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aircraft. Waiting for further instructions, we planned some local flights on the 16th to plot a dispersal location and to ensure all the aircraft remained ready. At about 2 o’clock on the afternoon of the 16th I was at the

base HQ with Colonel Orrell who was the commanding officer at Al Jouf. He got a secure phone call from Colonel Gray at King Fahd. Col Orrell told me then the war was to begin that night and H-hour was set for 0300 local time. I asked him if he meant that we should be prepared to go at that time or if we’re really going. He assured me that we were going in that night, not just preparing a possibility. I know it was a dumb ques- tion, but I found it hard to believe. I did some quick calculations and told him the briefing for the crews should be set for 2230 local and the takeoff for our formations would occur around 0100. With H-Hour at 0300, our time for the Apaches to open fire on the two radar sites was 0238, or 22 minutes prior to H-Hour. We went out to the flight line to inform Dick Cody, to cancel all the afternoon flights, and ensure the maintenance folks started preparing air- craft for flights that night. Dick was working at his aircraft, talking to his

maintenance guys, and checking his aircraft forms. He came over to our car and we told him the timing of H-hour. All he said was, “S--t Hot!” and said he’d meet me at our hootch at 2130 with all of his crews. I then went over to the 53’s and told the guys to fin- ish configuring the birds and to go back to quarters for a 1600 meeting. At that meeting, I informed everyone about the mission

that night. I told them to write a letter, get a nap, and be dressed and ready at 2100 for another short meeting. The guys were quiet about the news, but obviously excited and apprehensive. They knew they were ready and that the war was probably the only way home, but they also didn’t know how much resistance all this would encounter. The war planning had a worst case of 2% losses of the strike fighters going into Iraq. So, up to 6 to 10 shoot-downs could happen in the first days, meaning our guys doing rescue would probably spend a lot of time flying around in hostile territory trying to pick people up. Since for every 50 Iraqi soldiers there was expected to be an SA-7 or SA-14, we anticipated some real danger and possible losses of our MH-53s. The crews scheduled to go to Rafha to stand rescue alert, Capt Minish’s and Capt Trask’s, really were faced with the greatest uncertainty. The four crews (Martin’s, Pulsifer’s, Kingsley’s, and Leonik’s) planning to lead the Apaches on the two radar sites would not face such uncertainty until they com- pleted that mission and took up rescue alert posture at Ar’ar. SSgt Jeff Morrison and MSgt Dick Pinkowski had engi-

neered a set-up to use our fuel dump tubes and some fire hoses with some nozzles procured off the local economy to dump fuel through the hoses and refuel the Apaches. The guys worked up and verified this method would work, but it was far from a certifiable safe operation, but if we had to use it we had the helicopters configured. We had the kits, hoses, everything, on board if we had to use them. We also had a lot of refueling equipment set-up at Ar’ar so the Apaches could be refueled


and get moving as soon as they landed. Dick Cody, in trying to prepare for the mission, had

restructured his helicopter loads. He could carry an external auxiliary fuel tank on each Apache in place of one of the racks of missiles. In so doing, he wrote new procedures on how to configure and load his helicopters so they had enough fuel to execute the mission. Still, each tank was new to his helicopter while shooting and hopefully they would all work and feed fuel. If any of them were unable to feed fuel, we were going to have an Apache in trouble. We had all the back-up plans in place to get them out of the desert if anybody got low on fuel

for any reason. As it turned out, the tanks worked and all of us guys flew

really quite well on the mission. It went perfectly that night. We had our briefing and we stood there and we said “here we go.” We tried not to tell all the maintenance guys what we were up to, but everybody knew it was our job to start the war. There wasn’t much to say, except we were the right people for the job and we knew we had gotten ready for the job properly. We knew we were poised on the point of history of starting a pretty significant war for our country. We had nothing left to do but go fly the mission. It went exactly as planned. We crossed the border 12 minutes after 2 in the morning

for the first formation. Corby Martin’s flight had the western most target, the east target was led by Mike Kingsley’s crew and Bob Leonik’s as the second helicopter on their wing. I flew as co-pilot with Leonik. We had Ben Pulsifer and his crew as number two behind Corby. The 1/101 battalion commander, LTC Cody, flew the trail helicopter in the formation led by Kingsley. We were tensed and on the lookout as we flew the 40 min-

utes in Iraq before the war was to start. We were listening and looking for something to happen, nothing did. No one seemed to notice, no tracers of ground fire, and nothing we could hear on the radios. It was anti-climatical, really. Both formations crossed the release point for the Apaches to get in the firing position within five seconds of their established time on target, and both formations of Apaches (based on what we believed our timing was) laid Hellfire missiles on the communications

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