AL-MINHAD Airbase in Dubai may not have been exactly what 1st Lt. Ricky Herrington had in mind when he joined the military to see the world.
But a month after Saddam Hussein's army conquered Kuwait, Lieutenant Herrington arrived there with Operation Desert Shield. He would spend the next seven months in personnel there "keeping track of people" as the United States massed its forces and then launched Desert Storm.
Three years earlier, Herrington, who is black, had graduated from Mississippi Valley State University, in his home town of Itta Bena. With a business administration degree, Herrington could have worked in the private sector. He decided military experience could help his career in personnel - plus let him travel.
While he was putting in 16-hour workdays there, his high school English teacher gave Herrington's address to his students. Many wrote to him with serious questions: Why were we fighting this war? Was he afraid?
Herrington seized the opportunity to write a long, thoughtful reply to the students, urging them to think about their futures and begin preparing themselves now. His letter was published in the local newspaper.
With the war over and reductions in force scheduled, he can't predict how much longer he will be in the Air Force. He has heard rumors that "involuntary separations" are planned for next summer. "That's life," he says, shrugging. "A lot of people are dealing with it, even us [in the military]."