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Desert Shield, Desert Storm vet reflects 25 years later

U.S. and Kuwaiti Gulf War veterans pose for a photo aboard the USS Arlington (LPD 24)during a ceremony celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait in Kuwait, Feb. 23, 2016. The veterans were invited to the ceremony during which they were presented a book commemorating U.S. and Kuwaiti service members’ efforts leading to the country’s liberation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

U.S. and Kuwaiti Gulf War veterans pose for a photo aboard the USS Arlington (LPD 24)during a ceremony celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait in Kuwait, Feb. 23, 2016. The veterans were invited to the ceremony during which they were presented a book commemorating U.S. and Kuwaiti service members’ efforts leading to the country’s liberation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

Gulf War veteran Senior Master Sgt. Charles Witt receives a book commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait during a ceremony aboard the USS Arlington (LPD 24) in Kuwait, Feb. 23, 2016. Witt was among six American and four Kuwaiti Gulf War veterans who attended the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

Gulf War veteran Senior Master Sgt. Charles Witt receives a book commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait during a ceremony aboard the USS Arlington (LPD 24) in Kuwait, Feb. 23, 2016. Witt was among six American and four Kuwaiti Gulf War veterans who attended the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

A U.S. Marine explains the features of the CH-53 helicopter to a group of U.S. and Kuwaiti Gulf War veterans during a tour of the USS Arlington (LPD 24) in Kuwait, Feb. 23, 2016. Six U.S. and four Kuwaiti Gulf War veterans attended a ceremony aboard the ship to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait and the end of the Gulf War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

A U.S. Marine explains the features of the CH-53 helicopter to a group of U.S. and Kuwaiti Gulf War veterans during a tour of the USS Arlington (LPD 24) in Kuwait, Feb. 23, 2016. Six U.S. and four Kuwaiti Gulf War veterans attended a ceremony aboard the ship to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait and the end of the Gulf War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

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“Twenty-five years ago the country was a very different place. I remember watching the news coverage of the invasion back home. Before long, flying units were mobilized and out; we were pushing everything through.”

In the summer of 1990, President George H.W. Bush deployed U.S. Armed Forces into Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. Among them was young Buck Sgt. Charles Witt, now Senior Master Sgt. Witt.

“I was a C-130E Avionics maintainer and then cross-trained to an assistant crew chief,” said Witt, currently a first sergeant at the 166th Airlift Wing of the Delaware Air National Guard. “My job was to repair and service the aircraft as needed to accomplish the mission.  Our mission was to fly cargo and personnel in, out and around the area of responsibility. To those of us deployed, it was normal. We were there to do our job and make the mission happen.”

 

Witt was deployed to the AOR from August to October 1990 and again from December 1990 to April 1991. During that time, Operation Desert Shield was well on its way with more than 68,000 U.S. troops activated. In January 1991, Operation Desert Storm kicked off when Iraqi forces refused to withdraw from Kuwait. By the end of February 1991, the president declared a cessation of operations signifying the end of the conflict and the Liberation of Kuwait.

Since then, the U.S. and Kuwait have maintained a strong, peaceful partnership.

To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Kuwaiti Liberation, Witt and three fellow Gulf War veterans visited the country they served in more than two decades ago for a ceremony onboard the U.S.S. Arlington (LPD 24). The four Airmen were joined by five Kuwaiti Armed Forces veterans who served during the same conflict.

It was a very special day for the Annapolis, Maryland, native who never thought he would return to Kuwait exactly 25 years later to meet and speak with fellow Armed Forces veterans whom he served beside.   As the U.S. and Kuwaiti veterans interacted and shared stories, it was symbolic of the bond and partnership built between the U.S. and Kuwait. That bond is in no small part due to the efforts of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces like Witt. 

“It’s easy for us as military members to miss the big picture because we get caught up in our day-to-day operations,” he said.  “We don’t always see how our individual efforts lend to the bigger mission, not until years later when events like this happen.  It’s amazing to have been part of that piece of history and to be back here now.  It kind of brings my military career full circle.”