My First Chopper Ride

Sorry to dump several in one day, but I have not had access to Internet for awhile.  

Riding in a helicopter is something that is more fun in theory than in fact.  It might have been a lot of fun to fly during the day, but we do the night.  I could see the lights of Baghdad, but not much after that.

 I understand that it was a CH 46.  That means nothing much to me.  It looked like a bus with two rotors and the old Greyhound Bus feeling was there.   I got the windy seat and it was like sitting in a tornado because the wind kind of swirled at high speeds with my head as the vortex.  For a minute it was exhilarating – a minute.

We flew through the night and landed in what would be a grassy field back home.  Here it seemed to be mostly sand and gravel.  I really am not sure, since I could not see in the darkness.  The crew chief pointing to six of us and said, “You guys get off.”  We did.  He took pity on our confusion and told us with what sounded like just a hint of condescension, go toward those lights.  A couple of guys were coming toward us with those glow stick.  At least we assumed that, since we saw only floating glow sticks.

They were escorts. We followed them, me dragging my luggage, the wheels working imperfectly on the gravel/sand, with body amour and my backpack.  My advise to self and others is lighter travel.

We got to a plywood and steel building and checked in.  Then we were sent to a canvas Quonset hut where we waited.  We were a mixed lot: a blogger doing embedded reporting, a female Air Force Captain, a Marine going to a forward operating base (FOB) and some strange guy who seemed interested in hearing what I was doing, but would say only that he was “passing through the territory” when I returned questions.  Looked like a journalist.

The glow stick guys returned.  We lined up and waited in a parking lot. Then we went back in the field, where we lined up the middle of nowhere again.  The glow stick guy dropped a glow stick and told us to wait.   As my eyes got adjusted to the darkness, I noticed other groups of sojourners, standing silently like apparitions in the dark.  I also noticed stars, so I laid down on my body amour to appreciate them.  A short time later a helicopter came and picked up one of the groups of apparitions.   It made a cloud of dust, which drizzled out on me and got in my eyes.  I did not lay back down, as I came to fear that something might be crawling across the sand and it probably had a poisonous sting or bite.  Probably not, but such things scare me.  I saw some of those giant scorpions on Discovery Channel.  I hope never to meet them in person.

Finally our ride came.  It was a different kind of machine.  I ask the guy in back of me what kind it was.  I think he told me, but I could not hear over the din of the engines.  We took off.  The back is open.  I could see the darker silhouette of the tail gunner against the dark sky and not much else.  We traveled for a while and then landed.  People got off, so I did too.  The helicopter left, blasting us all with sand and dust.  Then I found out that I was in the wrong place.  The helicopter made a stop at Haditha FOB.   The Marines promised to take care of me, and they did.  I had a chance to see the conditions of a FOB.  They are harsh.