Desert Storm Veterans Join Liberation Day Celebration

AL-SUBIYA, Kuwait, Feb. 26, 2011 — Army Chief War­rant Offi­cer 4 Todd Sim­mons was a young sol­dier 20 years ago when his 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion arrived in Sau­di Ara­bia after Sad­dam Hus­sein ordered his troops to take over Kuwait.
Twen­ty years lat­er, Sim­mons is back in Kuwait, this time as a mil­i­tary advi­sor to the Kuwaiti army that, with its 34 coali­tion part­ners, cel­e­brat­ed the 20th anniver­sary of Kuwait’s lib­er­a­tion dur­ing Oper­a­tion Desert Storm.

 20th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation, Feb. 26, 2011
Army Chief War­rant Offi­cer 4 Todd Sim­mons par­tic­i­pat­ed in the ground cam­paign dur­ing Oper­a­tion Desert Storm. Now a U.S. mil­i­tary advi­sor to the Kuwaiti mil­i­tary, he’s par­tic­i­pat­ing in a huge parade cel­e­brat­ing the 20th anniver­sary of Kuwait’s lib­er­a­tion, Feb. 26, 2011.
DoD pho­to by Don­na Miles
Click to enlarge

Sim­mons was among about 300 U.S. mil­i­tary mem­bers of every ser­vice who par­tic­i­pat­ed in a mas­sive cel­e­bra­tion of free­dom and part­ner­ship.

The Desert Storm anniver­sary cel­e­bra­tion began last month, lead­ing up to today’s “Lib­er­a­tion Day” activ­i­ties that includ­ed a huge parade of march­ing troops, ground vehi­cles and air­pow­er.

Sim­mons, now an embed­ded mil­i­tary advi­sor to the Kuwaiti land forces assigned to the Office of Mil­i­tary Coop­er­a­tion Kuwait, remem­bered back to the day his 505th Para­chute Infantry Reg­i­ment hit the ground – Aug. 7, 1990.

They became the lead in a mas­sive coali­tion that would grow to near­ly 1 mil­lion lead­ing up to a coali­tion air cam­paign. After Sad­dam Hus­sein defied a U.N. man­date to with­draw his forces from Kuwait, they crossed the bor­der into Iraq and launched the 100-day ground war that led to Kuwait’s lib­er­a­tion.

Like Sim­mons, Army Maj. Miguel Juarez recalls those dark days when Kuwait­is suf­fered at the hands of Sad­dam Hussein’s Repub­li­can Guard forces.

Juarez was a young enlist­ed sol­dier and hus­band of just two weeks when his 343rd Air Defense Artillery unit deployed to Sau­di Ara­bia from Fort Bliss, Texas, on Sept. 26, 1990. Their Patri­ot air defense mis­siles were quick­ly put to work defend­ing against the Iraqi army’s Scud mis­siles.

“I remem­ber telling my wife back then, ‘We have to fight this fight so that my chil­dren don’t have to fight this fight,’” Juarez said.

Lit­tle did he know at the time that he and thou­sands of oth­er U.S. forces ulti­mate­ly would return here – this time dur­ing Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom and now, Oper­a­tion New Dawn. He deployed to Iraq three times, from 2004 to 2005, from 2006 to 2008, then from 2009 to 2010.

Now work­ing with Head­quar­ters and Head­quar­ters Com­pa­ny, Area Sup­port Group, based at Camp Arif­jan, Kuwait, Juarez said he’s thrilled to help the Kuwait­is cel­e­brate the 20th anniver­sary of their lib­er­a­tion. It’s par­tic­u­lar­ly mean­ing­ful, he said, because it cor­re­lates with the year the Unit­ed States will draw down all its forces in Iraq.

“For me, this is clo­sure,” Juarez said. “I can hon­est­ly write my wife and tell her that our kids will not have to fight this fight – at least not this one, any­way.”

Army Staff Sgt. Scott Hamil­ton, a West Vir­ginia Nation­al Guards­men, was among thou­sands of reserve-com­po­nent forces mobi­lized to sup­port Oper­a­tion Desert Storm.

A how­itzer dri­ver and can­non crew mem­ber with the 1st Bat­tal­ion, 201st Field Artillery, he deployed with just one week’s notice in Decem­ber 1990 as part of the mas­sive mil­i­tary buildup here.

“I was young and kind of scared,” Hamil­ton admit­ted, fac­ing an uncer­tain ene­my and miss­ing the birth of his first daugh­ter.

But the deploy­ment changed him for­ev­er. “It made you real­ly appre­ci­ate what you have in the Unit­ed States, and the free­dom we have,” he said.

It also gave him insights into the Arab world, and under­stand­ing he said proved invalu­able dur­ing lat­er deploy­ments to the region.

Like Juarez, Hamil­ton said return­ing here for the 20th anniver­sary of Oper­a­tion Desert Storm brought clo­sure and grat­i­fi­ca­tion and an appre­ci­a­tion of the U.S.-Kuwaiti rela­tion­ship forged dur­ing the cam­paign. “They have become a stronger and bet­ter coun­try,” he said.

Many U.S. mil­i­tary par­tic­i­pants in today’s fes­tiv­i­ties, includ­ing Army Sgt. Steve Drefke from the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based 3rd Infantry Divi­sion, were too young to expe­ri­ence Oper­a­tion Desert Storm per­son­al­ly.

Drefke, among about 120 “Old Guard” sol­diers here, includ­ing a col­or guard car­ry­ing guidons of every Army unit in the Desert Storm cam­paign, remem­bers the war from the per­spec­tive of an 11-year-old boy fas­ci­nat­ed by events on the TV news.

“It had a huge influ­ence on me, and a lot to do with me com­ing into the Army,” he said.

Twen­ty years lat­er, with 12 years of Army ser­vice under his belt, Drefke said he’s hap­py to see the trans­for­ma­tion that’s occurred in Kuwait and the friend­ship that’s endured. “It’s real­ly neat that we are such great part­ners with the Kuwait­is,” he said.

Today, Sim­mons and his fel­low Oper­a­tion Desert Storm vet­er­ans say they’re grat­i­fied to see the fruits of their labors here – in terms of Kuwaiti mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties, and the free­doms being cel­e­brat­ed today.

As a Kuwaiti army advi­sor, Sim­mons said he’s built close ties to his Kuwaiti coun­ter­parts he said are “using the good-qual­i­ty equip­ment they have and mak­ing a good effort to do a real­ly, real­ly good job pro­tect­ing them­selves.”

As the force matures, Sim­mons said its mem­bers are anx­ious for advice as they acquire new tech­nolo­gies and increase their capa­bil­i­ties. Some­times they take it, he said, and some­times, increas­ing­ly self-con­fi­dent, they choose their own ways of doing busi­ness.

“The impor­tant thing is, we are here for them, what­ev­er it is they as a mil­i­tary want to do,” Sim­mons said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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