3 August 1990
On Friday morning of the August week in 1990 when Iraq invaded
Kuwait, Lieutenant General Chuck Horner was at 27,000 feet,
cruising at .9 Mach (540 knots), and nearing the North Carolina
coast. He was headed out to sea in the Lady Ashley, a recent-model
Block 25 F-16C, tail number 216, that had been named after the
daughter of his crew chief, Technical Sergeant José Santos.
Horner's aide, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Hartinger, Jr., known as
"Little Grr," was on Horner's left side, a mile out, slightly high.
Horner and Hartinger were en route to a mock combat with a pair of
F-15Cs out of the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at Langley Air
Force Base in Tidewater Hampton, Virginia: a winner-take-all
contest that would match wits and flying skills. After that, they
were all scheduled to form up and return to Langley AFB as a flight
of four aircraft.
It was a bright, clear day --- a good day to be in the air. Horner
felt the joy he always did when flying thousands of feet above the
earth in a fast and nimble aircraft, an emotion that few others
ever had the opportunity to experience. Part of it was the feeling
of unity with his aircraft --- the fighter was like an extension of
his mind and body. The brain commanded and the aircraft responded,
with no other conscious motions. In an air battle, a pilot had no
time for unnecessary thoughts. He evaluated angle, range, and
closure with his target, while keeping track of all the fast,
nimble aircraft that were trying to drive him in flames out of the
sky. He thought and the jet reacted.
It was Hartinger's turn to lead, to call how he and Horner would
fly from takeoff to landing, and he had set up a two-versus-two air
combat tactics mission --- what fighter pilots call a 2v2 ACT ---
with the F-15s. Horner was looking forward to it. At Langley, he
was scheduled to attend an aircraft accident briefing with his Air
Force boss, General Bob Russ, commanding general of the Tactical
Air Command. Accident briefings were never pleasant experiences,
even when the accidents were proven to be unavoidable, so Horner
was happy for the chance to "turn and burn" with the guys from
Langley before he hit the painful part of the day.
His policy was to try to maintain his combat skills whenever he
flew his F-16. Even when traveling to an administrative meeting
such as the one at Langley, he liked to make the trip worthwhile.
It was a good way to stay up-to-date with the younger --- often
much younger --- pilots he might someday lead into real
He was in his fifties, but he wasn't too old to go up against an
enemy. He could hold his own with most U.S. fliers; and those
fliers were better than 95 percent of anyone they might meet. What
he'd lost in eyesight and physical stamina, he made up for with
experience and brains. Experience atrophied with disuse, however,
and he needed to know firsthand not only that his combat skills
were current and credible, but also what the younger fighter jocks
were doing, what they were practicing --- their aerial, radio, and
shooting discipline and tactics.
Fighter pilots are members of a very tiny, elite tribe, who also
happen to be the most arrogant group on earth. Flying
high-performance jets is a consummate art, and to be merely
somewhere near the top of the food chain doesn't begin to make it.
They want to be the top. If there's nobody around you left to beat,
there's still yourself. That means if a commander does not remain
credible, a pilot may be reluctant to obey his lead. In war,
failure to obey in the strictest manner can get people killed. So
Horner felt he owed the people he commanded the duty to remain
up-to-date in the use of his equipment, in tactics, and in
understanding the stresses they faced.
Since April 1987, Chuck Horner had been commander of Ninth Air
Force, which supervised the Air Force's Active and Reserve Fighter
Units east of the Mississippi River. In that position, he also
served as the air component commander for the Central Command, the
United States military organization responsible for national
security interests in the Middle East and parts of East Africa
(except for Israel, Syria, and Lebanon). In 1990, Central Command
was led by Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. It was Horner's job
as CENTAF Commander to work with his foreign counterparts in a
region that stretched from Egypt to Pakistan and to plan military
operations --- air campaigns that might be needed should a crisis
arise that endangered the interests of the United States. It was
also his job to make sure that U.S. air units were combat-ready,
and that the logistics were in place to support them during a rapid
deployment in peacetime or war. And finally, it was his job to
command air assets that had been deployed to the region --- during
the recent Iran-Iraq war, for instance, USAF E-3A AWACS radar
aircraft had kept watch over Saudi Arabia in order to prevent the
local conflict from spilling over the border. When Horner wasn't
visiting his assigned bases in the United States, he was visiting
the nations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
The job kept Horner in the air and away from home much of the time.
