Veteran Stories:
Daniel Wilson

Air Force

  • Photograph of a CF-18 Hornet taken from another aircraft. Courtesy of Daniel Wilson.

    Daniel Wilson.
  • Daniel Wilson pictured at work….

    Daniel Wilson
  • This seemingly innocuous object functions as the arming mechanism for a bomb; the bomb in question would have been used during Operation Desert Storm, February 1991. Provided by Daniel Wilson.

    Daniel Wilson.
  • Daniel Wilson's dog tags include a small device that measures personal radiation exposure. These devices are standard issue among Canadian Forces, and many other armed forces around the world.

    Daniel Wilson
  • Medals awarded to Daniel Wilson (left to right): Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Canadian Gulf and Kuwait medal; Special Services medal with NATO bar; Canada 125 Decoration; Canada Decoration for Meritorious Service (12 years).

    Daniel Wilson
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My name is Daniel Wilson. I was a corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces. I served with 416 Squadron in the Gulf War. In 1990 I served as an aero-engine technician with 416 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta. We were a NATO-tasked rapid reactor squadron capable of deploying as an entire unit anywhere, anytime, and had arguably the best trained pilots and technicians of any CF-18 squadron. With the news of Iraq's invading Kuwait in the summer of 1990, our focus took on a whole new dimension of reality. No longer were we training for an abstract enemy, we had a real one on our television each night. And how history repeats itself. Only in real life could it happen that 11 years later, the son of President George Bush is saying the same things about Saddam Hussein in preparation for another war.\n\nFour-Sixteen Squadron left Cold Lake, Alberta en route to Doha, Qatar in November, 1990. Our CO shook each of our hands as we boarded the bus on our way to Germany for final NBCW training and then on to Qatar. We were excited, as Canadians had not embarked on a mission such as this since 1950. Qatar is a desert country, just south of Kuwait on the Persian Gulf. The first impression I had of it was, it looked like the planet Mars. It has only one urban area, the city of Doha, and that is where our base of operations was located. We were very concerned with physical security and expected attacks from the PLO which had supported Iraq. Our squadron flew combat air patrols, or CAPS, in support of the coalition fleet in the Gulf. The Americans had an F-16 Squadron and the French had a Mirage Squadron also at Doha. I can remember at the beginning of the campaign, how envious everyone was that the Americans were bombing and we were not. A few F-16s did not return from missions. It made everyone realize that this was for real.\n\nThe Scud missile attacks came almost every night. That was more of an irritant than a fear, as we had to run to the closest concrete shelter each time. A concrete shelter would not give much protection from a direct hit, as a Scud missile was about the size of a Greyhound bus. Things changed very quickly the last three days of the war as Canadian CF-18s were loaded with bombs for real for the first time. We wrote messages on their green metal casings in chalk such as, "Good-bye, Saddam" or "Happy New Year." We also did the wave as our CF-18s and the American F-16s taxied past. How strange that must have looked to the Arab onlook... onlookers. Almost religious in nature. Something I was involved with that was personally satisfying was painting, "Watch your Six." Which was our unofficial squadron motto, in Arabic, on the side of the CF-18s. It made our aircraft - and I guess by extension, we Canadians - pretty special. \n\nWe didn't lose anybody. I guess that's the goal in war, to make somebody else die for their country. We certainly did that. I don't have an answer to the question of why we go to war in the first place. War is hell, but pacifism only works if everybody subscribes to it. And until the world decides to settle arguments fully by diplomacy, we're going to have wars. We should never think that freedom isn't worth the cost. Our war quickly ended and by the middle of March, we were home again. Banners hung in our houses and yellow ribbons on the trees. It seemed as if nothing had happened. I met a World War II veteran who was very contemptuous of all the attention we had received. He said, "I had a lot of buddies die right next to me in World War II." I didn't have a reply to him. What could I possibly say that would convey how very fortunate I felt not to have experienced what he did? I hope other veterans of the Gulf War feel as I do, that we did what we were supposed to do and by great fortune, we all came home safe. That perhaps was the true victory for us. I know it was for my family.

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