FORT SILL, OK (KSWO) -Soldiers, retired and active duty from various Air Defense Artillery units, joined together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first launch of the Patriot missile system.
The system was designed to take out incoming enemy rockets mid-air by launching missiles at them.
The U.S. Army made history on Jan. 18, 1991, during Desert Storm by shooting down Saddam Hussein's Scuds that were launched toward U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. To commemorate the historic day, a painting of the battle ground in Saudi Arabia was unveiled.
Retired Colonel Joseph DeAntona was a battery commander during the Gulf War and was in charge of one of the first units to use the system. The technology had never been used before, not even by the soldiers going to war with it.
"We did not know if we were capable, or if the system was capable of what we were going to ask it to do. But here is what I did know, I did know my soldiers, I did know we trained hard, I did know that we knew how to fight the Patriot missile system the way it was currently configured, and so with all of those other things we did know we felt confident getting on that plane…albeit I will also tell you nervous," DeAntona said.
Nervous because the stakes were high. At that time, Saddam Hussein was known for using chemical gas on his Scuds, and if they missed, it could take out all the soldiers DeAntona was in charge of.
"In this particular situation, we were about 90 meters away and I was down in the covert, the coms were on and the TCO, the tactical control officer, is communicating to me that they've got the missile on the scope preparing to engage, and then all of a sudden I heard this rumble this noise and I thought the Scud hit the ground," DeAntona said.
Instead of the Scud hitting, the rumble was the Patriot system taking off. A few moments later, they learned they had engaged the Scud.
"It was exuberant, it was high fives, the loud clapping. It was like a game-winning shot, it was like catching the touchdown pass on the last play of the game. It really felt that way, it felt like victory," DeAntona said.
DeAntona hopes young officers in the audience, like Captain Bradley Klusman, will walk away with the heart it took to accomplish the mission.
"The Patriot is something for the future, and it's something that came from the past. The legacy they created, the veterans of Desert Shield and Desert Storm have really set the precedent for us moving forwards and that's what we strive to do is get better and better," Cpt. Klusman said.
The Patriot system is still used to this day by the U.S. Army and our allies to bring down enemy missiles.