1st Sgt. Ed Vuolo of Port Charlotte, Fla. drove into Kuwait on Jan. 17, 1991 aboard a Humvee behind the M1A1 Abram Tanks of “Old Iron Sides,” the United States’ 1st Armored Division as part of “Operation Desert Shield.”
It was the tip of a United Nation coalition’s spear that stopped Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, in his tracks after he marched his mechanized troops into the tiny oil-rich desert country and took over.
“The 1st Armored Division started to moved into Kuwait on Feb. 14, 1991. The shooting was all over in 89 hours,” Vuolo recalled with satisfaction 20 years later. “We started by locating the enemy with aerial photographs. At 3 a.m. our planes would fly out and take pictures and provide our headquarters with incredible pictures that morning.
“We could see the enemy bunkers in these pictures. We knew the parameter of their encampments from their barbed wire. We could see everything.
“‘We ran up against the Tawakalna Republican Guard Armored Division, one of Saddam’s elite divisions and wiped them out,” Vuolo said. “When we ran into the enemy we flattened ’em out and kept right on going.
“Before the shooting stopped, in a little more than three days, 1st. Armored knocked out 418 of the Saudi’s Russian-made tanks and 447 personnel carriers,” he said. “One of the reasons Saddam got nowhere was because for 39 days before 1st Armored rolled we controlled the air and softened the enemy up with our air power.”
1st Armored Divisions official record notes: “Along the 259 kilometer march to victory, the division destroyed the 1st. Brigade of the 26 Iraqi Infantry Division, two brigades of the elite Madinah Republic Guard Armored Division, one brigade of the elite Tawalkalina Republican Guard Mechanized Division, two brigades of the 52nd Armored Division, several battalions of the 17th Armored Division and elements of 10 other Iraqi Army divisions.”
Just keeping up with 1st Armored’s tanks was a job as they raced through the desert.
“I was in a new Humvee and the tanks were up ahead of us. It was all we could do to keep up with the them,” Vuolo said.
“When the Iraqi solders rolled into Kuwait they ransacked, they murdered and they raped,” he said. “The hospital in Kuwait was vandalized by Iraqis. There wasn’t a piece of glass in the hospital that wasn’t broken. All the hospital equipment was stolen and taken back to Iraq.
“A Kuwaiti baby was pulled out of an incubator and thrown against a wall of the hospital. You could see the baby’s blood on the wall.” Vuolo said.
“The people in Kuwait were happy to see the 1st Armored Division arrive. They would shake our hands and say, ‘Thank you very much for saving our country.’ That made all the American soldiers feel like they were wanted and they were doing something worthwhile,” he added.
“By the time our flag was put up in Kuwait a cease fire was put in place and we pulled back into Saudi Arabia. After that the 1st Armored Division went back to Germany.”
When Vuolo returned from 16 months in Vietnam in 1970 his father convinced him he should get out of the service and make something of himself. He did and opened a bar in Crown Point, N.Y. For the next 6 years he owned the grog shop until his father passed away in 1976.
Immediately Vuolo sold his bar and reenlisted in the Army. The second time around he qualified as a chemical, biological and nuclear control expert. He spent most of the next two decades in the service teaching Army troops. “After I got my drill sergeant’s training they put me on a platform at Fort Benning, Ga. I stayed there 6 1/2 years and taught 40,000 infantry soldiers how to protect themselves against chemical, biological or nuclear attack,” Vuolo said.
From Fort Benning he transferred to the 1st Armored Division stationed in Germany. It was from there several years later he went to the Middle East to take on Saddam Hussein in 1991.
By 1995 he had served 23 years in the military and decided it was about time he got out of the service and look for a civilian job. He and his wife, Deborah, moved to this area that same year and Vuolo went to work for the Post Office annex in Port Charlotte.
Several years later he learned there might be a better position working in transportation for the Charlotte County School System. He applied for the job and got it. For the past 15 years Vuolo has served as the school bus route manager for the county school system.
He and his wife have two sons: Edward and Michael who live nearby with two houses full of grandchildren.
Name: Edward Allen Vuolo
D.O.B: 15 Sept. 1948
Hometown: Bay Shore, Long Island, NY
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: 1968
Unit: 1st Armored Division
Commendations: Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Southeast Asia Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Valorous Unit Award, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Expert Marksmanship Badge,
Battles/Campaigns: “Tet” in Vietnam and “Operation Desert Shield” in Kuwait
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011 and is republished with permission.
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