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franklin county times

Heely: U.S., allied forces shield Persian Gulf from Iraq

By Staff
MILITARY MESSAGE Al Rosenbaum, left, Meridian Area Navy League second vice president, and Dorothy Allen of the East Mississippi Business Development Corp., speak to Rear Adm. Timothy L. Heely after his remarks Tuesday night at the Navy League's annual meeting. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By William F. West / community editor
Dec. 4, 2002
While a top Navy official didn't know if the United States will go to war against Iraq, he said U.S. and allied forces have long shielded the Persian Gulf region from Saddam Hussein's forces.
Rear Adm. Timothy L. Heely said Tuesday that the national press doesn't give attention to that story or others about Iraqi forces that routinely fire on U.S. and allied aircraft.
Heely spoke to about 130 people at the annual meeting of the Meridian Area Navy League, a civilian organization that educates people about maritime forces.
Heely said the military is constantly bombarded with press accounts that say America can't go to war with Iraq because it must build coalitions and that military officials must find a new way to fight a war.
He said U.S. and allied fighting with Iraq hardly ended after Operation Desert Storm and the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.
He said the United States and its allies last year in the Persian Gulf radioed and questioned about 3,750 ships about their cargo, boarded about 2,000 and diverted about 450 away.
In Iraq, he said, "we continue to overfly the north and south no-fly zones there and last year alone we were fired upon 400 times."
The no-fly zones were drawn by the United States and Britain after the end of the Gulf War but are not recognized by Iraq.
Heely said flights were conducted to protect allies in the south and Kurds in the north from Iraqi forces. He said U.S. and allied aircraft returned fire.
Closer to home, Heely said, the Navy has worked to retain more sailors and officers and upgrade its aircraft and ship strength.
He also said the Navy has worked to end longstanding rivalries between its own forces and with other branches of the U.S. military.
After the speech, attendees at the Navy League's annual meeting said they were pleased with Heely's comments.
Sandra McMullan, a semi-retired businesswoman, said she learned a lot about the Navy. Steve Reetz, a retired businessman, said Heely was informative and straight-to-the-point.
Heely, 49, is stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where the Navy conducts engineering, research and testing of its aircraft.
A rear admiral for more than two years, he's in charge of research and engineering. A native of Belleville, Ill., he joined the Navy in 1975, earned his wings at Naval Air Station Meridian and went on to a career in naval aviation.