Moffitt remembers the Gulf War ... and a job unfinished

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Most Americans remember the Gulf War, but as a Gulf War veteran, Bradley Moffitt, financial director for the city of Elizabethton, remembers it better than most.
   With the recent activation of thousands of National Guard and Reserve troops -- including the 776th Maintenance Company -- Moffitt candidly expressed his frustration about leaving the job unfinished during the Gulf War.
   "I am still a little bitter about Desert Storm, in that, we didn't get to finish our job when we were there," said Moffitt.
   Operation Desert Shield was initiated by the U.S. military shortly after Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on Aug. 2, 1990.
   An Army National Guard member since 1975, Moffitt was director of finance for the Johnson City Schools system when the 176th Maintenance Battalion was called to active duty in August 1990.
   At that point, Major Bradley Moffitt, the 176th's maintenance operations officer, became part of the first National Guard battalion activated in the United States and the first deployed to Saudi Arabia.
   "It is an experience I wouldn't trade for a million dollars," he said, "but I wouldn't go through it again for another million."
   Children across the country sent thousands of letters to troops stationed in Iraq during the Gulf War. A scrapbook recalling his service as a logistics officer also contains letters sent to Moffitt by Johnson City schools' students.
   Two particularly moving letters sent to Moffitt in February 1991 were written by third-graders from the Johnson City school system.
   "I probably received 1,000 letters during my whole time in the Gulf," said Moffitt. "The only time you had to read them would be at night."
   Letters from two third-grade students are particularly touching. While asking general questions and well-wishing, the children also wrote openly about the recent deaths of family members that occurred only days before their letters were written to Moffitt.
   One student -- who tells Moffitt that her favorite color was green and favorite flavor is strawberry -- also writes about the death of her sister in a house fire.
   The other student's letter recalls the death of a cousin who "was so sweet to me" and ends the letter telling Moffitt "I hope you don't get hurt".
   "Now, the young children that sent us those letters are the troops being sent over there now," he said. "That is really the sad part ... that you have to do the same thing again."
   Moffitt served under the command of two-star Gen. William Pangonas, who commanded all logistics and support services in the Gulf War. Pangonas was a general Moffitt called "the top logistics officer I have ever seen."
   Moffitt still vividly recalls his arrival in Saudi Arabia during the waning days of summer in 1990.
   "When I stepped off the plane, it was 8 a.m. in the morning, and it was already 102 degrees, and it got hotter as the day went along," he said. "It is an entirely different world, but is one you have to adapt to."
   Once he arrived, Moffitt and his fellow soldiers worked 12 to 15 hour days, seven days a week establishing support services while a massive logistics plan coordinating coalition troops was put into place. He also wrote the standard operating procedure for maintenance for Desert Storm.
   Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led United Nations coalition began a ground assault on February 23, 1991 that liberated Kuwait in four days.
   After Kuwait's liberation by coalition forces, Moffitt's unit moved into Kuwait City to set up maintenance and support services for army personnel stationed around the city.
   The 176th took on support services ranging from vehicle maintenance and repair to food and water support after Kuwait City was liberated.
   One of the largest undertakings Moffitt was involved in was the construction and operation of Log Base Bastogne where water and food were distributed for military personnel. Log Base Bastoge also conducted fueling and maintenance service of military vehicles and other various logistical operations.
   The 176th also set up a vehicle washing station in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for military field vehicles dispatched into Iraq and Kuwait. An estimated 6,000 to 8,000 military vehicles rolled through the station returning from Kuwait and Iraq, he said.
   "It was a gigantic car wash in the middle of a desert," he said. "We had wash lines set up at 18 or 20 wash points going 24 hours a day."
   Many Kuwaitis fled the country shortly after the Iraqi invasion in 1990. However, many of the country's citizens who were too poor to relocate to Western Europe and the United Kingdom were forced to live under Iraqi occupation until the country was liberated by coalition forces.
   While fraternization between U.S. soldiers and citizens of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait was strictly forbidden, the welcome and gratitude coalition forces received from Kuwaitis who remained in their country during Iraq's occupation was extraordinary, said Moffitt.
   "Anything we wanted we got it," he said. "The Kuwaiti people were extremely grateful for what we did."
   He earned a Bronze Star for performance duty in the field among other citations for his service in the Gulf War.
   After graduating from East Tennessee State University in 1972, Moffitt enlisted in the U.S. Army that same year. When he arrived for basic training in May, Moffitt said instructors told his class of recruits they would not be sent to Southeast Asia even if they volunteered.
   A class of recruits who arrived one month beforehand sent half their soldiers to Southeast Asia.
   Following basic training, Moffitt was stationed at the U.S. Army Depot in Anniston, Ala. He joined the Tennessee Army National Guard in March 1975, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in Dec. 1996.
   While a Guard officer, he served as the commanding officer of several National Guard units including the 776th Maintenance Company in Elizabethton and 771th Maintenance Company in Johnson City.
   Moffitt said being a member of the U.S. military -- active, National Guard or Reserve -- meant not asking questions concerning why actions were taken. When the call to duty sounded, soldiers accepted their job and did their duty. Moffitt offered words of praise and advice for solidiers serving with the 776th.
   "If you are going to war, you would want to be going with these people because they are top notch," he said. "The training the U.S. Army gives you is the best in the world. Follow that training and follow those instructions, everything will work out okay."