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Veteran Receives Special Honor On Tenth Anniversary Of Gulf War

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FAYETTEVILLE — On January 16, 1991, U.S.-led forces launched Operation Desert Storm to force Iraq out of Kuwait. On the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War, some airmen at Pope Air Force Base are looking back. For one brave pilot, the anniversary is bittersweet.

During the Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Johnson was attacking a missile site when his A-10 became a target. The Iraqis shot at him, damaging the plane's right wing. At one point, the engine stalled.

"For 10 seconds, I thought I was getting out of the airplane," he says. "Fortunately, everything recovered. I was able to leave Kuwaiti airspace, and we got her on the ground."

A decade later, Johnson is marking the anniversary of Desert Storm with a different mission. The Gulf War veteran is now in command of the 75th Fighter Squadron. The squadron's flagship aircraft will not be the traditional one, it will be Johnson's repaired A-10.

"I'm breaking tradition consciously, because this airplane brought me home," he says.

Other soldiers also came home, but some members of the military still have opinions about the war - even today.

"I don't like the fact we are still there. It drains our resources and national resources," says pilot Rick Turner. "However, they are there for a reason. The decision process is above my level. I do what I'm told."

For Johnson, his new career journey is dedicated to old friends.

"As I think back about what we accomplished, what the Air Force did and what the airplane did, it brings a lot of pride and satisfaction, but I really think about people who didn't come home," he says.

Johnson says his aircraft was hit because of poor decisions he made. Weather was setting in, and he says he stayed in enemy territory too long. On this 10th anniversary, he says the abilities of his plane is what brought him to safety.


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