Oral History of Howard DiSavino, Jr.

Operation Desert Storm was a war that was fought in1990 and is known as the Gulf War. This was an escalation from Desert Shield. Desert Storm was known to be one of the most successful war campaigns in the history of warfare. This war was not long at all; lasting about six weeks. President George H. Bush was in office at the time and sent troops over to Iraq. The war was mainly aerial with few ground troops that were sent overseas. The whole point of the war was that Iraq wanted to take over Kuwait and if it conquered Kuwait then Iraq would own more than half of the oil in the Middle East, which means that the United States would have to buy oil from Iraq, causing major problems between the nations. There was also some suspicion that Iraq was creating chemical weapons. This was established because the United Nations would often check Iraq’s military supply to make sure that they were not gaining too much military power and when they refused to let them check, suspicion was aroused. Saddam Hussein developed SCUD missiles and tested them which gave the United States more of a reason to then respond. In the end, Iraq did little damage to American troops and it was a victory for the Americans.

 

My father, Howard DiSavino Jr., was born on May 28, 1972 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He grew up in a single family home due to his parents divorcing at a young age and was raised by his mother and two sisters. Being the only boy in the house, he was the “man of the house” and had to take on that role at a very young age. Since he was raised by women he never watched sports. To this day he doesn’t really care for them; which my mom loves because he spends time with her and my family and not in front of the T.V. He graduated from Lloyd C. Bird High School and then went to college at Virginia Military Institute. During the summer between my dad’s junior and senior year, he enlisted in the National Guard. He went to basic training in Ft. Benning, Georgia and did desert training. After his senior year in high school he went to Advanced Infantry Training, which made him one out of a handful that had previous military experience before entering into V.M.I. At the military institute he was a cadre corporal, which trained the “rats” (this is what freshman are called). Then he was advanced to a platoon sergeant, which organized all the rats. Finally he was advanced to a platoon lieutenant, which was head of the entire platoon. While at the institute he was one out of 15 members of the cadet investment group which managed $100,000 of V.M.I.’s money in the stock market. He graduated from V.M.I. with his Bachelors in Economics and Business and is now a financial advisor.

 

Since my dad was in the National Guard and Infantry he has had many roles and duties that he has had to perform. Specifically, he was an infantry man assigned to the 11 Bravo, Military Occupational Skill (M.O.S.) unit. As this unit’s squad leader, he led the squad on missions that were assigned to him and his unit. While in the National Guard my father and his unit were trained for Urban Warfare. This is to protect the Commonwealth of Virginia in riot situations. They had to do this training every year at Ft. Picket in Blackstone, Va. One year they had their mach city set up to run simulations and my dad and his fellow VMI men in his unit were at the Fire M.O.U.T. (Military Occupational Urban Terrain). While messing around and pushing buttons and popping up silhouette targets on the control panel, they were specifically instructed to not push the red button. One of my dad’s buddies Mike, “accidently” pushed the red button. A siren sounded and immediately the military post was closed down. Of course they did not realize that the red button was an alarm that a soldier had been shot or injured and deployed rescue would be sent immediately within minutes. The post commander, medic unit that was on duty and half of the rescue squad that was from Blackstone, VA came to the site. My dad and all his buddies were reprimanded for triggering a false alarm and creating a panic on post. The company commander was not very pleased and took out his frustration during a special on-site workout session. My dad then told me that he learned if one of them went down, then they all went down.

 

Another experience that stuck with him was in 1992 when he went to Ft. Irwin in California for desert training. His unit was being trained to be deployed to the Gulf War if necessary. He trained three weeks in the desert with temperatures reaching 120 degrees during the daytime and 80 degrees at night. His platoon medic, J.R. Teal, also a fellow brother rat from VMI, was in his unit and they were taking a 13 kilometer hike through the desert at night. The opposing force (OP- 4) cut off water supply and made them re-route the mission. Over half of the soldiers fell out and were not able to continue. His unit had to leave Teal and another soldier on a mountain top and continue on their mission. Teal only had two bags of I.V. fluid for the soldier that was unconscious, but gave him the I.V. through a chem light saving his life. Teal was given an Army Commendation Medal for his heroism. That same hero died in Iraq in 2007 and was V.M.I.’s first casualty to die in the war. My dad’s class has a plaque placed on a special wall for all the fallen soldiers from the Institute. There are also medals hanging in the Institute’s museum to honor those who dedicated their lives for our country.

 

During summer training at Ft. A.P. Hill, VA the soldiers ran drills with C.S. gas (tear gas), which stands for Crowd Suppressant. This gas is a nerve agent that causes the eyes to tear, the nose to run, and any exposed body parts to burn. A drill that my dad’s unit performed was to enter C.S. gas chambers, remove their face masks, and repeat their name, rank, and social security number. My dad said that you could try to hold your breathe and not breathe for as long as possible, but they would keep on asking questions so at one point or another you would have to breath. After one gulp of the gas into your lungs, you would soon realize why it is used to disperse a crowd. After the day of training had ended, all the guys threw their contaminated clothes into their duffle bags and headed out. That same day was my dad’s twenty- first birthday, so he asked the company commander if he was allowed to take two of his buddies and go home for the night. The company commander agreed and they left the base. They all drove home back to Richmond to my dad’s father’s house and had a nice cookout. His stepmother asked if they wanted their clothes to be washed and they all said yes, but forgot to tell her that their clothes were contaminated with C.S. gas. She grabbed the clothes and her hands started burning and she ran outside screaming. My dad’s father, who is ex-military, laughed for ten minutes and helped his wife wash her hands off to stop the burning.

 

Once out of the military my dad met my mother and me, falling in love with us right away. They met in a computer room where they worked and started dating not long afterwards. Two years later, they got married and we all three moved into a house together. A few years after their marriage my sister was born and a few years later my brother arrived. Our family moved to the farm where we now live. My dad is either at work or with our family; the two things that he is most passionate about.

 

Research by Stacey Crostic

Volunteer for the Cold War Museum

Cosby High School

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