A Defining Event

When Desert Storm began in January 1991, it was the first time in 19 years the US Air Force had been involved in a major air combat campaign. Yet today’s airmen “are further removed from Desert Storm than we were removed from Vietnam,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Johnson, who earned the Air Force Cross in Desert Storm and now serves as the director of operational capability requirements for the Air Force. “Desert Shield/Desert Storm was a defining event for many of our careers, and really has shaped who we are and how we’ve gone through our Air Force career,” Johnson said in an interview with Air Force Magazine. However, he said, “We have to remember that for the bulk of our airmen today, 9/11 was their shaping event.” Much has changed in 25 years, but the Air Force must remember that while it has been heavily involved in a specific kind of fight, airmen need to be “able to answer whatever the call may be,” Johnson said. And those whose careers and lives were shaped by Desert Storm have to be careful that the “amazing flexibility and ingenuity and adaptability” the Air Force displayed during that conflict “doesn’t turn into some internal rigidities on our part,” he said.