From early August 1990 to late February 1991, AFSOC participated in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the protection of Saudi Arabia and the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi forces.
Active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard components of AFSOC all deployed to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the 1st Special Operations Wing with its AC-130s, HC-130s, MC-130s, HM-53s and MH-60s; the 193rd Special Operations Group (Pennsylvania Air National Guard) with its EC-130s; and the 919th Special Operations Group (US Air Force Reserve) with its AC-130s and HH-3s, all deployed south of Kuwait. The 39th Special Operations Wing deployed north of Iraq with its HC-130s, MC-130s and MH-53s. Special Tactics personnel operated throughout the theater on multiple combat control or medical missions.
At 0212 hours, 17 January 1991, elements of the 20 SOS flying MH-53s, along with Army Apache helicopters, successfully destroyed Iraqi Command and Control sites. Because of the air commandos' huge success in piercing the enemy radar screen, the initial air assault in Operation DESERT STORM was successful. Going through undetected, hundreds of allied aircraft dropped thousands of bombs on Baghdad before the Iraqis knew what hit them.
Sadly, one aircraft and crew was lost during a close-air support mission. An AC-130, Spirit 03, was defending a Marine unit when it was struck by a surface-to-air missile.