, our nation hadn't experienced war to that level since Vietnam. It was humbling and we knew that no matter the outcome, we were going to have the support of the American people."
Since initial operations moved so fast, Sinkler said, specific details of the mission were had to come by.
"We were in the moment, we didn't know how the operation was going, we were just doing our job," said Sinkler. "We were calling home and talking to our families and they were telling us what they
were seeing on CNN. My wife told me about things that were going on in Kuwait that I had no idea about."
The passing months culminated into ground warfare Feb. 23, 1991 with a cease fire between U.S. and Iraqi forces March 3. After roughly four months in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, combat operation had halted. As quickly as it began, Soldiers returned home.
"I'm glad it ended when it did or it was going to be a real challenge to keep the ground forces resupplied because they were moving so fast," said Sinkler. "In the month of March we sustained the forward units and were just waiting for our turn to go to the port and go home."
It was good just to go over and help the people of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, said Sinkler.
"It was being part of something that was bigger than you," he said. "It had national importance; it was a part of history in the making and something we can look back on and say 'I was there.' It was an experience that gives you a greater appreciation for our nation and what it stands for."