Person of the Week: Sylvester GatesBy BY BRITTNEY MANGUM,
Sylvester Gates, a veteran with the Army National Guard, has done an excellent job helping out in a war zone. He decided to join the National Guard in 1975. He became a truck driver and helped collect fuel.
By September of 1990, Sylvester was called to go overseas for operation Desert Shield. He and his unit went to Fort Stewart in Georgia to prepare to be deployed. His unit was going to be the logistics and support for the men from Fort Stewart.
The group went to Saudi Arabia, which was the host nation, and stayed at a holding compound when they first arrived. They had to wait for all of their equipment to arrive before they set out to go into the desert. At this time, Iraq was shooting off scud missiles, which were being taken down by the Patriot. While they were at the compound they could hear the debris from the scud missiles hitting the building around them, but they were blessed that the war head never fell in on them.
“We made it out of the compound alive once our equipment arrived,” recalled Sylvester. “There was a group that had come in after we left that wasn’t so lucky. When the Patriot shot down a scud missile while they were there, the warhead fell in on them, and it killed them. When we went back to the area on the way home, we could see an empty slab where that building used to be.”
Once the equipment came in, they made their way out into the desert to carry out their mission. As the support team, they were responsible for transferring the fuel for the tanks. Everything they did was at night since the ground war, Desert Storm, had started since they made it over there.
“We went to three countries. Saudi Arabia was our host nation. Then, we went into Iraq. Then, we went into Kuwait. We were transportation, and once Desert Storm started, we went everywhere to support our tanks. We just did our job,” stated Sylvester.
Transporting the fuel was not just an easy job, though.
“We never went out alone. We always had two or three trucks going, and we were prepared with weapons,” said Sylvester.
At one point, his unit had come up on a mine field and had to wait for the mines to be removed before they could continue on to complete their mission. Along with having to be careful about mine fields and watching for hostile situations, Sylvester witnessed some of the events that Saddam Hussein did in Kuwait.
“At one point Saddam had set all those oil wells on fire,” said Sylvester. “It was in the middle of the day, but it was so dark it looked like it was midnight. We could see the fire on the wells going up. It started to do like a little rain, except it was raining oil instead of water.”
Originally, his unit was set to be deployed for a year, but they ended up being able to go home after nine months.
“The main thing was to drive Saddam out of Kuwait, and they drove him out. That made it where we were able to come home a little earlier than we expected,” stated Sylvester.
After his time having to stay in a tent in a hot desert surrounded by sand and dealing with all the sandstorms, Sylvester has one main thing to say about his experience and journey:
“Thank God none of us was killed. We all made it home. That was a blessing God gave us.”