HAMPTON, Va. -- Airman 1st Class Robert Teal left work in his F-15 hangar yesterday and drove his motorcycle over to the Coliseum Mall, still in his combat fatigues. He figured it could be months before he saw a U.S. shopping center again.
Like many Air Force troops inside Langley Air Force Base, Airman Teal spent the day floating in a sea of rumors that his unit was about to get the call to return to Saudi Arabia.
"I basically feel like if we need to go again, we can get the job done," said the 21-year-old F-15 maintenance crew chief from Clayton, N.M. "We did it the first time."
Not that he is as eager as before. Two months ago, Airman Teal got married. Yesterday, he told his wife that they should prepare themselves for the possibility that he would soon have to go back to Saudi Arabia.
"She doesn't want me to go," he said. "And I don't want to go. But if we need to go again, we'll go."
He and his mates in the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing were the first combat forces to pull into Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, in August 1990.
Their F-15s spent nine months running an "air cap" over the desert.
They know that the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing has been the Central Command's designated "contingency unit" for the Persian Gulf. Base officials won't confirm that the 1st Wing has been put on special alert, but they don't try very hard to deny it. If the planes take off, they should be across the Atlantic and in Saudi Arabia in 13 hours.
At the shopping mall, student Edward Rochette, 17, said his father -- an Air Force communications technician in a unit affiliated with the 1st Wing -- was told to expect an order to take off for Saudi Arabia.
"My parents are just hoping he doesn't have to go," Edward said. "We just pray and watch the news."