Somewhat unexpectedly, he had discovered that he had a second home
in the Gulf region. Over the years he had made many friends there,
especially with other airmen, and as he'd grown more familiar with
them, both professionally and as a guest in their homes, his
respect for them had increased. He'd come to admire their ways,
their differences from westerners, their pride in their own
nations, and their reverence for God. In time he'd also come to
love the nations that had given them birth, with their rich
history, culture, and scenic beauty; he found himself devouring
whatever books on them he could find.
When these friendships developed, he had no idea how valuable
they'd turn out to be later.
The two hats Chuck Horner wore --- as Ninth Air Force and CENTAF
Commanders --- derived from a generally little-known but
far-reaching transformation in military structure brought about by
the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act.
Goldwater-Nichols revolutionized the way the United States military
Each of the military services has its own culture and traditions,
its own sources of pride and ways of doing things, but these
differences, in addition to the inevitable competition for
resources and status, can easily get in the way of cooperation.
Meanwhile, the speed --- the tempo --- of warfare grows ever
faster; and war becomes more lethal. The U.S. military must be able
to project massive, shattering force quickly from many directions
--- land, sea, air, and space --- which means, among other things,
that service parochialism is an expensive and dated luxury. The new
military mantra is "jointness" ---- all the services must be able
to work together as well and as comfortably as with members of
their own organizations.
Goldwater-Nichols aimed to implement "jointness" by breaking the
hold of individual services on their combat forces. All operational
control was taken away and given to regional Commanders in Chief
(Europe, Central, Pacific, Southern, and to some extent Atlantic,
Korea, and Strategic) and functional Commanders in Chief
(Transportation, Space, Special Operations, and to some extent
Strategic and Atlantic Command). This meant that the services
became responsible only for organizing, training, and equipping
military forces. Once the forces were operationally ready, they
were assigned to one of the Unified Commanders. Thus, a fighter
wing in Germany no longer was controlled by the Air Force, but
would logically be assigned to EUCOM, a destroyer off the coast of
Japan to PACOM, a satellite to SPACECOM, and a stateside army
division could be assigned to any of the unified commands.
As the Ninth Air Force Commander, Chuck Horner worked for Bob Russ,
the TAC Commander, who in turn worked for Larry Welch, Chief of
Staff of the Air Force. As CENTAF Commander, he worked for Norman
Schwarzkopf, who worked directly for Secretary of Defense Dick
Cheney. The Joint Chiefs of Staff could meet in Washington and
advise Colin Powell, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but neither
Powell nor any of the service heads had direct operational
authority over Schwarzkopf, unless Cheney wished it (as did, in
fact, happen). Likewise, neither Bob Russ nor Larry Welch had
operational authority over Horner in his role as CENTAF
The new system created by Goldwater-Nichols was not universally
popular in the Pentagon, but the people in the field loved
Meanwhile, the first week of August had been a difficult --- and
strange --- time for the CENTAF Commander. In late July, when the
Iraqi Army had begun massing on the border with Kuwait, he had put
on alert the 1st TFW's F-15C Eagles at Langley and the 363d TFW's
F-16C Fighting Falcons at Shaw AFB in Sumter, South Carolina, where
he himself was based. On the night of August 2, a Wednesday, Iraq
had invaded Kuwait, such a blatant act of thuggery that Horner had
expected an immediate U.S. response. With Kuwait in Saddam
Hussein's bag, Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich Gulf Arab states
were very much at risk. Several divisions of Iraq's powerful
Republican Guards were poised in an attack posture along the
Saudi-Kuwait border. Horner could not imagine how the United States
could allow Saddam further loot. If sabers were to be rattled, then
Ninth Air Force was likely be the first one to get the call.
For the next two days, Horner expected to hear from General
Schwarzkopf, his Unified Command boss, yet so far he had not heard
a word either from him or from CENTCOM headquarters at MacDill AFB
in Tampa. Since the Iraqi army had poured across the border to
Kuwait, there had been a truly eerie silence. So he had just kept
to his schedule for the week as planned. On Friday, he flew off
The radio broke Horner's thoughts. Grr was calling for a "G"
warm-up exercise, a necessary precombat discipline in the very hot
and quick F-16s. Pilots needed to know that their G suits and other
protective systems were working, and that they themselves were
ready for the rapid onset of G forces. Otherwise there was the
danger of a blackout and an unpleasant encounter with the ground.
