Building a better mouse trap…
I just submitted an interview with a local Iraqi Freedom veteran. Butch lives a few miles down the road and I was introduced to him by a mutual friend named Roger. Both Butch and Roger are in leadership positions in the local VFW and Roger has a bar-b-que restaurant where he can be found burning pig for locals like me. Here is a link to the article I wrote about Roger in September. http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/putnam/x1814463328/Story-of-local-veteran-and-owner-of-R-L-Catering-in-Hurricane
So far I have interviewed about ten veterans for the local newspaper but Butch is the first veteran that is the same age that I am. I had never met Butch until I interviewed him and it was kind of weird talking to someone who had a similar experience that I did although it was completely different. I’m not sure that I am explaining it well, but it is 1 AM so that is to be expected. Butch was an Army Water Purification Engineer and was based on the shores of a massive lake in the middle of the Iraqi dessert. This is an excerpt from the article that hasn’t been published yet. “Lake Habbaniyah, is a shallow natural lake in al-Anbar, Iraq, west of Baghdad. Camp Ridgeway was actually a forward operating base, attached to the 82nd Airborne that was based at the former Iraqi Air Force Base known as Al Taqaddum.”
As Butch spoke to me about life on Lake Habbaniyah, I couldn’t help but to think about my own experiences flying over the lake. This story comes from a rotation to Iraq in February to April 2004. Carlos P was the co-pilot, Bobby (Robert G. I.) was the navigator, Rich L. was the Flight Engineer and Mark C. was the Loadmaster. This is the third story from this particular rotation.
We were well into the rotation by the time of this story. February, March and April were very active months in the Iraqi war. Even though Saddam had been captured in December 03, the insurgents were gaining in experience and aggressiveness. The night time seemed to bring an increase in missile attacks on us, we theorized that the Iraqis were working during the day for the coalition and then went home to have a meal with the family. When the kids went to bed, the men went back out to their part time job of being an insurgent. Making a little extra money and ensuring that they were playing both sides of the fences, it was tough being an Iraqi. The hottest spot on the map was the Sunni Triangle that formed from Baghdad to the south and ran up north to Balad then to the west to Fallujah.
In the states, Fallujah would be a wonderful lake community like Lake Norman in the Charlotte NC area. Resting on the eastern side of the lake, the city of Fallujah would be perfectly situated to provide tourists a splendid view of the sunset over the massive twelve mile wide lake. In Iraq, Fallujah is just another city where everyone hated the American invaders. Just south of Fallujah is a former Iraqi Airbase named Al Taqaddum, we reverently called it Al Take-A-Dump. For a myriad of reasons, the people in Fallujah were in a near insurrection over the American occupation in February and by April 2004 it was a city in revolt that cost several hundred lives of United States Marines to put the city down.
On a nightly basis, most aircraft that took off and landed from Al Taqaddum were being targeted by shoulder fired missiles. In fact, the odds of being shot at were well over 50/50 so that it was a near certainty that either landing or taking off, you could expect a missile shot. Armed with this knowledge, we rolled into the pre-mission intelligence briefing for another trip up north. A quick check of the schedule reveled to us where we were going and what we were doing. Not that it mattered what the schedule said that we were going to haul because we were going to take whatever or whoever showed up to the airplane.
Rich and Mark went to life support and collected our pistols, NVGs, and other necessary equipment. Bobby and Carlos went to tactics to get the mission folder called the Book of Knowledge and I went over to the operations center to make sure there were no last minute changes but mainly to pester the duty crew and make myself a general irritant to the support staff. After our Intel brief, our crew would go back to the operations center for a few minutes of computer time to send an e-mail or check on what we were missing from life back over here before we went out to the airplane to begin another twenty hour day.
Before we could get to the computer for a few moments of escapism, we had to endure another long winded briefing from an Intelligence Analyst. Armed with a power point slide presentation that went on and on, filled with facts, graphs, pictures and other useless information we all sat quietly and were all less than inspired. The briefer was a young enlisted guy from another unit and he did a great job or trying to deliver the news that basically ended with sure death for us. Finally, he got to the end of his presentation where a new slide was added for our enjoyment. “In the last seven nights, several C-130s have been fired upon by surface to air missiles. You guys will have a fighter escort tonight consisting of two F-15 Strike Eagles. Their call sign is…”
Bobby sat up in his chair and interrupted the briefer. “Cool, We have a fighter escort.”
I twisted in my chair to roll my eyes to Rich. Rich never skipped a beat. “Bobby, do you know how a mouse trap works?”
“Well yea.” Bobby sarcastically replied.
“We’re the cheese.” Rich said.
Bobby’s face suddenly turned serious. “Oh, not cool.”
We went out and did the mission but fortunately there was not a mouse willing to take a bite of the cheese. We got in and out without an incident.
Until next time, keep on rockin.