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Brush with history…

August 12, 2014

If this is true then I guess I should be thankful that I met Lynndie in Iraq and not at my kid’s school. Photo from Yahoo.



Hey Y’all,


This morning I was sitting in the Charlotte-Douglass Airport waiting for the next flight to Knoxville, Tennessee where I will be working this week. Days like today are not my favorite as I dozed off last night about 2:00 AM only to wake at 3:10 AM to make my way to the airport. It is a long night followed by a short day followed by another long night. Oh the joys of being a professional vampire. Since I have time, we might as well get a short story in.


When we last left off it was late November 2003, Kuwait. I had just returned from Germany because of a minor medical issue. My good friend, Kyle A. had taken over my crew and when I returned, we spoke and I suggested that he continue to fly in my spot and I would tag along as an extra crew member. Our deployed Commander, Sleepy thought it was a good idea so we pressed on. I assumed the role of Load Master and spent my time working in the back with Ron B. We had a good time and he was glad to have some help although I was more trouble than I was worth.


We only had two flights like this before we were scheduled to return home. I don’t remember anything from the first flight so I assume it went without incident. The second flight we were doing troop rotations back to the states. At this time, the Army folks had been in Iraq since early February and were approaching their rotation dates but since Iraq was turning into a long term commitment, they had long since earned the right to go home for some rest and relaxation. They were given three weeks off and the C-130 was the first step on their journey. All smiles and giggles, these men and women were ready to get on board and head out. We configured for 60 passengers and a couple of baggage pallets. We were going from Kuwait City to Baghdad and back three times in a single day. I remember Kyle asked me if I wanted one of the legs. I knew he was joking but I also knew how tired he was because a 20 hour day is still long. Of course I said no. I was kind of digging the Load Master job, working hard on the ground and napping in the air. It was nice to be on the other side of the phrase, “Gear Up, Feet Up.”




C-130 unloading cargo in the middle of the dessert. This is from the first Gulf War. Photo from Dave Weddington.



On every stop, we surveyed the troops looking for two lucky souls to sit up front. The crew bunks were better than any bed in the Army and it was nice to have some leg room up front. Plus it was kind of cool to get a couple of 20 year old kids and find out what was really going on in the war from their perspective. We always looked for soldiers from West Virginia first, then females for Kevin the Co-pilot and Gummy Bear the Flight Engineer, and if we couldn’t find someone then we picked the two lowest ranking people. I made more than one Colonel mad when I told them there were no seats up front and then walked two Privates up front. Standing on the dark ramp with the Army guys, I was running my mouth while Ron was working and I came across the “home run” of all troops. A female, Private First Class from West Virginia; I was talking to some guy asking if anyone was from WV and he just pointed and said “She is from West Virginia.”



It would have been easy to find a less flattering photo of Lynndie but I want to be fair to her. It is very possible that my memories of her personality cloud my memories of what she really looked like. Photo from yahoo.


I did a double take to just to make sure this person was a female. He assured me she was so I asked her name and sure enough. She was a girl. I can be a practical joker so I took her with me and we went to Ron. The sweat was pouring off of his head when I interrupted his work. We were a very informal crew and didn’t use rank when we spoke to each other. It was all first names or nick names. They called me Rob. I’m sure this person wasn’t sure how to react when a Master Sergeant rebuffed a Captain for not helping him work, but I probably earned his attitude.


I said. “RB, this is Lynndie and she is going to sit up front with the boys.”


He literally looked at me like I was stupid and looked at her for what seemed a lifetime. Then he broke into a huge smile. He told her where to stand then ordered me to help him strap down the luggage. Rarely have I seen someone work so hard while laughing. He knew what I knew and he liked it. He told her to be the last one on the airplane and waited until the lights were out before he escorted her up front. He got her up front, on headset and buckled in. I was outside monitoring the engine start. When they were running, I closed the crew door and he waived me to the back with him.


lynndie 5

Load Master watching the engines start. Photo from Yahoo.


