This picture was taken in Al Udied, in the summer of 2003 by Captain Bill Grimes. It is just another example of guys killing time.
I guess today is the tenth anniversary of the actual start of the Iraq war. The NY Times is encouraging folks to submit articles about where they were when the war kicked off. I did not intend on talking about this because there are better stories to tell.
You can sum up the news like this. Paul S. stated to the tent. “Hey guys we just bombed Baghdad!”
“Wow, I guess that means we are really going to do something.” Rob replied.
This conversation was followed by a hours of boring BBC coverage from a long distance AM radio station. It was torture for me to listen to the station, so I went inside the tent and listened to some music.
I submitted the following piece to the NY Times. I will let you know if I get a hit back. Keep Rocking!
Going to war is a tough concept for anyone to comprehend. Waiting for war is torture. Waiting for that war, in a complete news vacuum is inhumane. That is where I found myself in early March, 2003. A part of the largest C-130 Airlift Squadron since Vietnam. Tabuk, Saudi Arabia was home to 56 C130s from nine Air Guard and Reserve units from Niagara Falls, NY, St Joseph MO, Louisville KY, New Castle DE, Nashville TN, Oklahoma City OK, my unit from Charleston WV. Additionally, there were several squadrons of F-15s tasked to gain and hold Air Superiority during the war. Well over 3,000 personnel sat in the communications black hole waiting for the war to start. No e-mail, no news, no television, no phone calls, no contact with the world.
One of my crew members(Paul S), a Chemistry Major at West Virginia University rigged a make shift radio antenna around our tent and connected it to a tiny hand held radio. It worked best at night, and gave us garbled AM access to a BBC news station. Some nights we stayed in the tent watching war movies others we sat outside listening to the static while talking. The night the war broke out, a small crowd gathered for the latest news briefing.
It was surreal to be in a news blackout and still be in the know. Today, we take the ability to communicate for granted. Just ten years ago, it was a different world. Living in Tabuk, if not for my Flight Engineer we would have resorted to smoke signals.
For my crew, the war started on 29 March, 2003. We flew to Kuwait City, landing in the middle of the biggest C-130 convention I had ever seen. Literally we were parked wingtip to wingtip the entire length of a taxiway which is nearly two miles long. Waiting for hours, we finally got out cargo, five pallets of MREs and water. Our destination was the airport serving Al Nasiriyah, later we found out that was the city where Jessica Lynch was taken captive and on that day was still missing. Private Lynch’s hometown is about 30 miles from Charleston and another pilot in my tent was from her hometown, knowing her extended family.
This was the first of hundreds of flight, I and my crew made into the war ravaged country and several short tours in Afghanistan. Before I quit in 2007, I was shot at by anti-aircraft missiles, guys with AK-47s, kids throwing rocks as we flew over and self-promoting Officers who wanted to use the war as a step latter to become a General.
Rob Akers quit the West Virginia Air National Guard in 2007 after a 13 year career as an Instructor Pilot. He is now a Captain at a major airline and makes his home in West Virginia. He is married with two young children. He has completed the first draft of a novel and blogs at robakers.wordpress.com