"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Done

We're still here, awaiting that big plane ride home, but finally, for us, the mission is done. Today we pass the torch to my old squadron, HMH-462, and wish them the best of luck in their long-delayed return to the desert. We're hanging around the area for a few more days before we get to leave, but we'll just be twiddling our thumbs. While the rough date for our return here is already on our planning calendar, this round is in the history books.


What did we accomplish out here? First and foremost, we supported the Marines on the ground who truly do the heavy lifting. We got them from point A to point B, brought them beans, bullets, bandaids, and mail, and when called upon, worked with them to hunt down potential bad guys in the area. We're also bringing home everyone we left with; though there have been injuries, one serious, we didn't lose a single Marine. Finally, we're turning over all our aircraft in as good or better condition as we got them (though there were some bumps and scrapes, right up until the end; on my last flight out here, a forklift driver in TQ ran into the tail of my bird and left a nice gouge in the side. Eh, every now and then it happens). We did our job and set up 462 pretty well to do theirs.


For my own part, I got a fair bit of personal development done over the last six months. I learned how to drive stick; more importantly, I learned how to command our $30 million war-horse, and spent almost eighty flight hours in charge of hone. I ran over four hundred miles (much of it on the same flat stretches of taxiways) and got plenty of reading done, ranging from global warming to the campaigns of Sherman and Patton to a fictional account of mankind's future colonization of Mars.


There is, I suppose, some expectation for a final retrospective on 'how the war's going.' I may go into more detail once I get home, but it's really pretty simple. With the exception of raids and Aeroscouts, we don't fly on the front lines, so my view was normally from 2000 feet in the air. But, from our missions, our intel, and various other sources, I can say a few things about what's happened in our theater and across the country. First, in terms of the enemy threat, it's gone down in Anbar province, to the point that zones which were previously restricted to night ops are now open to daytime missions. I did not see a single shot fired in anger at us in six months of flying. The quantity and quality of attacks on the ground dropped from low to negligible. Urban areas are quiet, and now most of the fighting is done in the open desert, driving the remnants of al Qaeda from their last hiding places. Our Aeroscout missions, which used to be a 'good deal' because there was the chance you could directly hurt enemy operations, hit diminishing returns as they went on to where they were the worst deal you could get on the flight schedule. The hectic pace of operations we had in the first few months slowed down as time went on, to the point where night ops had virtually no tasking. And soon, as part of this summer's provincial turnover, Iraqi troops will be stationed along side ours on the base.

Things are uneven across the country, as anyone who watches the news knows. Attacks against both air and ground assets still happen daily in Baghdad and the corridor to the north. Mosul, AQI's last urban haven, still sees its share of attacks as well, though they are infrequent and less intense than those in Baghdad. The enemy is still caching weapons for use against us; however, we discover many caches daily, thanks to intelligence from the local populace and Iraqi security forces. Basra, after the initial violence of Operations Knight's Charge, has been very quiet; and though it doesn't make the news, Iraqi forces are consolidating their control over what was once JAM territory. Iranian weapons are now a, if not the, major contributor to the remaining levels of violence. They're not only getting shipped in larger quantities; they're also virtually fresh from the factories, as many caches bearing manufacturing labels from this year have been uncovered. Clearly, we do not have satisfactory control over Iraq's borders. But that's outside my purvue. From my standpoint, in this AO, things improved incrementally the entire time we were out here. I hope and pray that that success continues for our sister squadron.

Well, that's all I have for now. Thank you to all who posted on my site these last few months, and who sent me care packages and other encouragement to keep me going. This will be my last post prior to returning home. I'll see you all soon. Semper fidelis.

4 comments:

Matt said...

Good to hear you're on your way back. It will be good to see you states side again.

Meghan said...

I'm most impressed that you can now drive a stick shift. That's hard to do!

I'm glad you are on your way home! Or will be in a few days :)

CSB said...

Looking forward to "breathe again" day.

Semper Mom

Anonymous said...

Job well done.

Dad