Graphic television images depicting the “shock and awe” of exploding bombs in an escalating war in Iraq have brought flashbacks of “Operation Desert Storm” to former Marine Corporal Steven Layman of Sevierville. From 1989 to 1991, Layman was attached to the Marine Corps 2nd Battalion – 8th Marines Service Support Unit, providing anti-terrorist security and combat support as a Military Policeman.
As news broadcasts of the first significant casualties of war were reported in “Operation Iraqi Liberation,” Layman, now 35, reflected on the current television transmissions of Iraqi tanks burning in the desert. “With our build-up of more than 250,000 coalition troops,” he said, “I often remember similar military assignments at the Port of Ail Jubail, Saudi Arabia on the Persian Gulf during “Desert Storm’ in 1991. Our military objective at that time was to liberate Kuwait, which had been invaded by Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican Guards. Then, as Military Police officers, we had a variety of missions to accomplish. One of our foremost missions was to provide perimeter security at the port for arriving American troops, tanks and military equipment. Our secondary mission was to provide executive protection to foreign dignitaries and allied military commanders, like U.S. General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf. Actually, the day before entering the Embassy in Kuwait, a hand grenade was tossed over the wall of the American compound. Fortunately, no one was injured.”
Additionally, as squad leader of two four-man fire teams, Corporal Layman’s men provided escort security for nighttime refueling of Marine Cobra helicopters and M-1 Abrams tanks. “At times we even came under fire from Iraqi artillery rounds,” he remembers. “I have photographs of American Patriot missiles intercepting Iraqi SCUD missiles as they zoomed in at night over Kuwait City.”
Once “Desert Storm’s” ground war vanquished Iraq’s elite Republican Guards, Layman’s Combat Service Support group was assigned with other allied forces to detain, feed and guard over 30,000 squalid Iraqi prisoners of war.
“Those Iraqi Republican Guards had completely run out of water, food, medical and combat equipment. The American air campaign had worn them down. With their tanks and convoys of trucks burning, all they had left was some moldy bread,” Layman distinctly recalls. So far, coalition forces have more than 3,000 POW’s confined in “Operation Iraqi Liberation.”
On Wednesday, February 27, 1991 Corporal Layman distinctly remembers raising the American flag at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City, as a declaration of suspension of offensive combat was announced. He recalls the greatest jubilee of seeing young Kuwaiti children waving to their Marine liberators and cheering, “USA! USA! USA!”
Interestingly, once the American troops headed home from “Desert Storm,” the Marine Police officers were given yet another unique assignment. As troops disembarked through customs at the ports stateside, the Marines were confiscating contraband war souvenirs, such as hand grenades, Iraqi helmets, and RPG’s, or rocket- propelled-grenades. Needless to say, Layman’s family members are strong supporters of the troops stationed in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region right now.
Last week, President Bush asked Congressional leaders to quickly approve $74.7 billion to cover the initial costs of the war in Iraq. Of that figure, approximately $63 billion would be used for the direct military costs of Iraq-related operations. The Pentagon would have authority to spend $59.9 billion of that amount without any further oversight by Congress. At least $8 billion would be designated for the State Department, and at least $4 billion for the Dept. of Homeland Security for police and other emergency responders. The F.B.I. would receive $500 million, while the protectors of Federal facilities and coastlines would get $1.5 billion. Of course, the final tab is hard to estimate, because it isn’t clear how long the battle to oust Saddam Hussein will take, let alone how big the job of rebuilding Iraq will be, or bringing home military equipment and personnel.
Regarding the outcome of the present military conflict, Layman firmly believes, “We will liberate Iraq, just as we did Kuwait back in 1991. Iraq is an extremely oppressed nation that doesn’t know what freedom is. And evil will only prevail if good men do nothing.” Interestingly, Steven Layman is still taking prisoners, working as a Sevier County Deputy Sheriff. But his primarily responsibilities now find him as Director of the newly constructed Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center in downtown Sevierville.
The “Sevier County Support the Troops Rally” is scheduled to meet at the Tennessee Smokies baseball field off Interstate-40 and Highway 66 in April. Local residents and families with sons or daughters in the military will be cordially invited to attend when the date is finalized.

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