RENO, Nev. — It was Pearl Harbor Day 1990 when the Nevada Air National Guard was called up to serve in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
One of the airmen called to duty in 1990 was a young lieutenant colonel and Nevada state legislator, who would go on to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his extraordinary achievements as a flight leader during the conflict.
Today, he’s recognized across the nation as Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons.
The Nevada airmen were deployed to Shaikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain, where they flew their RF-4C Phantoms in extreme heat on demanding missions and often encountered enemy fire.
Twenty years after the conflict, Gibbons recently recounted his experiences, including his time serving under Army Gens. Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, and the friendship he developed with another young officer, who would eventually become the current Nevada adjutant general, Bill Burks.
Gibbons said the leadership of retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Ron Bath, now the vice-chairman of the Nevada Military Support Alliance, stands out in his memory the most.
“Ron took charge when things weren’t going well, or if someone had a problem,” he said. “Ron was the individual whom everybody turned toward to help solve a critical problem … a guy I grew up with, went to war with, a great friend and someone I admire tremendously.”
Gibbons said he applied many of his military lessons learned to his civilian career. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997–2006 before becoming the Nevada governor.
“Military experience allows you to create great friendships in addition to learning many things you would never get to learn as a civilian, including leadership skills and teamwork,” Gibbons said. “Most importantly, the military challenges you as an individual to discover your greatest abilities, especially in trying times.”
Gibbons began his Air Force career with an active-duty stint from 1967–1971.
He graduated from the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College and eventually attained the rank of colonel before retiring as the vice commander of the Nevada Air Guard’s 152nd Reconnaissance Group in 1996.
“As governor, there are times I look back on my years in the Air Force and appreciate the ability I gained to forge ahead during challenging times when situations seemed impossible,” he said.
Gibbons said the intangible value of friendships established during combat are some of the most valuable and longest-lasting relationships of one’s life.
“Those individuals you see regularly, you train with, you trust implicitly: those are the greatest friends you can ever have,” Gibbons said. “Those friends you make while in the military are probably the most valuable, enduring relationships you will ever have.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)