He put himself through a ninety-degree turn to the left at 4 Gs,
then 4.5 Gs, as he pulled back harder on the stick grip in his
right hand. He ran through a mental checklist: G suit inflating
properly; breathing not too fast, not too slow; as he strained to
force the blood up into his brain. No dimness in vision --- the
small vessels in the eyes were the first warning signs that the
brain cells were being denied oxygen-rich blood. All was going
well. He rolled out, then lowered the nose, and throttled at full
military power as his left hand pushed the power lever forward as
far as it would go. He quickly rolled into a ninety-degree turn
back to the left. Six Gs this time, again running through the
checklist, pleased that his fifty-three-year-old body could handle
the pain and strain of the heavy G forces. Meanwhile, even as it
squeezed his thighs and calves --- forcing blood into his upper
body --- the rock-hard, inflated G suit felt as if it were trying
to pinch him in two. Once again everything was in order. He rolled
out, checked for Grr on the left. Their formation was still good.
Now they needed only to cruise out to the east end of the ACM
practice area and wait for the 1st TFW Eagles to show up.
As they crossed the Atlantic coast, Horner's jet almost
imperceptibly shuddered, as single-engine jets always seemed to do
when a pilot got beyond sight of land. He instinctively checked the
gauges . . . all of them were in the green.
Then the radio came alive.
"Teak One, this is Sea Lion. Your F-15s have canceled and
Washington Center asks that you contact them immediately."
Sea Lion was the Navy radar station at Norfolk, Virginia, that kept
track of military training airspace out over that part of the
Atlantic. In an instant, Horner knew what was up --- a recall to
Shaw. Grr called them over to 272.7 MHz, the proper UHF channel to
contact the center controller, checked Horner in, and gave
Washington Center a call.
"Washington Center, Teak One. Understand you have words for
"Teak One, this is Washington Center. We have a request that you
return to Shaw AFB immediately. Do you need direct routing?"
"Roger, Washington. We'd like to go present position direct
Florence direct Shaw FL 320," that is to say, flight
"Roger Teak, cleared as requested. Squawk 3203." Grr then dialed a
setting into his onboard radar transponder, the transponder
transmitted a code that was used to cue the ground controllers, and
"3203" was displayed over their return blip on the Center's radar
My God, Horner thought, stunned, as he and Grr turned back toward
Shaw. It's on. This has to be about the Iraqi invasion. A million
questions roared through his mind: Have the Iraqis entered Saudi
Arabia? How much force will we deploy? How fast can we get our
Ninth Air Force squadrons in the air to rendezvous with the SAC
tankers? How much heavy airlift is available to get our spares and
maintenance people deployed to the Middle East? How do we get our
pre-positioned tents, munitions, fuel, and medical equipment from
their warehouses in Oman and Bahrain, and from the ships at anchor
in the lagoon at Diego Garcia? And inevitably, How many young men
and women will die?
Thank God for Internal Look, Horner thought. Every second year the
Commander in Chief of CENTCOM held an exercise in the United States
in which his staff planned for a mock war. CENTCOM's forces were
then brought into the field to execute that "war." The actual
component commanders, such as Horner, John Yeosock of the Army,
Walt Boomer of the Marines, and Schwarzkopf himself would deploy
with their staffs and forces and conduct the kind of operations
they might use in a real crisis. In the process, they learned to
work with each other and to test the staff's and their own
abilities, and the CINC was able to evaluate his team and learn how
to use them and all of his forces to best advantage. In the
intervening year the CINC would hold training exercises in the
Middle East, where U.S. soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen
could experience life in the desert and serve side by side with
their Arab counterparts.
