CAF stories: Major (Hammy) Hamalainen recounts his experience as a door gunner during operations in Kuwait

Video / April 4, 2016


Maj. Hamalainen:
(Final transcribe – March 22, 2016)

My name’s Major Jon Hamalainen. In the days back in 1990, during the first Gulf War, I was a young warrant officer, 28 years old. Serving with 423 Squadron out of Shearwater, and serving on board HMCS Athabascan. And at that day and time, we sailed on the 24th of August, 1990, to head to a Gulf War that we knew nothing about.

We didn’t know how long we’d go. We left our families behind. So, on board HMCS Athabascan, I was the Warrant Officer, AES Op: Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator. I was the senior of three NCM’s flying on the back of a Sea King. And our duties were very much different than what we used to fly. We had introduced ‘door gunners’ again. So door gunning had not happened in a Sea King ever in its time, but had come back because we were there to protect the ship, and protect the people on board, to make sure that other boats and other ships approaching our Naval task force did not harm us.

The Air Force learned to go back to war. And we had not gone back to war. The Air Force had to learn to adapt; they had to evolve and become modern; they had to learn to react in a different way. And 25 years later, you can see the Air Force is still in war zones, and still in conflict zones. So it hasn’t changed, but it’s matured the Air Force and brought us into the modern era today.

When the Gulf War was coming to an end, the three Sea King helicopters on board drew straws, and my crew drew the lucky straw. We got to fly Ambassador Anderson through Riyadh, back to Kuwait City, land in Kuwait City, and have him escorted back to the Canadian Embassy, where he raised the flag back in Kuwait. Flying through the fires and the smoke; landing in an airport that had been totally bombed out by cluster bombs, was very scary. But probably very exciting, and to this day I still remember it as I always would.    

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