Operation Desert Storm, looking back 30 years later

  • Published
  • By Ms. Shannon Murphy & Senior Airman Brooke Spenner
  • 932nd airlift wing

On January 17, 1991, Operation Desert Storm launched when a massive aerial bombing campaign began striking key targets in Iraq and Kuwait. From January 17 – February 28, 1991, over 69,000 sorties were flown in support of Operation Desert Storm. Of the almost 69,000 total force personnel deployed, the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard accounted for over 20% of the personnel footprint in the Gulf. Initially anticipating massive casualties, more than 17,500 Reservists were called to active duty, with more than 7,800 Reservists in medical specialties. 

In the 932nd Aeromedical Airlift Group (AAG), the 932nd Civil Engineering Squadron were called to active duty first, mobilizing 50 firefighters in December 1990; 30 members deployed to the Gulf and 20 members were assigned to the active duty fire stations on Scott AFB to backfill active duty personnel also deploying. Soon after, the 13th USAF Contingency Hospital was mobilized in December 1990, and sent 164 personnel over to Oman. As more active duty units received deployment tasking, 45 personnel from the 932nd USAF Clinic and 52nd Aeromedical Patient Staging Squadron (APSS) were mobilized and assigned to Scott AFB’s clinic. Then, the 54th APSS sent 96 personnel over to Saudi Arabia. Over 150 personnel deployed to southwest Asia, many on tours of 4-6 months. When the air campaign ended on February 28, 1991, over 80% of the 932nd AAG was mobilized.

“AFRC Historians identify Operations [DESERT SHIELD] and [DESERT STORM] as the point where the Air Force Reserve went from being a force in reserve to a fully integrated and operational component of the total force team.” (Bo Joyner, “Growing Gracefully: Air Force Reserve celebrates 68 years of supporting U.S. national security,” March 17, 2016.

932nd AW Airmen became part of the “total force team” in Jan. 17, 1991 till the end of the war. The reservists provided 50% of the Air Force’s strategic airlift, aircrew, and aerial port capability, also providing 33% of its Aeromedical Evacuation crews and 25% of its tactical airlift forces. Desert Storm was the first conflict related call to action of AFRC since 1968 (Vietnam), AFRC Airman were ready for the call.

Operation Desert Storm’s 38-day air campaign ended on Feb. 23, 1991, and the famous “100-hour” ground campaign began the next day. The conflict was the most decisive use of air power yet seen in American history, with the war ending on Feb. 28, 1991.