The telephone rang several times. My wife answered it. Since it was the start of another academic year at the university, I assumed that it was some panic-stricken freshman who had missed a class, lost an assignment, or something equally earth-shattering.
It was not a lost or confused student but Colonel Sonny Jones, the director of training for the National Guard of the state of Mississippi. Colonel Jones had just received a message from the National Guard Bureau in Washington asking for volunteers to go to Saudi Arabia. The volunteers had to have some Arabic language training and some knowledge of the Middle East. Since I had both, I agreed to have my name submitted for deployment to the Persian Gulf to help in some way during the present crisis there. I had taught modern Middle Eastern and North African history for over 20 years, had traveled extensively in the Near East (but never in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Kuwait), and had 18 college credit hours in modern standard Arabic. Most of my research, to include my doctoral dissertation, had dealt with French North Africa, particularly the French relationship to Islam and to the Algerian and Moroccan Muslim population, and my publications and work had earned me the rank of full professor. Despite all the academic rewards that went with the rank and position, I was still interested in going to this crisis area.
After serving in the army, I joined the National Guard of Mississippi in 1970 in an armored unit, cavalry to be exact, even though my initial commission as a second lieutenant was in military intelligence, with a foreign area specialty. I had the basic and advanced armor officer's courses, as well as the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and had held positions in both intelligence and armor throughout my career. Having been promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1989, I felt that with the crisis in the Gulf I could be of some service.
Colonel Jones indicated that he would that day send my name and qualifications to the Guard Bureau, and that he believed I would be leaving