Remembering Operation Desert Storm and women in the Gulf War-era
At the height of Operation Desert Storm, Iraq had the fourth -largest army in the world and was on the brink of controlling a-fifth of the world’s oil supply. Women in the U.S. Armed Forces who served were air traffic controllers, ordnance specialists and ammunition technicians, yet the public’s perception of their role tended to be skewed.
GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Thirty-two years ago, this week, America entered a war backed by public support when international diplomacy failed. Operation Desert Storm was a war comprised of three dozen nations against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a major supplier of oil to the United States.
But that wasn’t the only component of the war making headlines. The Gulf War-era bared witness to the retreat of a dictator, and gender barriers.
At its height of Operation Desert Storm, Iraq had the fourth -largest army in the world and was on the brink of controlling a-fifth of the world’s oil supply. Coalition forces brought massive air power into Saudi Arabia to suppress Iraq’s arsenal, eventually the air campaigns and ground assaults over-whelmed the Iraqi army, but these size operations still had costs.
“Either, I’m going to come back off the plane alive or not alive. But I had it in my mind that I’m coming back (home) alive,” said Kristal Brown, Operation Desert Storm veteran
The western Carolina native had enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1989, as the female in her family to do so.
“I guess I just wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps, and my grandfather and a couple of my uncles had also served in the military,” she said.
But Brown learned the times, just like her job were different. She was a combat medic working at Fort Hood’s medical center, trained and prepared for operational and combat care.
“You have to be able to do what a registered-nurse is capable of doing on the outside,” she said.
And in Jan. 1991, she would have to put her skills in frontline trauma and medical care to use.
“I was on my (hospital) floor I believe, that day, and I was told that I have so many hours and I was deploying out,” Brown said.
She worked in a forward support hospital, first arriving to Saudi Arabia before moving to Iraq. Brown says tending to the injured was as constant as the bombings.
“Shrapnel, bullet wounds – and I’ve seen prisoners of war and POWs being released. It was just intense,” she said. “I’ll never forget the bombings.”
Unbeknownst to Brown was the milestone she was a part of. The Department of Defense says about 7% of all Persian Gulf veterans were women, a number that exceeds all figures in previous conflicts.
“It feels good,” Brown said.
The DoD also says women served in almost all of the occupations open to them. They were pilots, air traffic controllers, ordnance specialists and ammunition technicians, yet the public’s perception of their role tended to be skewed.
“I want to say hats off to the women who stepped up when their country called,” said Mike McCarthy, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas. “They did the things that we see pictures of on the news reels, and in the battle scenes – but yet we don’t see women like Kristal putting broken men back together again and caring for them, so they can get back to their families.”
In fact, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas in Brevard has a special exhibit entirely dedicated to women like Brown. Meanwhile, at the national level gender disparities amongst Gulf War-era veterans put a microscope on improvements to access to healthcare services.
“I thank the Department of Veterans Affairs because they’ve been a blessing in my life,” Brown said.
A humble Southwest Asia Service Medal recipient, who was courageously part of the liberation of Kuwait.
“I’m a part of history. Yeah, very proud,” Brown said.
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