Baylor Alumnus Recounts Tales Of War To ROTC Cadets

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Former Air Force pilot Russ Gill spoke to ROTC cadets about his experiences in Desert Storm. photo by Alan Hunt
May 28, 2003

"The effects of war are very real. People do get killed."

Gulf War veteran Russ Gill spoke these sobering words at a recent talk with Baylor ROTC cadets. A Baylor alumnus who now lives in Abilene, Gill described the missions he flew as an Air Force fighter pilot and gave advice to the cadets about how to get the most out of their military service.

"The two biggest pieces of advice I can give are to get good grades and to take advantage of any opportunities that come your way. Volunteer for leadership responsibilities in the Corps and take part in summer assignments," he said.

Gill graduated from Baylor in 1988 with a degree in computer engineering and was a cadet in Baylor's Air Force ROTC program, rising to Cadet Corps Commander. He served nine years in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot, primarily in the F-111 fighter jet, and flew 59 combat missions in the Gulf War. During his Air Force career, he was stationed at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England and Cannon AFB in Clovis, N.M.

Gill arrived at RAF Lakenheath, a base in England, fresh out of flight training in the F-111. He immediately attended a meeting in which his commanding officer asked for volunteers for duty in Desert Storm. Less than seven hours later, Gill left for the war. His wife, Judi, remained in England and was responsible for finding lodging, transportation and other basics of daily living.

"She totally supported my decision," he said. "It is important to pick a spouse with the same goals. But I know it was difficult for her. When I left for the war, she was living in a bed and breakfast."

Gill related some of his most memorable and harrowing experiences in the air. He spoke of being fired on by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and surface-to-air missiles and watching comrades die in crashes.

"A lot of mission you can't remember, and some you can never forget," he said.

One mission in particular taught Gill the importance of psychological warfare. He had completed a bombing run over Mosel, Iraq, and was returning to his base at Incirlik, Turkey, when he was requested by Airborne Warning and Control System to fly over an obscure airfield in northern Iraq. On approaching the airfield, Gill discovered that a large contingent of the Iraqi military was engaged in a parade demonstration. He was given a choice by his squadron commander to make a low-level pass over the area or to maintain a high altitude.

"We flew at just a few hundred feet at Mach 1.6 over the parade ground, and members of the Republican Guard were jumping in the ditches," he laughed. "With that one flight and without dropping any bombs, we gave a huge psychological defeat to the Iraqi military."

For his service in the Air Force, Gill received numerous medals, including three Aerial Achievement Medals, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and two Air Force Achievement Medals, among others.

On leaving the Air Force, Gill moved to Abilene, where he purchased a cattle ranch. He also is a 737 pilot for Delta Airlines. He is a candidate for the U.S. Congress for the 17th District of Texas. He and Judi, who graduated from Baylor in 1986, have two children, Brandon, 8, and Taylor, 6.

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