HomeNewsArticle Display

B-52 veteran recalls close call on Desert Storm mission

Jim Bowles, Air Force Global Strike Command program analyst, poses for a photograph at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Jan. 20, 2016. Bowles deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1990. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Raughton)

Jim Bowles, an Air Force Global Strike Command program analyst, poses for a photograph at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Jan. 20, 2016. Bowles deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1990. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Raughton)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- “Pilot, we have a lock-on,” the B-52 Stratofortress electronic warfare officer called out in surprise.

Capt. Jim Bowles, a B-52 instructor pilot, gritted his teeth, looked downward and sure enough, an SA-6 surface-to-air missile had been launched in his direction.

For most, being shot down by a missile over enemy territory is not a concern expected to become a reality. But for Bowles and his crew, this could be reality flying toward them in the dark Iraqi night.

Minutes passed, each one an eternity in itself. Bowles held his breath.

“This is it, this could be it,” recalled Bowles, now an Air Force Global Strike Command program analyst.

He could see the missile. What he couldn’t see were the jamming systems working to save him and his aircrew. Operating perfectly, the jamming sent the missile in another direction.

Bowles avoided a missile that night while deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Desert Storm. Throughout the preparation and deployment, his training and his family were constantly in his mind.

Prior to the deployment, Bowles, his wife and their children went on a family vacation and visited relatives. Every afternoon at 2 p.m., he was required to call and check in with his unit on Barksdale Air Force Base and in the meantime, planned for a duty station move to Castle AFB, California.

One phone call just after returning from vacation changed his plans.

“It was about 11:30 at night and the phone rings,” he said. “My wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘oh no.’ I picked up the phone and was told to report to Barksdale.”

The situation in the Persian Gulf had escalated in December 1990.

“While I’m doing Christmas decorations, I’m also packing my bags for deployment to do combat operations,” he said. “It’s a unique experience when you think about peace on earth and goodwill toward men, and I may have to bring combat to my enemy.”

After moving to the air base in January, Bowles was sent to Nellis AFB, Nevada, for a two-week preparatory exercise called Desert Flag.

“The ramp was full of every type of aircraft,” he said. “Desert Flag was a Red Flag (exercise) on steroids. By Wednesday of the exercise, we saw aircraft leaving the base, and by Thursday, the airfield was a quarter empty. Where’s everybody going? We all knew.”

After the exercise, Bowles boarded a bus to get a final round of immunizations and immediately deployed to Saudi Arabia to conduct combat operations against Saddam Hussein’s forces.

“While there was some apprehension about going into combat and the potential for not coming home, there was also a confidence because we knew we could do our mission,” Bowles said. “We’d trained together, and we’d do the jobs we were assigned to do.”

The first couple of missions went off without a hitch, he said. They were relatively uneventful and weapons were released on critical targets.

Additionally, Bowles and his aircrew would make “Taco Bell runs,” nicknamed after the 1980s advertising campaign.

“There were mine-breaching missions where we released our bomb-release lines just a few miles short of the Saudi Arabian-Kuwaiti border, and because of height and time of fall, those weapons would fall into the mine fields that Saddam Hussein had sewn,” Bowles said. “We called those our Taco Bell runs because they were our runs for the border.”

At one point, Hussein sent three armored units to advance into the town of Khafji. All Bowles and his crew were given was a slip of paper with coordinates.

“At that time, Saddam’s armored columns were exposed and we laid down the fire on him with two aircraft full of MK-82s and one aircraft full of cluster bombs,” Bowles said. “After we landed, we received a report saying we’d stopped them in their tracks.”

Throughout the numerous combat missions, the B-52 continuously demonstrated itself to both ally and enemy forces as a fearsome and unmatched weapons delivery system.

“The B-52 has such a high capacity magazine that you can drop a very large number of munitions,” Bowles said. “We would get reports of enemy prisoners of war that surrendered because of the threat of B-52 attacks. They’d cross the Saudi border and surrender to the Saudis, surrender to our troops and even to our photographers because they didn’t want to experience the onslaught of the cluster bomb units we were carrying.”

Bowles, having completed 25 combat missions in 10 weeks, considers Desert Storm to be a career-defining moment.

“When I look back on Desert Storm, it feels like yesterday. It’s a memory deep within myself and my family,” Bowles said. “That was 25 years ago, but we can’t fight the last fight. We have to fight the fight of tomorrow.”

Engage

Twitter
Today, we recognize Patriot Day and remember the thousands of lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. We acknow… https://t.co/BMgNcZ9fuE
Twitter
Multinational students and #AirForce instructors from around the globe came together to learn and expand on allied… https://t.co/1qtqi9OrN2
Twitter
Throughout August, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, @grandslamwing operated as a transit hub for Afghan refugees evacuated… https://t.co/amVMg8VqlE
Twitter
The #AirForce released its 2021 assessment on how states support Air and Space Force families. The evaluation measu… https://t.co/bseHKsXUzM
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: A message from @USAirForce & @SpaceForceDoD senior leaders leading up to 9/11: "We will never forget the nearly 3,000 in…
Twitter
Findings from the Department of the Air Force Inspector General Independent Racial Disparity review have been relea… https://t.co/zUZyNB2gT4
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: SecAF Kendall on the two disparity reviews released today by the Department of the Air Force: "[This] isn’t the end of a…
Twitter
RT @UnderSecAF: Our continued commitment of honesty and transparency to the women and men of the Air Force and Space Force remains unwaveri…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: We must continue to listen to our people, understand what they are experiencing, and receive their feedback as we take st…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: The Department of the Air Force released updates on its first Racial Disparity Review & the results of a second, expande…
Twitter
The Department of the Air Force released a progress update on the Inspector General Independent Racial Disparity Re… https://t.co/yStaRW3ZA9
Twitter
Innovators and thought leaders gathered at the AFWERX Innovation Hub in Las Vegas, Nevada, to review technologies t… https://t.co/Oozq4M1Xek
Twitter
Air chiefs and senior enlisted leaders from the Indo-Pacific region gathered for the Pacific Air Chiefs Symposium a… https://t.co/E3nzEm18If
Twitter
A new technology being directed for use by all @USAF_ACC installations. The Command and Control Incident Management… https://t.co/ovEDVVTYAB
Twitter
Airmen and Guardians selected for a permanent change of station can now access automated family member travel scree… https://t.co/fGbTPuieaz
Twitter
.@WrightPattAFB Airmen were awarded the prestigious #AirForce 2020 Male and Female Athletes of the Year! Each yea… https://t.co/boCRzMEwVy
Twitter
RT @AETCommand: The newly created Air Force Learning Professionals’ online Communities of Practice are now available in MilSuite! These pra…
Twitter
During a recent interview, @UnderSecAF shared her priorities and how she plans to work towards removing barriers, a… https://t.co/iqAhXlid4p
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,374,580
Follow Us