Things have been busy, to put it mildly. I’ve gone from eh, a little flying, to FML, flying so much I don’t know what day it is, what’s going on in the office, or which aircraft I have to do post-flight paperwork for. I’m now pretty familiar with most of the zones the AO has to offer, having been to them at least once and some more times than I really care to. They’re all similar, generally a square of dirt scraped away in one corner of the FOB with some river rock spread around to keep us from landing in a dust ball. A few, however, keep the flying interesting. One up north is by a dam; not on a dam, like we had at Haditha in Iraq, but next to it. The approach requires quick reflexes, as we descend rapidly from altitude over the lake, blow through a spillway barely wider than our rotor arc, and then make a hard decelerating turn to land on a little finger jutting out near the dam, with the terrain dropping away several hundred feet on three sides and the fourth usually occupied by our LZ security. It takes some practice getting the approach right the first time, especially at night when cultural lighting blots out what little terrain contrast we get through the soda-straw goggles.
Landing in the provincial capital is fun of a different sort. We call it the Death Star Trench Run: drop down to an open area in between two city blocks, fly at max speed at rooftop level to keep the s**theads from getting a bead on you, then honk the nose up and try to go from 120 knots to zero in five seconds or less to make the zone, which is right in the middle of the city. At that speed, you think you’ll be able to pull out in time? Just like Beggar’s Canyon back home, except here there’s a fair chance the womp rats will take a pot shot at you on the way in. Fortunately, Annie Oakley they are not.
It’s also getting colder, especially at night, which is a harbinger of the onset of the Brutal Afghan Winter and the end of Fighting Season. Thus far, having to put on a jacket and a few minutes of drizzle a couple of days ago is all the Brutal Afghan Winter has inflicted on us, but doubtless it will get a little more miserable before we’re through.
Otherwise, I’m keeping myself occupied when not flying. I finished volume 1 of Shelby Foote’s Civil War narrative history and Mark Owen’s No Easy Day (interesting book, though per DOD guidelines I’m not allowed to talk or speculate about it; yet there’s also no injunction against buying it, so I’m not sure what they’re hoping to accomplish. So I won’t talk about it, except to say that I would love to have the high-speed night vision goggles those guys get: four tubes with 120 degree field of vision, compared to our 40 FOV on aviator goggles). I’m slogging through Dorothy Dunnett’s King Hereafter, a work of historical fiction about the real Macbeth; very well written, but I feel like I’ve been reading it forever because the way the pages are formatted, there are more words than your average novel per page (no, I’m not complaining that there are too many words in the book; I just feel like I’ll read a lot, and only turn a page or two when I’m done, and it’s putting me behind schedule getting to the other books I brought). I’ve also been training for the Marine Corps Marathon Forward, where we will run twenty laps or so around Camp Bastion, which I hope to be able to actually participate in, since we can’t request to not be on the flight schedule to run it, it cannot impact our office duties, and if we break ourselves we’ll probably be standing a lot of duty. So we’ll see.
Well, time for chow. I need to leave the office before I go crazy from the steady stream of R&B tunes that my S-4 chief plays day in and day out. I don’t want to ask him to turn it off, because compared to the rap and angry death metal most shops play, his smooth music is a welcome change. But when I say ‘smooth’, I mean ‘smooth’ as in ‘my music is smooth, I’m smooth, and I want you to take your clothes off and be smooth with me’. Every day, I’m treated to choruses like “I want you so bad / You been running through my mind / All I see is your behind”, “Lose the panties and the bra / Imma start with a massage”, and “This one’s a baby-maker”. If this is an insidious passive-aggressive form of torture, it’s brilliant because it’s driving me mad with a Barry White melody. We should use this on the dirtbags in Gitmo.