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NEW ORLEANS – A new exhibit commemorating the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm will be opening soon at the Louisiana National Guard Museum at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans. “Boots in the Sand - The Louisiana National Guard's Role in the Liberation of Kuwait, 1990-91” opened to the public late last month.
“We’re excited to be able to mark this historic anniversary with a new exhibit to celebrate the contribution of our Soldiers and Airmen,” said Capt. Heather Englehart, director of the Louisiana National Guard Museum at Jackson Barracks.
Englehart explained the youngest members of the Guard had not been born yet when the United States and its allies conducted Operation Desert Storm. She said it was very possible that some of these new Guardsmen may be standing in the ranks next to veterans from Desert Storm and not even realize it.
“The goal of this exhibit is not just to educate the public about our role,” said Englehart. “Sharing our history with the younger generation of Louisiana’s citizen-Soldiers and Airmen is an important part of the museum’s mission.”
In August of 1990 the Iraqi Army invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait. The United Nations immediately condemned the invasion and demanded withdrawal. Seeking to arrest the aggression of Saddam Hussein and protect U.S. allies in the region, U.S. President George H.W. Bush initiated "Operation: Desert Shield" to build up U.S. troops and resources in the Persian Gulf. On Jan. 17, 1991, Operation Desert Storm commenced after Iraq refused to remove their troops from Kuwait as the United Nations Security Council demanded.
The exhibit will feature equipment, weapons and uniforms used by Louisiana Guardsmen, as well as captured Iraqi weapons and equipment from small arms to vehicles. Pictures taken by Guardsmen during the deployment will also be displayed.
“One of the more interesting artifact displays will include captured enemy weaponry,” said Rhett Breerwood, LANG historian. “After the LANG’s 159th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital was told that their area was clear of enemy combatants, nine Iraqi soldiers approached with hands in the air to surrender. It is very unusual for a MASH unit to capture POWs.”
The 159th MASH was the first and most forward hospital operating during the active phase of the conflict. After the cease-fire, it was the only treatment facility with surgical capability in support of all ground troops in Iraq and Kuwait. More than 300 patients were treated during this deployment, including many Iraqis.
The exhibit will include AK-47s, a PK light machine gun, an M2 mortar and a rocket propelled grenade launcher captured by the 159th. The unit also captured an Iraqi armored personnel carrier, which is on display outside the museum, along with Iraqi anti-aircraft guns, a bulldozer used by the 527th Engineers in Iraq and an F-15 used by the 159th Fighter Wing to enforce the no-fly zones.
The Louisiana units activated include the 256th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) headquartered out of Lafayette, the 527th Engineer Battalion from Bossier City, now Ruston, and the 159th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital from New Orleans. Smaller units such as Jonesville's 1083rd Transportation Company, Jena's 1086th Transportation Company, Vidalia's 1087th Transportation Company, Pineville's 1090th Transportation Company and the 39th Military Police Company, and New Orleans 812th Medical Company (now F Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment) and 3673rd Maintenance Company also deployed. The 256th Inf. Brig., was mobilized to Fort Hood to augment the 5th Infantry Division, but the war ended before they deployed. Units from the 159th Fighter Wing were deployed throughout the following decade to enforce No-Fly Zones over Iraq.
The Louisiana National Guard Museum at Jackson Barracks is now open extended hours Monday - Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., 6400 St. Claude Avenue Stop 702, Building 4209, Area C, New Orleans, La. For additional information, or if schools would like to schedule a field trip or learn about other educational opportunities offered at the museum, please call Rhett Breerwood (504) 278-8482.