Sunday, August 8, 2010

Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Stuck...

That's how my Dad described it when he got back from Bahrain Mother's Day of 1991. 

It's hard to believe that 20 years ago, President George Herbert Walker Bush deployed the 82nd Airborne Division and the First Air Wing to Saudi Arabia to deter Saddam Hussein from invading Saudi Arabia.  At the time I was a sophomore at USF, starting my first semester of Army ROTC, and arguing with my soon to be ex-girlfriend about the deployment.  She had joined the National Guard to get money to pay for school and was upset about the prospect of having to deploy to the desert (that didn't happen since she spent the next 8 weeks in Basic Training at Ft. Dix, followed by a year at Ft. Sam Houston).  My unfeeling response to her was to ask her exactly what she had expected when joining the Army...

Desert Shield and Desert Storm were an interesting experience in Tampa.  An anti-war group on campus tried to prevent us from wearing our uniforms, when there were rallies at the campus flea market the cadre warned us to not start anything (we promptly went over wearing our gold and black t-shirts), the campus police stopped to investigate our early morning ruck-run, and when our color guard participated in parades, SGM McLaughlin reminded us to defend the colors from protesters.  The flag-bearers were specifically reminded that they were carrying a spear.

The one thing that really gave us pause was the deployment directive posted in the cadet lounge.  It specified that in the event of a full-scale call-up of all forces, cadets who had finished Advanced Camp would be commissioned, that cadets in their third year would finish training before commissioning, and scholarship cadets would be enlisted in the ranks.  The rest of us would stay in school, assuming we didn't volunteer on our own.

These days I teach college students, mostly freshmen and sophomores, who are 18 or 19 years old, but nothing has made me feel quite so old as this anniversary.

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