Morgan’s Men recognize 30 years since start of Gulf War

Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery move supplies and equipment along the Iraqi border during Operation Desert Storm, 1991. As one of the few National Guard combat arms units deployed to the theater, the 1-623rd provided fire support for coalition forces during the conflict. (Kentucky National Guard historical photo)

By Sgt. Nasir Stoner, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Gulf War officially began 30 years ago. On Aug. 2, 1990, the Iraq Army had taken over Kuwait, and President George H. W. Bush sent troops to Saudi Arabia to support Operation Desert Shield.

Missions during Desert Shield included defense and preparation operations within Saudi Arabia leading to the culminating combat phase, codenamed Operation Desert Storm, which signified actively pushing the Iraq Army out of Kuwait to protect the surrounding region.

Coalition forces ceased fire on Feb. 28, 1991, thus ending the Gulf War.

The 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery, also known as Morgan’s Men, deployed in December 1990, after pre-mobilization training at Fort Campbell, Ky. They returned in June 1991.

(Click here to see new photos added to our archives)

Soldiers in the unit recall their deployment to the Persian Gulf as a successful team effort, with shared goals to accomplish the mission, care for each other, and return home safely.

“I took an absolutely fearless group of Soldiers to war,” said then Capt. Rondal L. Turner, commander of Charlie Battery through the deployment. “The things they accomplished were incredible, and the thing I am most proud of is that I brought every person I left with back home.”

Staff Sgt. Edward Donahue, supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery, stands beside a M110A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer as it rests on display at Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site, Fort Knox, Ky., July 30, 2020. Donahue drove and operated this exact howitzer while deployed during the Gulf War 30 years ago. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Nasir Stoner, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/released)

The 1-623d is an artillery battalion and has activated into federal service for the Korean War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom.

“The field artillery’s job is to destroy, neutralize or suppress the enemy by cannon, rocket and missile firers and to integrate all fires into the combined arms operation,” Turner continued.

Turner stayed actively involved and served as chief of staff for the KYNG prior to his retirement at the rank of colonel. His unit’s accomplishment reflects his hard work and dedication to his men and this country.

“I spent my career always trying to make the Guard a better organization, and I lead some of the best Soldiers on Earth during my 29 years in the Guard,” said Turner.

The early 1990s deployment to the Middle East required training and readiness from Soldiers of all ranks. Soldiers from the 1-623d were prepared to take on the difficult mission they faced.

“I feel like there were no problems at all,” said Staff Sgt. Edward Donahue, supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery. “I feel like it was a good mission, and we completed our tasks with no issues.”

At the time of the deployment, Donahue was a cannon crew member on a M110A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer team assigned to Charlie Battery. The unit promoted him to sergeant shortly after returning home from Desert Storm.

1st Sgt. Joe Fair and Soldiers of the Kentucky National Guard’s Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery provide food to Iraqi Army prisoners of war while deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from Jan-April 1991 (Kentucky National Guard historical photo)

Donahue claims the deployment helped him mature as a Soldier and as a person.

“As a young soldier who hasn’t deployed—or ever been around others who deployed—you are not really paying a lot of attention to training; you are just, kind of, checking the blocks,” said Donahue. “I think once this reality hits you, you will pay attention. That deployment eventually taught me the self-discipline I needed to survive and build myself a long-lasting career.”

The 30 year anniversary of the deployment represents something different for each Soldier who deployed.

“For me, it is a time to remember and honor all who served,” said the retired 1st Sgt. Joseph E. Fair, who deployed with Bravo Battery during the conflict. “Especially, it belongs to those killed in action. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of service to our great nation.”

Fair said that he feels blessed to have been a part of something so important in history.

“As a combat veteran of both Vietnam and the Gulf War, I realize Soldiers train to fight to maintain peace but don’t yearn for war,” said Fair. “Both wars were my booster shot for helping me to realize America is the greatest place in the world and living here is such an honor.”

Revisiting moments of the past allowed these Veterans to reflect on what they learned.

Capt. Joseph “Lonnie” Culver, battalion executive officer, stands with his Humvee while on maneuvers in Iraq, early 1991. Culver and Soldiers of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from Jan-April 1991 (Kentucky National Guard historical photo)

Retired Maj. Gen. Joseph “Lonnie” Culver served as battalion personnel officer during their mobilization. He later served as battalion executive commander once the 1-623d arrived in Saudi Arabia.

“The lessons learned stuck with me,” said Culver. “Each Soldier needs to be technically and tactically proficient in their position, the right person should be selected for the right job, training opportunities should be provided so they know and understand their jobs, and excellence should be demanded in their performance.”

Culver spoke highly of the group of Soldiers he deployed with.

“The 30th anniversary is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of one of the finest groups of men—and some of the best-trained Soldiers—I served with throughout my career,” said Culver.

John Wayne Smith, also a retired colonel and former chief of staff for the KYNG, commanded the battalion as a major. Typically, the battalion command assignment is reserved for a higher rank. However, Maj. Smith’s battalion outperformed the other National Guard combat arms battalions.

Maj. John Wayne Smith, battalion commander of 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery, meets with leaders of the 196th Field Artillery Brigade in Iraq, early 1991. Smith and his Soldiers from the Kentucky Army National Guard deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from Jan-April 1991 (Kentucky National Guard historical photo)

“In honor of our status in the only combat arms brigade and one of the four combat arms battalions, we were asked to lead the National Guard contingent in the victory parade in Washington, D.C., and the ticker-tape parade in New York City,” Smith said. “I was honored to be in the center of the photo on the back of a book recounting the story of the National Guard in Desert Storm.”

The actions and efforts of Morgan’s Men of 1-623d never went unnoticed during the Gulf War. Today, we remember and honor them. Their commitment and dedication to our nation reflect greatly on the professionalism of these Soldiers, their Leaders, and, overall, the Kentucky National Guard.

To see 1-623d FA in action during the live-fire event held at Ft. Knox, Ky., August 5, 2020, click here.

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