Howdy from Texas!
Thirty years ago today, on Operation SECRET SQUIRREL (SENIOR SURPRISE), B-52’s from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana struck the first blow to a terroristic regime in what would become Operation DESERT STORM. For many of our post-Vietnam era military members, this was the first time that they would see large scale mobilization for a combat deployment. Since the SS Mayaguez incident and the subsequent USMC assault on Koh Tang Island marked the last combat action of the Vietnam War, the US had not engaged in theater level warfare of the scale to come during Desert Storm.
On this day in 1991, young LTJG Billie “Bugs” Dunlap, USN was underway onboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68) with the VF-24 Renegades as one of the Navy’s newest fully qualified F-14 Tomcat Radar Intercept Officers (RIO). We were on workups, preparing for the pending deployment to the Persian Gulf to relieve the USS Ranger (CV 61), currently on station there – I knew that night where we were heading and what might wait for us there. With a wife and 2-year-old daughter back home, I experienced the mixed emotions of patriotic enthusiasm to enter the fray with my squadron of warriors while fearing the unknown of the highly volatile nature of modern theater air warfare.
For me, the world boiled down to two questions… Would I serve my oath with honor? Would I come home to see my family? The first was totally up to me, but for the second question I knew the enemy had a vote. Obviously, the enemy was outvoted, but for many of our SandBox Era Warriors the vote went the other way. Now, 30 years later we are in the final stages of preparing for a Mission with those SandBox Era Warriors and their families in mind: Honoring those who returned to show that we as a nation understand the sacrifice of their service and supporting the families of those who did not return – for some that sacrifice may be a wound that still needs healing.
While our Route is well planned and almost every pitfall and shortfall may be identified, mapped and mitigated, the MISSION is to provide for the people on the Run and on the Roads we travel. The people we meet, the stories we share, the stories we hear – the lives we touch and the lives that touch us – that is what this Mission is all about. From the rider in the pack to the Route Coordinator leading the way, we are all part of the mission and will have a part to play in its success – we are much stronger together than we could possibly be taking separate paths to the same end.
So, as of today you have 132 days and a wake up to get ready before KSU in DC on Sunday morning, 30 MAY 2021. Your fully charged mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and material readiness will be required on this Mission. With the same patriotic enthusiasm that inspired my journey into the skies over Iraq, I vow to you that I will be ready and will see that every possible turn of planning is made to ensure that you are safe and supported as we execute this Inaugural Run of the SandBox Route.
So, what about the first question? After we share some stories on the Run, you can decide for yourself. See you in DC!
Remember, all roads lead to all roads so no matter where you go, TOGETHER WE RIDE!
WALL 2 WALL!