Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Listening to Oasis While Flying Over Kuwait, Night Insertion Return to Najaf Desert With Apache Escort, Bad News: LT Kenny and Others Killed

1 June, 2004 1805 FOB Duke, North Najaf

I’m back at FOB Duke waiting to go back to Najaf. We flew in with our UAVs last night on a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter with an AH-64 Apache gunship escort. We flew low across the countryside and desert for about 40 minutes out of Baghdad to here. The back door of the Chinook stayed open during the flight. I filmed and watched everything with night vision goggles. At one point during the flight, someone spotlighted us on the ground, and the Apache immediately banked to investigate. During the flight, the cabin stayed pretty hot even though it was midnight. It’s no wonder that Chinook got shot down last year by a heat-seeking missile. Pilots call the desert “the big marshmallow,” and you could see why when looking through the NVGs
Our flight from Kuwait to BIAP actually went well. We did a combat landing that woke everyone up with wide eyes. I would guess we rapidly descended from around 12,000 feet, feeling weightless for a while. Suddenly we began to feel a tremendous amount of g-force on our bodies, exceeding anything I’ve ever felt on a rollercoaster. We experienced this for at least 20 seconds. After 20 seconds, I figured we should experience level flight, but the g-level remained high. Once things returned to normal, I was able to see trees and houses rushing past my C-130 window. We were very, very low. After a pair of tight turns, we made a fast landing, safe and sound.
Nothing notable happened at BIAP, it was just good to get some sleep and relaxation. Now we’re back at Duke and waiting to go to Najaf. I’m not helping Pinto coordinate anything anymore. He tried to get me to coordinate for our property cards from a major in Kuwait, but I told him my job is to lead soldiers and not to tell officers how to do their job. He laid off ever since.
When I got into FOB Duke last night, one of the first things I learned was the names of the two soldiers from 3-32 AR killed on Sunday. Pinto told me it was Emerson and LT Kenny. When I heard Kenny’s name, I froze up in shock, then felt like crying, then felt like yelling. He was a prior service soldier who worked hard to get his commission, but now had been killed. I still can’t believe it. His loader’s machinegun caught a branch, turned towards Kenny, and in a freak accident, fired right into him. Emerson was killed too, but under what duty position, I do not know. I do know that an RPG struck him in the head and took it off. I’ll learn more as time passes. I can’t believe we lost Kenny though. He worked hard, and I know it. He seemed sober lately though, like CSM Francis was before he died, and that’s disturbing to look back on. He’s in peace now, but I feel sorry for his wife. I feel so thankful to have my life and to have you. We lost another good guy. I’ve got to finish school, if only to honor the people I know that have died, and make the world a little better.
Back at Udairi, as I haven’t written much about it, I learned to fly the Raven UAV. We took a night C-130 flight arranged just for us to Ali-Al-Saleem airbase. I listened to Oasis as we flew in over Kuwait City. I could see Kuwait City all lit up at night from my C-130 window (I always try to sit next to one). My goal was to try and spot the observation spires along the north shore, as I’d never seen them before. After orienting my eyes along the shore, we flew past the towers at a close distance. I was excited to see them. I’m going to stop writing now because my pen is going out!

I laughed as I remembered something. One day on Baker, we were told to pick up all the trash in the courtyard, which also happened to be the impact area for some of the mortar rounds that targeted us. That was our garrison instinct showing. We were in combat operations, yet picking up cigarette butts that the Spanish army left there shortly before retreating to Kuwait was a priority. We picked up Spanish butts, picked up loose pieces of paper, and made the place look good. I was just hoping we didn’t get hit by a round. We laughed and cursed as we gathered broken pieces of ugly concrete and picked plastic sheeting from barbed wire.

[1] Night Vision Goggles


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