|Southwest Asia Today |
Southwest Asia Today
By Brigadier General Allen Peck, Commander, 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing.
Prince Sultan Air Base, Southwest Asia -- January 15, 2001 (ACCNS) -- This month marks the 10th anniversary of the onset of Operation Desert Storm, in which a broad international coalition used force to liberate an occupied Kuwait from the grasp of a regional bully.
Brig. Gen. Allen Peck
The regional bully persists today, but in a much weaker and contained form, far less able to threaten the peaceful nations in the region than at any time since the Gulf War. While Baghdad has not embraced democracy, there is no doubt this region is a safer and better place due to the dedication and professionalism of the forces deployed to defend our interests.
Although our adversary to the north remains familiar, the last 10 years has been a period of significant change, as the world's militaries grappled with post-Cold War realities. After the Gulf War, the U.S. military reorganized and downsized, maintaining its lethality in reduced form.
The Air Force has recognized the contribution of space-based assets, placed added emphasis on information operations, and re-invigorated our approach to command and control of airpower. Although with noticeable growing pains, we recently began the transition into an "expeditionary" force, which in the long term will increase predictability for military families and improve the capabilities of deployed forces.
Operation Southern Watch began as a short-term effort to protect the Shiite populations in southern Iraq. U.S. aircraft have flown more than 200,000 sorties in support of this operation, which has patrolled the southern no-fly zone since August 1992.
The operation has evolved into a key component of national policy in the region. By limiting training opportunities for the Iraqi air force, the no-fly zones have contributed to the steady decline in Iraq's military capabilities. The operation also provides valuable intelligence on Iraqi force movements, giving an invaluable additional margin of warning regarding potential threats to Kuwait.
The 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing has evolved as well - we've taken quantum leaps in our quality of life, upgrading from tents to trailers to, in many cases, hard billets. The combat capability of this warfighting organization is second to none - last year alone we safely and effectively flew nearly 12,000 sorties in support of Joint Task Force Southwest Asia's important mission.
We've seen our share of tragedy during the last 10 years: 19 members of this wing were killed and hundreds wounded in the terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in 1996. The attack on the U.S.S. Cole last October once again reminds us of the dangers associated with defending freedom and protecting national interests in this part of the world.
Let no one underestimate our resolve to deter aggression against our allies or against us. The world is a better place because of the sacrifices 363rd members are making every day in a volatile region far from home.
Our work here is far from over. But patience and diligence among the coalition nations will eventually lead to regional security and prosperity, as we set out to do 10 years ago. Thanks to the efforts of those deployed here and their predecessors, we are getting closer to the goal every day.