AMARILLO, Texas -- Amarillo resident Mike Parton was leading a tank company of 88 men into Iraq when the Persian Gulf War cease-fire was called.
"We were moving. Our men were motivated," the retired Marine master sergeant said. "We were gassed up and ready to go when we were told they were stopping all military action."
It was an anticlimactic ending to a surprisingly successful campaign, he said.
Gulf War veterans such as Parton say not invading Baghdad and removing Saddam Hussein then was a missed opportunity, but they differ on whether the United States should go back and correct that mistake. Regardless of their views, they all have insight about what such an endeavor would require.
"More and more, I'm thinking it's not worth it to go over there," said Thomas Lyons, who served as a wheel and track mechanic for the Army in the Gulf War.
"The only reason we did it back in '90 was for a barrel of oil," Lyons said.
Countries such as the United States don't need to remove Saddam Hussein because they've learned how to keep him contained during the past 12 years, Lyons said.
"The president's under a lot of pressure with a lot of members of the (United Nations) who don't want us to go in there," Parton said. "But there's not much of a choice at this point. We're over there and ready. We might as well get it done."
The United States needs to carry through with Iraq because other countries, such as North Korea, also need attention, Parton said.
Militarily, the United States has the capability to repeat its success in the Persian Gulf, Parton said.
"Troopwise, they're better trained now than they were in '90, '91," he said. "The equipment has advanced tenfold. No one on this earth is better prepared and motivated than the American soldier, airman and Marine."
The technology, air support and manpower of the U.S. military ensured success 12 years ago and are even more superior now, said Frank Castillo, a sergeant first class for an Army hospital unit during the war.
"We had everything we needed. That's why it didn't take long," Castillo said. "And the generals knew what they were doing."
But Gulf War veterans don't allow themselves total confidence about a second war. The biggest difficulty, Parton said, will be entering Baghdad, "which probably will have to be the scenario," he said.
"Then we're playing on someone else's ball field, and we can't just rely on smart bombs and tanks. We'll have to use occupational troops, and that's where we'll take the most casualties."
Also, this time Hussein will have no reason not to use illegal weapons he may have, since he'll know the United States intends to remove him from power, Castillo said.
Protecting against a chemical or biological attack is a weakness in the military's capabilities, Lyons said.
"Some of it didn't work too good," he said of the protective gear soldiers were issued, and he's not sure the military has adequately improved it.
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