Wings Over Wayne Airshow


Wings Over Wayne Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Airshow

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41 arrived at Dharhaun in Saudi Arabia and when they arrived there, they were told, 'Hey, uh, this is Desert Shield. This is a defensive operation. You are an offensive air- plane. You need to get out of here,'" he recalled. They got kicked out of there pret- ty quick, he said, and so they went down to Thumrait, Oman, which was a long ways away from where the threat was, Sloan said. After a few weeks of training mis- sions, during which one plane was lost in an accident taking with it the pilot and WSO, the squadrons once again picked up and moved, this time to Al Kharg. "This was a bare base. And when I say a bare base, there was literal- ly a runway, a taxiway, a control tower and there wasn't one other structure on there. And these engi- neers did an unbelievable job, building up a tent city for people to live, showers, latrines, squadron facilities, command and control facilities, all literally built from the ground up," he said. In fact, when Sloan first arrived in the Middle East he flew directly from SJAFB to Al Kharg. When he and his flight got there, their tent had been erected, but little else. "I deployed in December with the 335th, and when I got there, we had a tent but the bed and every- thing that goes into the tent was in a box. So having flown all the way from Seymour Johnson to Al Kharg, Saudi Arabia, then we had to get out of the airplane, go there and lit- erally had to build our beds before we could go to sleep." What those engineers did, what those communicators did, the serv- ices people, the supply people, was just phenomenal, Sloan said. As the chief of safety, he was charged with going around making sure all of this construction and everything was going on in a safe manner so no one got hurt. "Sadly, we did kill one airman, one engineer, he was hurt in an indus- trial accident. But watching them all do this, I even put in my report, I referred to it as the 'Miracle in the Desert,' because it truly was, what they did." All of this undertak- ing was done in the shad- ow of a looming war. Al Kharg was in range of where the Scud missiles were in Iraq. The war could have started any day and the pilots, planners, weapons crews and maintainers were frantically trying to prepare the new Strike Eagles for combat. "Now the F-15E was brand new. There were some basic tactics, but the tactics and the employment and what to do in this particular envi- ronment had to be made up on the fly. So the weapons officers and combat planners were trying to work in concert to figure out the best way to deploy the airplane," Sloan said. Additionally, when the Strike Eagle deployed for Desert Storm it was only certified to drop two, Vietnam-era munitions," he said. When the war first started, that was it, he added. "So all these magic, laser-guided bombs and cluster bomb units and so on, it was not certified to drop any of those. So all that testing lit- erally happened during combat sorties. "So the munitions people were taking some Vietnam-era –– we had tons and tons of Vietnam-era munitions –– they had to certify that they were still workable, and then they had to adapt those old munitions to work on the F-15E," he said. And there was very little techni- cal data to figure out how to do that. "And so when we first started dropping laser-guided bombs, they had to wire the bombs differently, trying to figure out which is the best way to do it for the F-15E, and then we would come back and tell them that, 'Hey, Station No. 1 and 3 worked great, Station No. 4 and 5, not so much.' And so those weapons troops were doing miraculous things, again taking Vietnam-era bomb bodies and putting these hi-tech, laser guidance packages on there and trying to make them work." Being a pilot, Sloan could see the progress being made during the combat missions. But being chief of safety, he also had purview of the whole base. "So I spent time out at the bomb dump watching them do the build, and watched what the engineers were doing, and everybody, all the support people and how they were all pulling together to make this happen. "So probably people at home who were watching CNN and seeing these laser-guided bombs go off and our losses were very small, were probably thinking, 'Well, this is great,'" he said. But it was the behind-the-scenes operations that really drove the war machine, Sloan said. "It was kind of like a duck on the pond. You see a duck on a pond and he looks very calm and peace- ful. But you look down below and he's peddling like crazy. And the paddling like crazy was all done by the support folks at Al Kharg to make it work." Continued from 40 Miracle in the Desert See MIRACLE IN THE DESERT, Page 45

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