As a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Chad Hale has a good idea of what his son is seeing during a deployment to Afghanistan.
There are differences, of course. Kuwait was hot when Hale, of Chickasha, served there — much hotter than the area of Afghanistan where Spc. Joshua Hale is serving.
But one of the most noticeable similarities is the sand. It’s finer than the coarse sand found on beaches, Chad Hale said, and it gets everywhere.
“It’s like baby powder,” he said.
The younger Hale, an Oklahoma National Guard soldier, is serving as a rocket launcher crew member in Afghanistan with the Battery A, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery Regiment, 45th Fires Brigade. It’s the same unit his father served in during the Gulf War.
The Hales aren’t the only father-and-son pair from the unit. Sgt. Matthew Schoolfield, of Ninnekah, served as the crew’s launcher chief. His father, Richard Schoolfield, also served in the unit during Desert Storm.
During the unit’s deployment to Kuwait in late 1990, soldiers fired 903 rockets in support of coalition efforts to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Since 9/11, the 158th Field Artillery Regiment has deployed thousands of soldiers. Until recently, however, the regiment hadn’t fired a single rocket on any of those deployments. Instead, soldiers from the regiment were given other tasks like security and convoy support.
Then in October, the Lawton-based Battery A deployed to Afghanistan with its first artillery mission. In January, the crew fired two rockets, destroying an enemy repeater tower. It was the first time the unit had fired a rocket in a combat situation since 9/11.
The deployment is Joshua Hale’s first. In a telephone interview from Afghanistan, he said he had been training with the same crew for about three years, preparing for anything the deployment might require.
Hale said it was no coincidence that he ended up in the same unit as his father. Chad Hale didn’t talk much about what he did while he was in Kuwait, but Joshua Hale knew his father had fired rockets.
“My dad raised me in a military household,” he said. “When I found out what he did in Desert Storm, I wanted to do the same thing.”
Chad Hale said he was proud when he found out his son would be following in his footsteps. But as a parent, he was concerned, he said. The unit fired countless rockets during his deployment, and seeing the damage they wrought took an emotional toll.
“I don’t want him to have to go through that,” he said.
Matthew Schoolfield was 17 when he decided to enlist, meaning he needed his parents’ permission. His mother had her concerns about the decision at first, he said.
But his father, who couldn’t be reached for an interview, supported him, and his mother has come around to the idea.
“They’ve supported me 100 percent on it,” Schoolfield said.
My dad raised me in a military household. When I found out what he did in Desert Storm, I wanted to do the same thing.”