"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."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Testing, testing . . .

OK, I take no responsibility for whether or not this post looks like crap, because I created it using a Blogger feature called Mail2Blogger which lets you email posts directly to your account. I’ve been reduced to this because not only can I not access Blogger on my network to post this, as of the last few days I can’t even open up my blog to read it. I can still read a handful of yours, but I don’t know how much longer that will last. So, until I can find a solution, I’ll be posting in the blind.

This is all particularly frustrating because the pace around here is so slow that I could easily devote large chunks of time to tweaking and enhancing my blog with the latest features, complete with a live feed of me sitting at the duty desk looking bored. Oh we’re still flying every day (and most nights, and my first night flight here was no joke as you’ll find out in a minute), but with reduced tasking, both in quantity and location. I get the sneaking feeling that some days, higher just sends us out to keep our idle hands from causing mischief back here. It’s not uncommon for the guys we’re relieving to be sent to a FOB simply to drop off one box or pick up one passenger. At hundreds (more likely thousands) of dollars per operating minute, it’s not necessarily the most cost-effective way of doing business. But what can I say: we’re getting to be extraneous in this country. As one of the pilots about to leave said, we came over here for war and peace broke out.

That doesn’t mean we can sit on our laurels though, since the blue (non-bad guy threat) is still significant out here. I went out for a night warm-up/cargo-hauling flight a couple of nights ago, and it was a stark reminder of just how challenging flying around here can be, day or night. I started off by heading to a runway on the south side of the field to do some practice bounces before getting our cargo. Al Asad itself is lit up pretty well (too well, in fact; runway lighting is so bright that it blooms out our goggles and greatly reduces the detail we can see on the ground), but as I turned onto my downwind leg to set up for the runway, all light vanished and I found myself staring into a lot of green nothing. No moon, no stars, and some ground haze made anything more than a half-mile away invisible. Technically the weather still supported visual flight conditions, but we ended up being on instruments pretty much any time we weren’t landing. With no detail I had no sense of my relative motion over the ground, and had to wave off my first approach because I was booming in way too fast. I got one good landing in before we had to load our cargo, and then we set off along the river, an area I flew along a lot last time around.

And as flew along, ‘last time’ came flooding back to me: outside the city lights, everything is completely dark. The second aircraft in our flight almost got vertigo just leaving the airfield as we started our tasking. We had a section of CH-46’s less than a mile ahead of us, and even with all their NVG lights on, we couldn’t see them. The night itself proved uneventful (though a couple of zones we overshot because their landing pads were washed out by city lighting and one was so poorly lit we waved off twice before landing), but those six hours of routine tasking were pretty humbling to my “been there, done that” attitude. It is still dark as s**t out here, the weather still sucks, and a moment’s inattention to either of those two items at night can make for a less than desirable outcome. Things are certainly the same out here, the bad as well as the good.

Well I hope this thing actually posts. I’ll check it in a day or two to see if it did, and if we’re successful then expect regular updates in this format. Until then, you stay classy outside world.


Anonymous said...

Stop with the classiness. Ben's call sign is Burgundy for a reason.

Winefred said...

Wow -- you're up, and readable, and appear to be learning to paragraph -- at last!!!! That one final hurdle that Mr. Hunt never quite took you over.

After all this time I only just found a website that the 3rdMAW public affairs people run -- great video of you guys (last year) refueling an attack helicopter in the middle of nowhere. It's here:
See if you can get yourself on it sometime in the next few months.