Foreign crisis after the Cold War



Gregory Fitzgerald Robinson spoke recently about his time in Iraq.

Gregory Fitzgerald Robinson spoke recently about his time in Iraq.

In honor of Veterans Day, this is part 2 of a 3- part series on the confl ict in Iraq, containing interviews with two local men who served. Christopher Jones and Gregory Fitzgerald Robinson are two Burke County men who served with the military in Iraq.

Jones entered the U.S. Marine Corps through the delayed entry program in 1984, after he graduated from T.W. Josey High School in Augusta. Robinson, a Burke County High School graduate, joined the U.S. Army in 1997. Both men ultimately were deployed to Iraq.

OPERATION DESERT STORM

Prompted by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Operation Desert Shield transitioned to Operation Desert Storm January 17, 1991 with the start of an air war, marking the first major foreign crisis for the U.S. after the end of the Cold War. The U.S. had the United Nations’ support in responding to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait after Hussein repeatedly violated U.N. resolutions.

The air bombardment was directed at tactical targets such as radar stations and strategic targets such as infrastructure and electricity. Overwhelming the inadequate air defense of the Iraqi army, the coalition bombed key targets in and around the capital of Baghdad. The coalition suffered only 75 aircraft losses in over 100,000 sorties, 44 due to Iraqi action. Over the next six weeks, Iraq’s infrastructure and its military were completely devastated paving the way for a ground invasion. One of the largest air operations carried out since the Vietnam War, Desert Storm crippled the Iraqi ground forces forcing them to either surrender to the coalition forces or retreat en masse. Forty-two days later, on February 28, 1991, the operation ended.

Desert Storm saw the first use of the MIM-104C Patriot missile system in combat, where it was used to intercept Scud missiles. It was also the first time the Air Force used stealth and space systems support capabilities against a modern, integrated air defense.

Desert Storm saw the first use of the MIM-104C Patriot missile system in combat, where it was used to intercept Scud missiles. It was also the first time the Air Force used stealth and space systems support capabilities against a modern, integrated air defense.

Jones was attached to an artillery unit. He remembers the day that his unit began bombing.

“We bombed them for two days straight,” he said.

The mental strain was hard for Jones to endure. The Iraqis set up missiles around the U.S. camps. Rumors of chemical warfare spread like wildfire.

“They would just start firing off missiles and bombs and we were driving through land mines,” Jones recalled. “It was a mental challenge at first and then you started seeing all of these dead bodies so it got a little more real.”

Jones lost his best friend Phillip Jones during the war. “I will never forget him,” he said.

Jones said he experienced a mixture of sentiments coming from the Iraqi citizens.

“Some thought we were there to help and some thought we were there to impose our way of life on them,” he said. “Some greeted us fondly and some shunned us away.”

After Jones returned to the U.S., his next deployment involved evacuation of the embassy in Somalia.

RESPONSE TO 9/11

The September 11, 2001 attacks, involved four coordinated suicide terrorist attacks carried out by the militant Islamic extremist network al- Qaeda against the U.S. Nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners flying to California. The hijackers crashed the first two planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and the third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane was intended to hit a federal government building in Washington, D.C., but crashed in a field following a passenger revolt. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people and instigated the global war on terrorism.

Robinson was deployed to Iraq the first time in 2001. He stayed for six months. He describes the first deployment to Iraq as a spiritual experience. He learned to pray with a purpose. One of his concerns was that his marriage would fall apart. He also prayed about the prospect of dying. He found peace of mind in his prayers.

“When I stepped into Iraq, I wasn’t concerned if I was coming back,” he said. “I was only concerned about my team coming back.”

Robinson said his team learned to understand that carrying out a mission was different than civilian life. It required a higher level of support and honesty amongst the men. The experience allowed the teammates to grow closer together.

“We trusted each other regarding things that we wouldn’t have talked about if we had not deployed,” he said. “It allowed us to see our leadership in a different light.”

The soldiers got to see what the training actually prepared them for and they got see the human side of people instead of just recognizing rank. The leaders also got to see the soldiers as men and women rather than people just taking and executing orders.

“It created more of a family than a military structure,” Robinson said.

The experience also tested Robinson’s theoretical beliefs and invoked a more experiential relationship with God. There were times the unit suffered attacks, prompting a flight or fight response. The first time it happened, Robinson’s heart raced. However, after that he found more and more trust in his creator whenever faced with danger.

“It wasn’t that I disregarded the danger that was there,” he said. “I was at peace with myself which allowed me to do my job. So even though my soldiers were nervous, especially when they thought they were being gassed, I didn’t have the fear.”

He believes his faith assisted him in being a better person for those around him.

“I can only thank God that I had peace of mind in the middle of a war,” he said.

Robinson went back to Iraq a second time, 2007-2008, this time for a year.

“I took God with me the second time, more experienced,” he said. “I didn’t need to get scared about it.”

This time the enemy wasn’t the greatest challenge, it was working with his team.

“Our purpose was different,” he said. “They wanted us to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. We were training their army to do the job that we were doing.”

Even so, Robinson had to balance out teaching with retaining secrets. The Iraqi soldiers were his understudies but not his best friends. The threat remained that anyone being trained by U.S. military personnel could turn against them.

“I can’t give them our frequencies,” he said. “I can’t always communicate with them because we are using technology that we can’t even let them know we are using. We can’t give them that information because it would devastate all our efforts that we are doing around them.”

Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, is a federal holiday in the United States observed annually on November 11, for honoring military veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

Sources: U.S. Army Center of Military History, U.S. Department of Defense, Byju’s Exam Pre, Wikipedia

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