Archive: April 2006

Electronic Blackouts and Fearing the Worst

One of the reasons my posting to this blog is sporadic is that Internet connectivity has to be available for me to post. Most of the time it is, but when an event occurs that may result in bad news for families at home, the military implements an electronic blackout, shutting down all communication channels that soldiers routinely use to contact their loved ones. In the event of a mortar attack, the first email that comes from headquarters is implementation of the blackout. Off goes the Internet. Off go the commercial phones in the AT&T phone trailer. A blackout occurred after our aircraft crashed -- and it probably saved many family members unnecessary grief. If one or two soldiers had been able to call home after the crash, their own families would have been reassured. But the families would have called other families in the unit and told them about...

By Bert Stover | April 28, 2006; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (30)

American Forces Network (AFN)* Propaganda

English language television and radio programming are provided to the military in Iraq by the American Forces Network (AFN)*, which rebroadcasts the major U.S. networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN and CNN. That means we get to watch normal news, sitcoms, etc. Unfortunately, there's a catch. AFN puts military commercials onto our televisions in place of the networks' ads for civilian products and services. Along with our American Idol and Desperate Housewives, we get a healthy dose of propaganda....

By Bert Stover | April 27, 2006; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (53)

Arrival and Remodeling at TQ

Departing Al Asad with the usual last minute snafus -- forgetting to pack necessary equipment, loading an aircraft with so much material that the passengers couldn't fit in, etc. -- Alpha Company finally parted ways with the rest of the 2/224th and headed east to camp Al Taqaddum, commonly called TQ (Tee-Que). Some company members went ahead to procure housing and work space, but the majority of us took two days to fly all of our personal stuff and aircraft to our new base....

By Bert Stover | April 24, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (23)

Accident Off Al Asad

A couple of weeks ago our unit suffered what is known in Army Aviation as a Class A accident. This is defined as damage costs of $1,000,000 or more and/or destruction of an Army aircraft, missile or spacecraft and/or fatality or permanent total disability. There was no loss of life, but we did lose an aircraft when it crashed attempting to land at night in very dusty conditions. Out of respect for the crew and the families at home I chose not to press forward with a publication of the accident until now. Here is my brief account of the minutes just after we learned one of our own had gone down outside of the wire......

By Bert Stover | April 12, 2006; 1:10 PM ET | Comments (422)

A Decision to Save My Leave

We were asked to provide general timeframes as to when we would like to take our first two weeks R & R leave. I decided to take a couple of passes instead -- a few days off from work that don't get charged as leave. My intent is accumulate my leave and use it at the end of this tour so I can take a long trip across the U.S. to visit with family and friends....

By Bert Stover | April 7, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (76)

Leaving the Wild West

I've concluded, as we prepare to leave Al Asad, that the base would have been the perfect location for George Lucas to have filmed his Star Wars movies. The base itself is in the middle of the large expanse of dirt and dust, similar to where many Lucas scenes played out. Hangars are embedded into the cliffs, with most of the taxi-ways are placed along the natural carvings that water has made in the earth. Along the taxi-ways are concrete bunkers in the shape of miniature pyramids, about 25 feet tall. Some of the structures are strategically cut into the cliffs to provide parking spaces for aircraft and equipment. Built with concrete of the same color as the surrounding soil, the pyramids really provide a futuristic look....

By Bert Stover | April 6, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (9)

A Break and a Change

Today was a maintenance stand down day, so most of us did not have to report for work. Instead we slept in, got some exercise and by mid-afternoon were able to take in some sun sitting in folding chairs and laugh together. Our overall stress level dropped by at least a factor of ten, at least until we got unexpected news late in the day. As soldiers, deployed, it's almost impossible to get away from work. Even when we are officially released for the day, we return to our tents and hang out with the same people we worked with all day. Imagine having to live with that annoying co-worker (and I'll admit I'm that guy for some of the soldiers here) after you have just spent all day with them at the office. Now, throw on top of that the whole idea of hostile fire. With the whole day...

By Bert Stover | April 5, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Beauty in Iraq

I've transitioned to days and what a difference! I made my way outside just after dawn for my first flight. The sun wasn't quite 20 degrees off the horizon, but it was much brighter than I remembered. When I opened the garage-sized door to the flight operations building, the wind swung it away from me -- but when I went to grab for it, I had to shut my eyes due to the intensity of light. Off balance and blinking, carrying my helmet bag filled with check lists and maps, I wasn't able to get the door under control until a passing crew chief saw my dilemma and leant a hand. I stood there squinty eyed thanking him. It took me about five minutes to finally adjust to daylight by opening and closing my eyes as I made my way to the helicopter....

By Bert Stover | April 3, 2006; 8:37 AM ET | Comments (15)

 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company