Green Bay, WI—The difference in attitudes even within the 432nd was clearly evident. One small incident revealed the gap between those who were confident that the mission was being completed quickly and those who weren’t. One trooper at breakfast in the 432nd’s dining tent was complaining about the notorious inefficiency of the Army, but in this case he was overheard by a civilian relief worker. The civilian pointed out that if it weren’t for the “inefficiencies” of the US Army, the UN relief effort would have been totally impossible. From the civilian’s point of view, the military was a paragon of efficiency and, considering the number of refugees being served, a paragon of speed as well.
It must be said that the key factor in the 432nd’s success has been the professional quality of the unit’s individual members. This fact is not being made for the sake of being self congratulatory; but, considering the background of the 432nd’s civilian-soldiers, it is evident that the unit draws upon people whose skills sustain them in a variety of careers, closely related to the basic managerial, health, sanitation and other teams which sustained life for thousands of people in Kuwait and northern Iraq. Active duty components do not have that advantage; and, for that reason, Operation Provide Comfort developed into an exercise where the reserves took leadership responsibilities instead of active duty personnel.
The best evidence supporting the unit’s reputation for speed and efficiency arose from the Kuwaitis and, even more clearly, the Kurds. For the Kurds, the withdrawal of the 432nd and its supporting units was percieved as a life and death issue. Virtually every member of the unit had the experience of personally being begged by the Kurds to remain in Iraq. The nightmare for the Kurds was seeing American units leave. The nightmare for the 432nd was being kept in Iraq indefinitely. The unit was doing its job so well that members envisioned Washington deciding to deploy the unit forever.
The solution, both for Kurds and reserves, was surprisingly simple: rotating reserve and supporting active duty units in and out with specific rotation dates for as long as the emergency required.
As of this writing, it is not clear if higher commands have been advised of the need for specific deployment dates and a rotating use of reserve units in an annual training mode.
- “Life Returns to Kuwait”, Soldiers
- We flew back from Ft. Bragg to Green Bay on Wisconsin Air National Guard KC-135 tankers. Some people took turns looking out the boom operator’s bubble in the belly of the plane. Not me though — the old fuel fumes were reminding me too much of my Airborne days spent cooped up in Air Force transports flying NOE for hours and hours on our way to a DZ. All the bouncing … and fumes … and heat … <gaack!> I was not feeling good. To make matters worse, just when relief was in sight, instead of landing at the Green Bay airport, the pilot did a fly-by for our waiting friends and families!
- There were numerous parades and public ceremonies held for us after we returned. A lot of Vietnam Vets were among the well-wishers. It was embarassing because they were the guys who made real sacrifices and never got the thanks they deserved.
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