The New Year’s Eve holiday was very different for former Army specialist Patrick Dubiel in 1991. That was the day he flew to Saudi Arabia and became part of the 1st Infantry Division’s 34th Armor Regiment.
“They opened the door and it was hot,” Dubiel explained. “Even though it was January, it was still hot and the first thing they told us was you are now a target.”
Dubiel served in the Army from November of 1989 until November of 1992, after enlisting right out of high school. He then spent weeks in intense combat arms training at Fort Knox Kentucky, before deploying to the Persian Gulf.
“We really didn’t now we were going to fight,” Dubiel explained. “Everybody kinda told us you should be prepared for that, but at the time it was really just the defense of Saudi Arabia. The reason we were there.”
After arriving in Saudi Arabia, he spent a few weeks in the country preparing equipment before heading to the desert.
“We’re out there all by ourselves,” Dubiel said. “You kinda got that feeling that it was real then. Really from that time where they dropped us off until the time where they loaded us up and took us back out of the desert again you really were on this heightened state of alert.”
His tank company, made up of 14 tanks with four men in each tank, joined with others.
Dubiel served as an armor crewman on an M-1 tank.
“Your tank is your home,” he explained. “You sleep on it. You live on it.”
Each tank crew was made up of four people and Dubiel said he became close with those in his tank.
“A driver that drives the tank,” Dubiel said describing each person’s job. “You have a loader that loads the main gun, a gunner that shoots it and a commander.”
One of the most tense moments in Dubiel’s service came as part of the Battle for Objective Norfolk.
Forces had already entered Iraq and breached Iraqi defenses when his unit was tasked with assisting another regiment that was engaged in battle with the Iraqi Republican Guard. In order to do that, Dubiel’s unit had to pass through the regiment’s lines and take up the battle.
“First of all we had to road march, I think it was almost 100 kilometers, to meet up with them,” Dubiel explained. “By the time we met up with them it was going to be night time. We had to make sure that we knew where they were at. That they knew who were were. Meet up with them. Pass through them and then continue this battle at that point.”
It was during this battle that his unit suffered it’s first casualty as a result of friendly fire.
“This passage through these lines, which everyone was concerned was going to be confusing and difficult, actually did get confusing and difficult,” Dubiel remembers.
His unit suffered its first casualty that night.
After a ceasefire was signed, Dubiel spent a few more months stationed in the Persian Gulf, stationed on a highway between Iraq and Kuwait.
Eventually he returned home to the U.S. in May of 1991 and was stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas until the end of his enlistment.
“I am glad. I am proud and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Dubiel said. “I mean it made me who I am and what I am.”
Dubiel still keeps in contact with some of the people he served with and attends unit reunions. He said it’s a bond unlike any other and doesn’t think it will stop.
“I met some very unique people serving in the military from all walks of life,” Dubiel continued. “You meet everyone. This mixture of people that you meet, I would say that any soldier that you would talk to, they may not miss the military or the day to day things you went through, but I guarantee every one of them misses the people they met along the way.”