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.

Performing the preflight checks on the helicopter took about half the time of night preflight. The next thing I noticed, as we took off, was a subtle green patch. With spring officially one day old, there seemed to be a bit of grass sprouting about base -- but not enough to warrant changing my description of Al Asad as a large dirt pile, shaped into an air base.

On the horizon, along the Euphrates River, the green was much more vivid and in sharp contrast to the miles of dirt surrounding it. I was used to the monochromatic green of the view from night vision goggles, but now I could see the actual colors and they were startling. Deep green plants and palm trees surrounding the water. Semi-clear, but azure blue water in the river as we flew over it.

Contrasted with the vegetation and the river water, the one story, cubic houses -- most of them the color of dirt -- gave the landscape the look of a place where I might like to vacation. Then, farther down the river, there were even ruins spanning partway across, the remains of dams and irrigation channels perhaps thousands of years old.

Overall my short flight over the area proved to be an eye opener. I'd experienced Iraq as a desolate land of dirt and dust, but learned parts of it, at least, are beautiful to see. This is definitely not the Iraq we see or hear about often.

-- Written 3/25/2006

By Bert Stover |  April 3, 2006; 8:37 AM ET  | Category:  Al Asad, Iraq
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Checking in and glad to see you are ok. Softball starts Wednesday.

Posted by: DeAnn | April 3, 2006 10:17 AM

Happy Spring! Welcome to some sunshine!! You must be happy to not be keeping vampire hours now.
Thank you for soaking this all in and for sharing your birds-eye view of what most people will never get to see.
Continue to stay safe. :]

Posted by: Cali-Girl | April 3, 2006 11:13 AM

Bert... Nice to hear a description of what the country looks like around you... and that spring is spring even a world away.

Posted by: ElkGrover | April 3, 2006 12:49 PM

Bert, thanks for your article on what spring is like in a place so far away from America. Its spring where I am too. I enjoy the sunlight just as you did. Be safe and thanks for keeping America safe too.

Posted by: NM Boiler | April 3, 2006 01:57 PM

Beautiful, dude.

Just watch those doors. Once they start moving, they don't like to stop...

We'll watch your six...

Posted by: Jay Cline | April 3, 2006 02:48 PM

Bert, thanks for the description of spring there. Glad you got to come into the light to work. You guys stay safe and keep up the good work.

Posted by: military wife | April 3, 2006 05:21 PM

Wow! I don't do nights myself, how do you do it? I guess sleeping while it is light out would be my challenge.
My son is in Al Asad --- he is just past the halfway point in his one-year service.

Posted by: Julie Schmunk | April 3, 2006 05:29 PM

Bert, your eyes in the daylight beauty of Irag was a wonderful thing. If people would just realize that all of us can get that anywhere because we're all One...Wow...what a truly wonderful world it would be, huh?! I go out on my deck and sit in the sun and draw God into my presence and I Bless you and all the Iraqui's, Bush and bin Laden because we're all God's children. No need to hate, to kill nor to hurt. It's enough just to bless...everybody, everywhere, all the time. We are all brothers and sisters. So take a deep breath and know that you are truly loved - not for what you're doing over there...but just because you ARE!!! Isn't that enough?

Be safe!!! And above all, be loving. As you sow - so shall you reap.

God Bless,

Posted by: Joan Kelly | April 3, 2006 07:15 PM

Take care my friend. I know we don't know each other, but I spent a year worrying about my son while he was in Iraq. I get to do it again beginning sometime this fall. That and reading your blog makes me feel like we're at least acquaintances.

It's a full time job just doing what you do, so thanks for taking the time to give us updates on what happening with you.

Thanks for doing what you do.

NOW, to all you who are determined to detract from this blog my ranting your political position, please find a more appropriate place. We all know what's happening in Iraq; we don't need you to tell us. Whether we agree or not with the administration, we're here to support Bert and the other troops doing their duty.

Posted by: cld | April 4, 2006 10:11 AM


Nice post. During my year in Iraq I was amazed at the beautiful sunsets. Iraq is a beautiful country, and maybe one day in the future Americans will visit as tourists, not Soldiers and contractors. Take care and stay safe.

Posted by: RetiredFirefighter | April 4, 2006 08:23 PM

I guess everybody with a PC and an internet connection is now worth listening to as they rant and rave about this that and the other. Save your politics for someone who cares about what you other words, recite them in your head and no where else.

Yes, I know what is coming speech, free country...yes, I know, you have your freedoms, and your computer, and your internet. But just beacause we have the right doesn't mean that we should always exercise it.

Anyhow, Bert it is good to hear that not all that is Iraq is ugly. Post some pitures of the terrain some day if at all possible.

Posted by: amused | April 4, 2006 08:24 PM

I agree with you "Amused"

Posted by: Pate's Dad | April 4, 2006 09:18 PM


very amusing

Posted by: dave | April 5, 2006 10:17 AM

I'm very proud to hear a nice description of spring in my country. I thought that we have just three seasons: summer, winter and war!

Posted by: Abdullah | April 7, 2006 03:01 PM

God belss you and America,stay safe.we will all be praying for our men and women fighting for us to keep america safe..

Posted by: Lynn | April 28, 2006 11:28 AM

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