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Home : News : Overseas Operations
NEWS | Jan. 17, 2017

South Carolina National Guard looks back at Operation Desert Storm

By Capt. Brian Hare South Carolina National Guard

COLUMBIA, S.C. - At the time of the start of Operation Desert Storm, Jan. 17, 1991, the South Carolina National Guard had already mobilized more than 2,400 Army and Air Guard service members during Operation Desert Shield.

The mobilized South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen during Operation Desert Storm represented 11 Army Guard units and eight Air Guard units. They would provide support for the combat phase of the war, according to an After Action Report published by the South Carolina National Guard summarizing its activities during all phases of the operation.

Following the Aug. 2, 1990, start of Operation Desert Shield with the Iraqi Army’s invasion of Kuwait, the first of the South Carolina Army National Guard units to deploy was the 228th Signal Brigade Mobile Communications Detachment (MCU) based out of Spartanburg, South Carolina. No longer an active unit, the primary mission of the MCU was to provide rapidly deployable command and control communications to Headquarters, United States Central Command, and United States Third Army. Its primary equipment included four communications terminals, as well as a large non-standard, communications van.

To illustrate the rapid deployment capability of the MCU, the unit was alerted and mobilized on Aug. 7, 1990, and on that same day two of their personnel were on the first plane of Army Central Command (ARCENT) personnel leaving the continental United States for the area of responsibility (AOR). By Aug. 8, 1990, these two personnel were in country and, using dismounted equipment from their communications terminal, had established a UHF tactical satellite link from the United States Military Training Mission compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to ARCENT REAR located at Fort McPherson, Georgia.

According to the report, these two Soldiers from the 228th Signal Brigade MCU arrived in Saudi Arabia hours ahead of the XVIII Airborne Corps, making them the first Army National Guard service members to arrive in Southwest Asia. Two additional MCU personnel with a communications terminal would arrive in country Aug. 15, 1990.

Over the following months, in a process driven by airflow, the MCU would continue to deploy teams of four to five personnel to the AOR, with the last personnel arriving January 15, 1991.

The 265th Quartermaster Detachment, based out of Allendale, South Carolina, and the 132nd Military Police Company, based out of Florence, South Carolina, followed the quick deployment of the 228th MCU. Both units were alerted on Aug. 24, 1990, and the 265th Quartermaster Detachment was mobilized by Aug. 27 and deployed to Southwest Asia Sept. 16, 1990.

While conducting mobilization activities prior to their deployment, the Soldiers of the 265th were visited by the late U.S. Army Maj. Gen. T. Eston Marchant, at the time the adjutant general for South Carolina, according to an article from the period that appeared in the “Palmetto Guard,” an internal publication of the South Carolina National Guard.

“You don’t know how much I wish I could turn back the clock and go on this challenge with you,” said Marchant. “But I want to tell you that we’re proud of you and God bless you.”

Having deployed sometime between mid-December 1989 and late January 1990 in support of Operation Just Cause, the United States invasion of Panama, the 132nd MP Company was not far removed from the mobilization process when they received the call for support near the start of Operation Desert Shield. The unit had also provided support to the Hurricane Hugo recovery efforts in South Carolina in September of 1989.

Jimmy R. Woods, the 132nd MP Company first sergeant during Operation Desert Storm, spoke of the high spirit of the unit members during the mobilization process, according to the Palmetto Guard.

“Morale doesn’t fall off in this unit,” said Woods. “I attribute that to the fine NCO’s we have. They make my job easier.”

The 132nd MP Company deployed to Southwest Asia Nov. 7, 1990.

Most of the other South Carolina National Guard units that followed were deployed in November and December of 1990. Only three South Carolina National Guard units, the 218th Personnel Services Company, the 213th Medical Brigade (HSLD), and the 108th Public Affairs Detachment deployed after the start of Operation Desert Storm.

The missions of the eleven Army units included rear-area operations, military police, and transportation, among others.

Of the eight South Carolina Air National Guard units providing support, the 169th Tactical Fighter Group flew more than 1,700 combat sorties, while other South Carolina Air Guard units provided air traffic control and all of the communications support for the Al Kharj Air Base Operations.

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Philip G. Killey, director of the Air National Guard at the time, commented on the overall Air National Guard performance during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

“Every mobilized unit responded faster than regulations specify, with all required personnel and equipment, and professionally performed their mission with, and alongside, their Reserve and active-duty counterparts,” said Killey.

The report states that when Operation Desert Storm was concluded, senior active Army commanders stated that mission orders and decentralized execution were the key to success, and that the Army’s Training System produced combat ready units and commanders.

The report also mentions that the communities of local Guard units were very enthusiastic in their assistance, with local officials and the general public holding activities to show their support and appreciation, which had a very positive impact on the morale and esprit de corps of mobilized individuals and units. Family support groups also became very active and provided essential services while their units were deployed.

Operation Desert Storm was successfully concluded Feb. 28, 1991.