ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — Not many military officers can say they fought in three wars, but U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Petit can. The 54-year-old West Pointer, who is now retired and living in Alexandria, Virginia, was just a young Second Lieutenant when he commanded a platoon of M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles during the first Gulf War in 1991.
“We were the right flank of Seventh Corps that did the big left hook into Iraq. My battalion was on the right flank, in fact, my company was the right flank of the right flank,” explained Petit as he sat in his townhouse near the Old Torpedo Factory.
Operation Desert Shield, the buildup, took almost five months to complete before Operation Desert Storm saw the first American troops move into Kuwait and start kicking Iraqi troops out of the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom. The first Gulf War lasted just over 100 hours, but Lt. Petit was at Safwan Airfield in Iraq when it ended.
Lt. Petit’s platoon was chosen to provide security for the Iraq delegation when they arrived for talks at Safwan Airfield.
“It’s something I will always remember,” said Petit.
He said he never thought for a moment that he would ever have to return and fight the Iraqis, but he did when the U.S. invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. Six nights later, Major Petit was orbiting in an Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft [AWACS] at 35,000 feet aircraft over northern Iraq.
As the Executive Officer of the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade, Petit choreographed the largest airborne assault since the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions jumped behind Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6th, 1944.
Petit stood behind Colonel Pat Carpenter, the brigade’s intelligence officer seated at a console aboard the AWACs and choreographed the dropping of 1,000 Sky Soldiers from the brigade into the Kirkuk region; home to the largest oil fields in Iraq.
In addition to being the biggest airborne assault since WWII, the assault into northern Iraq on the night of March 26, 2003, was also the first time that 70-ton M-1A1 Abrams main battle tanks and 30-ton M2 Bradleys were flown to a battlefield.
“We didn’t know what awaited the airborne infantry, so we decided to provide them with some real firepower,” said Petit.
Before leaving Afghanistan, Lt. Colonel Petit received a Bronze Star from another West Pointer, General David Petraeus who commanded all U.S. forces in that war-torn country. After hanging up his uniform, Kevin Petit earned a Ph.D in international relations at George Washington University.
The urge to jump is still strong and Petit satisfies that urge by serving as an instructor for a non-profit called “Jump For Valor,” an organization based on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, that helps veterans deal with service-related issues like PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, by teaching them how to overcome their fear of height and jump out of a small plane with other skydivers.