1991 - 1992
Kentucky Army National Guard 475th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in Saudia Arabia during Desert Shield / Storm.
Many Kentucky Guardsmen and women were called to active duty in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. Eight units totaling some 1,147 men and women were deployed. The 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery was one of the few National Guard combat arms units to be sent to the theater. Kentucky units supported coalition forces in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq. Six Kentuckians lost their lives in Southwest Asia.
The Kentucky Air Guard's transition to the B model C-130 aircraft was a relatively smooth one, with the unit logging thousands of flying hours in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm deployment operations in the continental United States. The unit has become a fixture flying Coronet Oak missions throughout Central and South America out of Howard Air Base, Panama, several times each year. The Coronet Oak mission features embassy resupply, support of U.S. troops and the Drug Enforcement Agency, medical evacuation and alert missions. The C-130 aircraft is ideal for these missions, with the capacity and flexibility to fly multiple types of human and airlift cargo long distances in all types of weather, land at small airstrips ranging from dirt and asphalt to concrete, and perform airdrops from low to high altitudes at night and under adverse conditions, such as the airdrops to civilians suffering from the Bosnian conflict in 1993.
Just prior to upgrading to new 1991 model C-130H aircraft, the unit suffered disaster when one of its aircraft crashed in Evansville, Indiana, February 6, 1992, killing all five crewmen and 11 civilians, with nine more civilians injured. After pausing to honor its fallen comrades, the unit completed the conversion to the H model C-130 in the summer of 1992. Since then, the unit has garnered multiple awards with deployments overseas to Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia, flying humanitarian support missions in the hotspots of the 1990s. In 1994, the 123rd Airlift Wing picked up its eighth Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and won the National Guard Association of the United States Curtis Rusty Metcalf Award as the most outstanding airlift/tanker unit in the Air National Guard. The Kentucky Air National Guard has remains universally recognized for sustained excellence in the flying field. Recent highlights include providing the airlift support for Operation Bright Star in Egypt in October 1997 and a deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch, April through June 1997.
Kentucky Guardsmen have served in humanitarian missions in far-off places such as Bosnia and Guatemala. The Guard has assisted Kentuckians in recovery from massive flooding along the Ohio River, provided water purification in western Kentucky and health care assistance in eastern Kentucky, and shelter from snowstorms at its armories.