In the early days after the founding of CENTCOM, it had been feared
that the Russians would attack south through Iran, thus attempting
to make real a long-standing, indeed, pre-Soviet dream. Early
CENTCOM plans, consequently, had been aimed at stopping such a
move. By November 1989, when General Schwarzkopf had taken over
CENTCOM command, the Soviets were not about to attack anywhere, so
CENTCOM had had to look for a new mission. They didn't have to look
far. After the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq had been left with a huge,
well-equipped, well-trained, and seasoned military force and an
astronomical debt. How do they pay off the debt? Norman Schwarzkopf
asked himself. They go where the money is: south, into Kuwait, and
if they are really ambitious, into Saudi Arabia. As a result,
General Schwarzkopf had directed that the 1990 Internal Look
exercise take off from the premise that Country Orange (read: Iraq)
had invaded some of its Gulf neighbors. Thus, early in August of
1990, when Iraq actually followed the Country Orange scenario,
Schwarzkopf and his staff had a considerable head start on the
planning needed for a U.S. military response to the invasion of
All these thoughts got shoved into the back of Horner's mind when
Shaw AFB appeared under his nose. They were about 1,500 feet up;
Grr guided their airplanes over the runway without slowing down.
Horner took a quick glance at the airspeed displayed on the
windshield's heads-up display; they were on the initial approach at
a screaming 450 knots.
They were going to make a pitchout --- a loop laid on its side ---
that would bring them down to runway level while they slowed down
to landing speed. It was not an especially difficult maneuver if
the pilot didn't mind pulling a lot of Gs and working to maintain
the same altitude and spacing as the other aircraft in the flight
as he rolled out in the landing pattern. It was something like
driving down the street at 250 mph in formation with other cars
going the same speed, then making the corner together. Of course,
the leader wants to keep the maneuver tight, with the guys behind
him in tight, so he doesn't want to make the turn too loose, or
else everyone else in the flight will spread out, and the landing
will be inelegant. Inelegance is not an option.
The downside to making the turn too tight is to spin out and
Horner felt the extra Gs needed to slow down in the pitchout force
him down into his seat, then he took a little extra spacing on Grr
in the event Hartinger turned a wide base. He wanted to save enough
room to cut inside of him if Grr got wide on final approach, but
still not overrun his aircraft. As usual, though, Grr kept the base
leg tight, just outside the runway overrun. Horner grinned, put the
gear down, lowered the nose sharply, and pulled the F-16 around
with the stall warning sounding a steady noise in his headset. It
was about 11:00 A.M.
After they landed and parked, José Santos, their crew chief,
approached the aircraft, a worried look on his face. He figured
they'd returned because of a mechanical problem, which would be a
slap in the face for him. José disappeared for a moment to
insert the ground safety pin into the emergency hydrazine tank that
powered the F-16's electrical systems and hydraulics if the engine
failed. When he emerged, Horner gave him an OK sign, and his
worried look changed into a relieved grin. After that, Horner ran
through the engine shutdown checklist: inertial navigation system
off, throttle off, and canopy up.
All about them, the ramp was silent. Shaw had been ready for two
weeks to go to war, so local flying was at a minimum.
As soon as Horner climbed down the ladder, he told José to get
the jet ready to go. He suspected he'd be on the ground only a
short time. Meanwhile, Grr came running over. Horner told him to
file a flight plan for MacDill; then he shrugged out of his G
It's hard to look anything but rumpled when you shed a G suit, but
this was not a problem for Chuck Horner. For him, rumpled was
normal. He had a comfortable, but not pretty, bloodhound face,
sandy, thinning hair, and a bulldog body. He looked nothing like
Tom Cruise or Cary Grant, or any other Hollywood fighter-jock
image. On the other hand, Horner moved with great verve and dash;
he had an easy, infectious laugh and a wicked wit; and inside his
bloodhound head was one of the sharpest, quickest minds inside the
Air Force or out. He liked to play the Iowa farmboy, but he'd come
a long way out of Iowa.
He walked over to his staff car, threw his G suit in the backseat,
and drove to his office in the headquarters Ninth Air Force/CENTAF
building just two blocks away.
Horner's secretary, Jean Barrineau, was waiting at the door of the
outer office. A tall, slender, middle-aged woman with light brown
hair who looked younger than her years, Jean was the Ninth Air
Force Commander's brain. She ruled his schedule, yet she wielded
her power lightly. Most of the time a visitor would find her with a
twinkling face, her eyes shining with amusement, and a little-girl
smile, as though she was playing some private joke on her boss ---
which she often did.
Today there were no tricks and no smiles. She was worried and all
business. "General Schwarzkopf wants you to call him," she said,
He blew past her into the office.
