I was accepted into five colleges but my plan was to enroll in the Air Force, travel the world and get my education later. I enrolled in the Air Force and served from 1985 to 2000.
In the Air Force I was part of a rapid response medical unit that followed behind the troops on the front line. I was deployed with the 82nd Airborne out of Polk Air Force base and I went wherever they went.
When I joined the Air Force I never thought I’d be in combat because of the way the world was at the time. I knew it was a possibility, and trained for it, but it was peacetime and I didn’t foresee a major conflict coming.
When I got the call up for the Gulf War I thought it was just an exercise until I got to the hangar and a four star general was there.
“This is it.” He said to all of us. “This is what you trained for. You are going to war.”
We all looked at each other in disbelief and tried to be supportive to one another.
The flight overseas was dead silent. We landed in Saudi Arabia at midnight, but it still felt like it was 90 degrees outside. The first few days it was just setting up and getting the body acclimated to the temperatures – it could get up to 135 degrees in the daytime and drop to 60 or 70 degrees at night, which felt freezing cold.
At midnight on January 16th 1991 the US launched their opening strike. We heard the first explosion and it was so close it really jarred all of us – that’s when reality set in.
Many soldiers were not mentally or emotionally prepared for life during combat. While you are deployed overseas, life continues at home. A lot of soldiers thought they had a great support system in the states but when they got overseas they realized their support system was a façade.
The divorce rate is highest in the military. Lots of soldiers found out that their loyal women were not so loyal; a large percentage of wives were not faithful. Guys would get ‘Dear John’ letters and others would get videos of their woman with another man telling them not to bother coming home. A lot of relationships and marriages ended and a lot of soldiers didn’t know how to deal with that. A few guys killed themselves. The Chaplains were very busy. There is one statistic about the Gulf War that I’ll never forget: we lost more people to friendly fire and suicide than in combat.
The worst day for US troop casualties was two days before the war ended; it actually occurred on the day the war was supposed to end. The commanders gave us the ‘all clear’ which meant that Saddam Hussein had been neutralized and was no longer a danger to the troops. We were told we didn’t need to wear our gas masks anymore and went outside to throw the football around. It was broad daylight, maybe 1:00 PM.
But Hussein launched one last scud missile. Normally scud missiles were intercepted by US patriot missiles. On this occasion we saw the scud missile on the horizon but the patriot interceptors were down because we thought the war had ended. The scud landed directly on the barracks of a reserve unit from Pennsylvania that was less than half a mile away.
When I arrived on the scene I did what I could to save people. I heard screams and smelled burning flesh but I still thought I could save some soldiers. I saw a pair of legs under rubble and tried to pull the body out but there was no torso attached. I ended up scooping the body parts with a shovel and putting them in plastic bags. It was in the middle of the day so it was 115-130 degrees and we all had gas masks on and were dealing with a lot of carnage. A lot of soldiers threw up into their gasmasks.
The medic operations were very challenging that day because we knew another scud missile could land on us at any minute. When I went to Rwanda after the genocide it was terrible, but at least we were never in any danger while conducting our duties…
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“Are unmanned drone strikes effective?”
“Bill Clinton ushered in a different era of fighting. He used aerial attacks against the wishes of Congress. He realized that we didn’t need to put men and women in harm’s way to have a successful mission, and he was right. We were able to accomplish strategic objectives without any collateral damage to the men and women of the armed services. I appreciate President Obama’s use of drones. If we have the technology let’s use it. Call in drone strikes and then have small ‘Seal Team 6’ type units take care of the rest. Obama has actually waged a very successful campaign against Al Qaeda and ISIS but we don’t hear about it because the media is so politicized. I still have friends in the Air Force and US Intelligence and they tell me our campaigns against terrorist groups are extremely effective. It’s just disappointing that our media doesn’t report what’s actually happening.”
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