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Scud Missile memories amid scars of Gulf War

Flight Sergeant Mike Cotton

Current role: Logistics Command Air - Quality Management

Length of time in service: 32 years (18 were in the RAF prior to joining the RNZAF).

15 January, 2021

Flight Sergeant Mike Cotton was 19 years old when he deployed to the Gulf as part of the Royal Air Force’s 9 Squadron RAF (Tornado bombers) ground crew. 

His most vivid memory was seeing a Scud missile strike a United States accommodation at night, which resulted in a significant loss of lives.

“I heard a US Patriot missile launch about 500m from me to intercept an incoming Iraqi Scud missile.

“There was a huge explosion in the sky and I saw glowing debris fall to the ground. There was a large explosion as the largest piece of debris landed. 

“We had a large hospital adjacent to the airfield and many of the casualties were taken there. I remember seeing rows of ambulances heading to the hospital,” Flight Sergeant Cotton said.

“We lost an aircraft a few days before the deadline issued to Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. Unfortunately the crew died.

“During the conflict another of our aircraft was quite badly damaged by Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, the crew were very lucky to get the aircraft home. The aircraft was full of holes.”

The work tempo was very high, with aircraft flying almost around the clock.

“We worked 14-hour days for three months with only one day off. Our sleep was disrupted frequently by Scud missile attacks,” he said.

“Deploying on this mission has without a doubt shaped me as a person. Currently not many servicemen will experience a war during their career. War is what we train for in the military so I am proud to have done what we are paid to do.

“In recent times I have experienced PTSD related to my service in the Gulf and was part of the New Zealand Defence Force Invictus team that was supposed to go to The Hague earlier this year.”