By DoD News
By Donna Miles
The U.S. military’s top officer arrived here today during his swing through the Middle East to meet with Kuwaiti officials and participate in ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is slated to attend a grand military parade tomorrow featuring U.S., Kuwaiti and coalition forces. Mullen will join 22 presidents, 64 heads of state and other senior officials attending the ceremonies.
Air and maritime displays and wreath-laying activities are planned, culminating a month-long commemoration that also marks Kuwait’s 50 years of independence.
Mullen arrived to a colossal national celebration. Flags draped from skyscrapers lined the highways. Roads were choked with horn-beeping vehicles, many flying Kuwaiti flags and some even custom-painted, bumper to bumper to honor the “50-20” commemoration.
Young Kuwaits, most too young to remember their county’s dark days, waved their national colors from car windows. Teenagers scampered among cars brought to a halt by the sheer volume of vehicles, playfully firing water guns at open windows. Some bystanders painted their faces, clown-style, and donned wigs with the country’s red, white, green and black colors.
Kuwait City is celebrating in a big way.
U.S. Central Command and its components also are participating in the festivities, with Third Army and U.S. Army Central leading the support. The parade will feature Army soldiers, tactical vehicles and helicopters. The Washington-based 3rd U.S. Infantry, “The Old Guard,” will march and carry the colors of Operation Desert Storm units, Army Central Command officials said.
These units include CENTCOM, Third Army, 7th Corps, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Armored Division, 3rd Armored Division, 18th Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division, and the 24th Infantry Division.
Marines from Marine Corps Central Command Forward, based in Bahrain, also will march, officials there confirmed.
The Navy is slated to showcase three F/A-18 fighter jets and participate in a maritime demonstration off the Kuwaiti coast. In addition, the Air Force will feature numerous aircraft, ranging from a C-130 Hercules cargo plane to F-16 fighter aircraft, ARCENT officials said.
Kuwait’s commemoration kicked off Jan. 24, with Kuwaiti marines carrying the Kuwaiti colors as they ran to the center of the kingdom’s Qaruh Island. That ceremony reenacted events 20 years earlier when the island became the first land the U.S. and Kuwaiti militaries liberated from Saddam Hussein’s forces.
“We have a long-term commitment to this region, and for the past 20 years we have proved that it is a commitment of deeds and not just words, Army Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., Third Army commander, said during that event.
Webster said the month-long commemoration activities “further illustrate that our partnership is that of equals who are committed to peace, prosperity and freedom throughout the region.”
Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait at Saddam Hussein’s order Aug. 2, 1990. Saddam’s goal, historians say, was to acquire Kuwait’s vast oil reserves, cancel Iraq’s debt to Kuwait and expand Iraq’s power in the region.
Kuwait suffered harsh atrocities during the Iraqi occupation.
Five days after the invasion, a U.S.-led coalition of more than 30 countries operating under a United Nations mandate launched Operation Desert Shield.
The first U.S. forces, F-15E Eagle fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base, Va., arrived in Saudi Arabia Aug. 7, 1990.
Then-President George H. W. Bush authorized the first call-up of selected reservists for 90 days by executive order Aug. 22, 1990. Another executive order issued Nov. 12 extended that period to 180 days. Ultimately, Bush authorized the call-up of up to 1 million National Guardsmen and reservists for up to two years.
When Saddam Hussein refused to comply with international demands and leave Kuwait, Operation Desert Storm’s air war phase kicked off at 3 a.m., Jan. 17, 1991. The allied ground assault began about six weeks later, on Feb. 24.
The cessation of hostilities was officially declared Feb. 28, but not before an Iraqi Scud missile destroyed the U.S. barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. soldiers.
The United States suffered 148 combat deaths and 145 non-combat deaths during the seven-month conflict. In addition, 467 U.S. service members were wounded in action.
The Defense Department announced the first troop redeployment home -– the 24th Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga., on March 1, 1991.