Nevada Governor Recalls Desert Shield, Desert Storm Duty

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)

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