He said. “Dude, that is one ugly girl. I thought she was a dude but I couldn’t figure out why his mom gave him a girl’s name.” Up front, the two pilots could not see her, they just heard her voice. Harry the Nav and Gummy Bear could see her and they were in on the joke. Everyone started making comments about how Kevin was single, blah, blah, blah. Kevin is too smart and too professional to be crude but there were a few moments of not so innocent flirting between the two but it didn’t last long. Of course, RB and I were literally crying listening to the conversation. Once she started talking and all innocence was lost.


We learned that Lynndie worked in a chicken processing plant across the WV border in Maryland. She took great pains to describe how they treated the chickens before they were processed (killed). I will not describe the details of what they did, but to describe it as inhumane is generous. Ten minutes into the flight, Lynndie had managed to make six aircrew guys sit in silence. Trying to change the subject someone asked what she did in Iraq. She was a guard at the former Iraqi prison called Abu Ghraib. For the next ten or so minutes she very graphically described how they treated the detainees. Honestly, the chickens under her care had it better than the prisoners. After she finished speaking, the only responses from us were checklist items only. No one said a word for the last hour of the flight. No one wanted to give her a chance to tell us something we didn’t want to hear.


lynndie 2

Lynndie described this scene to us as well as more. What they did to the prisoners was wrong and disgusting. These people were out of control and they did not get their just punishment. No matter what you might read about what they did, I promise there is more you don’t know. Photo from yahoo.


After we landed, cleared the airplane and unloaded the pallets. We held an impromptu huddle under the tail of the airplane. We were all in shock, it is hard to shock a bunch of aircrew guys but this woman did it. The rest of the night all we asked ourselves was could it be true? Two days later, we rotated out and went home. None of us forgot about what we heard. We spoke about it with the other crews, they asked the same questions we did and we all came to the conclusion that the things she described could not happen in a US military prison. The USA does not treat prisoners of war like she described. We knew the rules, no pictures of POWs, give them water, keep them safe, and protect them because they can’t protect themselves.



She never mentioned to us that they were directed to do this by a higher authority. This might be the truth but it sounds like lawyer talk to me. Photo from yahoo.


It couldn’t have been true, therefore she was lying. That was the only thing that made sense. The morning after we returned, Saddam was captured in his spider hole. Things were looking up. A few weeks later there was a new story. A story about prisoner abuse, shocking to say the least. Since Kyle was technically in command of the crew, he was the one who reported the event to our people back home. We were told to stand by but they didn’t need our testimony. She was found to be guilty of being the most disgusting human I have ever met.


lynndie 1

I never met this guy but I think his twin drove me from the airport to the hotel this morning. Photo from yahoo.


Until next time, keep on rockin.

From → military

  1. Karlene permalink

    Rob, this is just amazing. Truly ugly in so many ways. I suspect it’s that once you disconnect the value of life by exposing a child to such violence, chickens or not, they become desensitized to life, torture and death. Then you throw them into an environment to do what officers tell them to do… what could you expect of their behavior? It’s kind of sad. My real question for you is why was she meant to cross your path? Perhaps to show you the other side of the war? To remind you of your humanness? Enjoy those late night flights!
    BTW… I’m a believer of people cross our paths for a reason.

    • Karlene,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes you are exactly right. Once we forget the value of a life then it is easy to begin to torture animals and humans. I probably should have added this about the incident. As Lynndie described it, she and about five other guards worked on the night shift. There were no officers around, no one in charge and no one older than 20 or so. All the leadership was sleeping and they were left to their own devices. That is a failure of the leadership to provide supervision and it is the core of the problem.

      I know that you know how pilots are. You know how much hot air and hubris there is in the flying community. You know how we all think we are cool, unfazed by anything and always able to top any story ever told. Lynndie shut six of us up. It was strangely quiet, not because we were sleepy or didn’t have anything else to say. I think she scared us because she was so far out there. And she was actually proud of what they did; she didn’t see anything wrong with her actions. It was the closest I may ever come to meeting one of the Nazi guards at a concentration camp.

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