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
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