Monday, February 28, 2011

Kuwaiti Troops Recall Invasion, Friendships Forged

By Donna Miles of American Forces Press Service
AL-SUBIYA, Kuwait : Kuwaiti Capt. Adel Khubert was just a 10-year-old boy when Saddam Hussein's Republic Guard screamed over the border from Iraq and took Kuwait by siege Aug. 2, 1990.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
Kuwaiti army Capt. Adel Khubert, lower left, was just a 10-year-old boy when Saddam Hussein's Republic Guard invaded Kuwait. Today, he and his fellow soldiers are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their country's liberation during Operation Desert Storm, Feb. 26, 2011. DoD photo by Donna Miles 
It was a scary time, he recalled. The images that flashed across the family's TV screen revealed the terror unfolding throughout Kuwait. "I felt terrible because we had lost our country," he said.
But just as clearly as those dark, uncertain days, Khubert remembered the jubilation that overtook Kuwait when the coalition freed it from Saddam's bloody grip Feb. 26, 1991. "We were so happy," he said. "We were liberated from a tyrant."
Serving for the past six years in a Kuwaiti artillery unit, Khubert said he and his fellow Kuwaitis have much to celebrate today as they commemorate the 20th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation during Operation Desert Storm.
Kuwait pulled out all the stops today to commemorate three major milestones: the 50th anniversary of Kuwait's independence from Great Britain, the 20th anniversary of its liberation during Operation Desert Storm and the fifth anniversary of its ruling monarch's reign.
"This is three celebrations, all in one," said Sgt. Bader Abdul Aziz, a 14-year veteran of the Kuwaiti army.
Like Khubert, Aziz has vivid memories of the Iraqi invasion. He remembers the terror that gripped him as he awakened at 5 a.m. to the roar of jets screaming overhead and the rumble of tanks on the street as enemy forces filtered through the city.
"It made me crazy," he said, grasping to comprehend all that was happening.
But 20 years later, looking back, Aziz said the experience strengthened him personally and Kuwait as a nation.
Aziz went on to join the Kuwaiti army, where he serves as an M1 tank mechanic committed to his country's defense. He also deployed to Iraq in 2003, the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he worked as part of the coalition that ultimately brought down Saddam Hussein.
Both the United States and Kuwait have benefited from the close relationship forged 20 years ago during Operation Desert Storm, Khubert said.
Khubert said he's gained much professionally through the two countries' strong military-to-military relationship. He attended English language training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and the field artillery officer basic course at Fort Sill, Okla.
Training closely with U.S. forces, Khubert said he and his Kuwaiti comrades have gained technological know-how and advanced battlefield techniques.
"We have bonded together," he said. "And it is making us stronger every day."
That capability was on full display here today as the Kuwaitis staged a massive demonstration of military might. Fighter jets roared overhead, streaming green, red and white smoke in their wake. Tanks and artillery pieces rumbled past the official reviewing stand, and military members from every Desert Storm coalition nation marched by.
As the troops streamed by the official reviewing stand, they passed a message displayed prominently from the opposite embankment: "History does not make heroes. Yet heroes make history." (Issued on  Feb. 26, 2011)
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSgt. Bader Abdul Aziz, a 14-year veteran of the Kuwaiti army, said there's much to celebrate during Kuwait's Liberation Day activities.

DoD photo by Donna Miles