30th Anniversary of Operation Desert Storm:
American Jewish Service Members in the Gulf War
Master Sergeant Mona Angel, U.S. Air Force
Growing up in New York City, I felt I didn’t want to stay; I wanted to leave and experience more. Joining the military was a way to serve, travel, and have unique experiences. By the end of my first enlistment, I knew I wanted to make it a career, and served for more than 21 years.
As I think back on the Persian Gulf War, I remember that the Gulf War saw the largest deployment of women to a combat theater in American history. I never saw combat during the Gulf War, and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, NM. I supported the mission as a substance abuse counselor, providing education and rehabilitation to active duty members identified with a substance use problem. I facilitated required drug testing for service members, and ensured no one deployed to the gulf if a problem was identified. The information and help networks set up as the Desert Shield deployment began worked well. I was also supporting reserve units called to active duty. Stateside, the war was seen not only as an image on a television screen, a newspaper headline or a topic of casual conversation, but for many, it became an inescapable part of life. It demanded not only my attention, but participation, if only in small ways. For example, base security for all personnel, and anyone else with business on base was affected. I was reminded of the war by long lines and heightened security to ensure safety.
I was a trained Jewish Lay Leader at Holloman AFB.
During the time of conflict in the gulf, I continued to ensure military members and their families were able to attend religious services. This involved travel to the nearest synagogue, 70 miles away. I had a staff car or van for the weekly trips, and transported members round trip in the transport we dubbed the “Shalom Mobile”. I felt it was extremely important to continue providing this aspect of support during the duration of the Gulf War. I received orders to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, a key support base during the Gulf War, and wasn’t due to leave until after the war ended. I served during the time of conflict, and describe myself as a “Gulf War veteran.” Being a veteran means I have served my country and I have served it well. It also means my mission is not done. Once you put on a uniform, you can take it off but you never stop serving. Part of my mission since retiring from the military as a Jewish veteran is to change the image of what a veteran looks like, especially when the general population thinks of a veteran, and says, “Jews don’t go into the military”. I’m a proud life member of Jewish War Veterans.