Desert Storm - Chas Henry

Desert Storm

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Because my own memories of it remain vivid, it is difficult to fathom the number of years that have passed since the 1991 Gulf War.

MREs amid the oil fires 559x437

As we attacked through fields of burning oil wells on our way toward Kuwait City, the sky — even at midday — was pitch black. (Photo/George Spear)

It is sobering, too, to consider the fighting that has transpired across Southwest Asia since Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Where does Gulf War I fit in the context of those subsequent conflicts?

On the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, I collected reflections from a number of fellow Gulf War veterans — among them former Secretary of State Colin Powell. In 1991, he chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

First, most agreed, the actions in 1991 provided Americans evidence that their military forces had achieved a level of effectiveness superior to a low ebb experienced in the aftermath of the Vietnam war.

Powell described Desert Storm as significantly different from wars before or since in that the diplomatic goals it supported were so limited — as was the space and time in which fighting took place.

Others with whom I spoke pointed up that — because of real-time coverage on CNN — many Americans felt they experienced Operation Desert Storm in a more first-hand fashion than they had previous wars.

Chas & Colin A for web

In January 2016, recalling the Gulf War with retired General, and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell.  In 1991 — as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — he was senior military advisor to then-President George H. W. Bush. (Photo/Pat Piper)

Then there was the introduction of new technologies on the battlefield. The Gulf War was the first conflict in which Global Positioning Systems played a significant role — allowing ground forces quick, precise navigation over desert terrain devoid of such features as hills, forests, rivers and lakes.

Powell told me that the military had so few GPS systems in supply warehouses at that time that officers were sent to Radio Shack stores across the U. S. — to buy every additional unit they could find.

In 2016, I gathered these and more observations about the Gulf War into a series of radio reports for Westwood One News. Each is no longer than two minutes.  Click here to listen.