The office was institutional but pleasant, with the inevitable
government-issue big mahogany desk at one end and a small seating
area at the other. The walls held the collection of "I love me"
plaques and pictures a man accumulated in the military as he went
from base to base. On one wall was a large painting of an F-15 with
Horner's name painted on the canopy rail --- a gift from the 2nd
Squadron at Tyndall AFB in Florida, where he'd served from 1983 to
'85. On the coffee table in the seating area was a copy of the Holy
Bible and the Holy Koran; the Bible came from the base chapel, the
Koran from a friend in Saudi Arabia. Both were in English. Around
the room on various end tables and bookcases were the odds and ends
he had gathered while traveling around the world. A gold-colored
dagger was a gift from the AWACS crews in Riyadh, a bronze block
paperweight commemorated his time in TAC Headquarters as the deputy
for Plans and Programs, and there were fighter squadron plaques
from the Ninth Air Force units with whom Horner had flown training
sorties during base visits. To the right of the back wall was a
door that led to the toilet and washstand he shared with his
deputy, Major General Tom Olsen. A large, computerlike telephone
was located on a credenza under the office's rear window, directly
behind the desk. It shared the space with a few books of the trade,
including his F-16 Pilots Handbook and a copy of the United States
Military Code of Justice. The phone looked like a computer, because
in fact it was a computer, designed to scramble conversations, and
it featured thirty or more hot-line buttons that connected with
locations in the building and around the world.
Horner sat down behind his desk and punched the top right red
switch hot-line button; it was marked "CINCCENT." Schwarzkopf's
Master Chief answered after the first ring; she said the General
would be on the line right away. A moment later, the gruff yet
friendly voice of H. Norman Schwarzkopf came on the line. "Chuck,
can you come down to MacDill?"
This wasn't a request. It was simply a civilized way to say,
"Lieutenant General Horner, this is General Schwarzkopf. Get your
ass in my office as soon as possible."
"Yes sir," Horner answered, in his best subservient military voice,
then added, "Can you tell me what this is all about?"
General Schwarzkopf confided that he was flying up to Washington
the next morning to brief the President on the situation in Kuwait,
and about the options the President could consider should the Iraqi
Army continue its advance into Saudi Arabia --- a possibility that
was worrying the President just then.
"I'll be right there," Horner responded quickly.
When he told Jean he'd be off for MacDill, she said that she had
already called TAC Headquarters at Langley AFB, and told General
Russ's secretary that he'd miss the accident brief. He smiled and
headed out to his F-16. It was then about one o'clock. They'd be in
Tampa about two.
It was Horner's time to lead the flight, and in the best of all
possible worlds, he would have put together a low-level transit to
Tampa; but they didn't have time to plan that. It was first things
first; a potential air war got priority over training and
The trip itself was a blur. His head was a swarm of thoughts and
plans --- deployment concepts, numbers of sorties, bombs, enemy
fighters, data from a dozen exercises, hundreds of briefings,
endless hours of planning over the past three years for a threat
from the north. Yet he was in no way anxious. He knew he was ready,
well trained, and well supported by a dedicated staff of men and
women. Some of them, in fact, had been at Shaw AFB back in the
early eighties when the then CENTAF Commander Larry Welch (later
the Air Force Chief of Staff) had formed the first Air Force
component of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, before RDJTF
had become CENTCOM about 1982.
The RDJTF had come about when U.S. political leaders realized that
the industrial world's primary oil supply was located in one of the
most dangerous neighborhoods on the globe, and that America's
allies there did not have sufficient population to create a
military force capable of protecting it. The RDJTF concept had been
to create a hard-hitting strike force of Army, Navy, Marine Corps,
and Air Force units capable of deploying halfway around the world
on a moment's notice; hence the terms "Rapid Deployment" and
"Joint." Unfortunately, when it had first started, it had been
neither very rapid nor very joint. In the intervening years,
successive leaders had honed the deployment skills of their units,
and practiced fighting as an integrated team in numerous joint
exercises in the California deserts.
Thus, Horner's Ninth Air Force team had been preparing to go to war
in the Middle East for the past decade. Endless hours had been
dedicated to intelligence workups of the region and its people. The
operations and logistics staffs had fought many paper wars, using
computers to evaluate their plans, strategies, and tactics. Now all
that work, all that study, and all that planning was to be put to
Excerpted from EVERY MAN A TIGER © Copyright 2002 by Tom
Clancy. Reprinted with permission by Berkley Publishing Group. All
Every Man a Tiger