For more than a decade, the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron conducted routine A-10 training missions which included numerous deployments and exercises. That routine came to an abrupt end in August 1990, when the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing was deployed as one of the first units in the Persian Gulf to support Operation Desert Shield. When Desert Storm's air war began in January 1991, wing pilots initially flew against early warning radar and Scud missile sites.
The 354th Tactical Fighter Wing also flew search and rescue missions; Captain Paul Johnson earned the Air Force Cross when he and Captain Randy Goff, also of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, rescued a downed Navy pilot 200 miles inside lraq. As the conflict evolved, the Wing turned its attention to deep interdiction missions and the Iraqi Republican Guard. Finally when the ground war commenced in late February, the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing performed the mission it had been trained to do before the war — close air support.
By any account, the devastation was considerable. By the end of the conflict, A-10s throughout the theater destroyed more than 950 tanks, 900 artillery pieces, and two helicopters in air-to-air combat. Despite the rout, the victory was not without cost to the Wing. Captain Stephen Phillis died while protecting his downed wingman,
Lieutenant Bob Sweet. Later captured by the Iraqis, Sweet was repatriated after the war.
The 354th Tactical Fighter Wing returned home from the Gulf in March 1991 and was redesignated the 354th Fighter Wing in October of that year.