30th anniversary of Desert Storm

Eye on KELOLAND

This coming weekend will mark the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. led attack on Bagdad and Iraqi forces.

It meant the U.S. was at war for the first time since Vietnam.

One veteran in Operation Desert Storm shares his memories of the war that are still as vivid today as they were three decades ago.

Thirty years ago South Dakota National Guard and Reserve units began deploying to the Middle East.

KELOLAND News was in Colorado Springs as soldiers from the 323 Chemical Company began loading up and mentally preparing for war.

“I guess this is that day, it’s tough to believe it’s here, but I guess it is,” one soldier said.

The 323rd spent three months training in Fort Carson, Colorado, and many of them were thinking the war games were over and from here on out it’s the real thing.

“Pretty much just the waiting around kind of gets to you after awhile now that things are moving you feel a little bit better, you know you are going to do something,” another soldier said.

The reserve callups didn’t stop there, they continued to hit South Dakota’s Guard and Reserves in the following months.

“I was student teaching, playing in a rock n’ roll band, and just looking ahead to what was coming for the rest of your life and one phone call changed all that,” Rob Monson said.

Monson of Parkston answered the call he signed up for…to serve his country.

He was a member of the 730th Medical Unit of the South Dakota Army National Guard in Vermillion.

“Our unit the 730th would be very similar to what you’d watch on TV, the TV show M.A.S.H.,” Monson said.

Monson, like hundreds of other South Dakota National Guard and Reserve soldiers, suddenly found himself on his way to the Middle East on January 17th, 1991 when American and allied forces started dropping bombs on Baghdad.

It was broadcast live on television.

“We spent two days in Germany watching CNN and FOX, just like everybody else was and most of us were thinking, this was in real-time, I mean this is where we are going,” Monson said.

When they eventually got to Saudi Arabia, they set up camp in the middle of the desert in a place called ‘the neutral zone.’

“Everywhere you went there were trucks everywhere, it was a two lane road that you traveled on with three lanes of traffic going both directions, it was just incredible the amount of equipment being moved up to the front lines getting ready for the advance,” Monson said.

Monson, who was assigned with the 1st Calvary, was the first group of soldiers to enter into Iraq.

When the ground war started, he began treating a lot of casualties. Most of them were Iraqi soldiers.

While U.S. and coalition forces continued their strikes against the enemy, it wasn’t long before hundreds and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers began surrendering.

“We got to the first one and it was just a group of people standing out there hands in the air, weapons on the ground; some had boots, some didn’t have boots, some were barefoot, some were in dress shoes, I mean it was crazy to see it,” Monson said.

In late February just over a month into battle, a ceasefire was called 100 hours after the ground campaign had started. It was a decisive victory that ended quicker than anybody could have imagined.

“My frame of reference on war was Vietnam thinking if we go to war we are going to be there forever,” Monson said. “I signed up with the National Guard to serve my country to serve my state for some education benefits and just like any soldier once you sign that contract you’re basically signing a contract and a check payable up to the cost of your life and some people get that phone call and some don’t.”

Operation Desert storm only lasted 42 days.

But Monson says his unit was in the Middle East for a total of six months.

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