What do you know about Desert Storm? I loved getting to talk to Angela Beltz this week about her experience in the Army National Guard. She was one of the first to deploy for Desert Storm and talks about the challenges she faced.
Angela deployed for Desert Shield/Storm from September 1990 to March 1991. Upon returning home from deployment, she was honored by her Tribal Elders as a Warrior (Akicita) and was given two Indian names: Kowaka-Pi-Sni Winyan (I Am Not Afraid Woman) and Tasunka- Na-Khan (She Rides Her Horse). She is a descendant of many Akicita (Warriors) who have served in every conflict, one of which includes her Great Great Grandfather who was a scout for the U.S. Calvary.
Angela moved to Athens, Ohio, and transferred to the Ohio Army National Guard in August of 1991. Following 9/11, she served on several active-duty (ADSW) tours assisting with mobilizing Army Guard Soldiers. Her last year and a half of service, she served as the Assistant State Retention NCO for the Ohio Army National Guard, and retired as a Sergeant First Class, with over 21 years of service in 2008.
Angela is an advocate for Women Veterans and is currently the Chair for the Ohio Woman Veterans Advisory Committee (ODVS), which she has been a member of for 11 years. The committee plans and executes one of the largest Women Veteran Conferences in the United States. It is held biennially and will once again be held at The Ohio State University Union, August 10, 2019. She also serves on the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Executive Committee, which reviews over 120 packets annually, to select up to 20 Veterans for the Hall of Fame. Angela recently testified before the Ohio Senate in support of Senate Bill 311, which will designate June 12th as Woman Veterans Day in Ohio.
Joining the National Guard in High School
She joined the National Guard as a cook and then headed off to basic training the summer between her junior and senior years of high school. At basic training, she realized that being a cook wasn’t what she wanted to do. She couldn’t get out of that career field because she had received a bonus on her enlistment. She looked into going active duty, joining the Marines, but nothing panned out. Eventually, she did get to switch from being a cook to water purification.
The National Guard was in charge of primarily all the water purification for the Army so they were required to head to Camp Pendleton in California each year for training. She had been working in that job in the National Guard for about two years when Sadam Husain invaded Kuwait. They were immediately set on high alert with the expectation they would be deploying soon. The North Dakota National Guard had not been called up for deployment for over 30 years so everyone was surprised, but also ready to meet the needs of the Army. They were mobilized and sent to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin for training and soon after arriving they were sent to Kuwait. One of the first to be deployed to Kuwait for Operation Desert Storm.
Deploying for Desert Storm
It was pretty shocking to deploy and to be one of the first to leave was even more unexpected. She said there was a lot of learning as you went and making due with what you had. Luckily, they deployed with their vehicles and were very fortunate to have their trucks. So many other people did not deploy with vehicles.
Her unit was small and made up of people who grew up together so she described it like the Brady Bunch going to war. She said there were sibling rivalry and other squabbles, but they were also a tight-knit group. But the six girls were often given the hard jobs that no one wanted to do and none of the guys were willing to help them put up their tent so it caused animosity between the group.
Learning to use a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit
While they were acclimating to their new environment their Sargent found them a job to do. They were training people on how to use a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU) which turns saltwater or dirty water to drinking water. They left the nasty camp they were at and headed to the Persian Gulf for training. She said it was beautiful.
Here job overseas was to distribute out the water. They had to use so much chlorine to treat the water that they found their water sources somewhere else. Because they were at a base and had another supply point they could drink bottled water. But people in different locations only had the treated water to drink.
They were pretty far North and the Iraqis that were near them had been cut off from supplies so they surrendered and they didn’t have to worry about that threat. But they did have to worry about chemical attacks and were constantly in their chemical gear. One time a chemical plant was attached and after 3 days they told them they could take off their chemical protection gear because it wasn’t too bad. But it doesn’t mean there were no health issues caused by deploying for Operation Desert Storm.
Coming home was a difficult transition.
Honking horns had meant to get into MOPP gear and that was a daily part of life at home. And it was also so quiet. After being deployed and having constant noise ranging from generators, and other random noises to complete quiet was difficult. She also talked about the lack of reintegration and not having anyone to talk to about her experience.
She was one of the first to come home from her deployment. The unit had been picked to be part of a parade to celebrate the end of the war. Their plane ended up getting a fuel leak and they had to stop in Maine for repairs. They ended up missing the parade.
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