The Number One Threat in Iraq: Ourselves

I have flown several times over sections of Iraq labeled dangerous by the Dpartment of Defense. I've flown through tracer fire and what I believe was small arms fire. I've flown over a huge explosion, one that sent a fireball well above our altitude when it detonated about 2 miles (or 30 to 45 seconds) behind us. It generated enough light to make up for the fact there was no moon shining that night.

But I believe the threats I faced in those encounters were trivial compared to three other threats that routinely confront aviation units in Iraq -- and these other, greater threats aren't thrown at us by the insurgents.

Number three on my personal threat list, but still nothing to laugh at, is the desert environment and the loose soil that causes the feared "brown out" landing.

As a helicopter gets close to a landing here, the wind generated by the main rotors wafts the loose dust and dirt into the air. Many times, there is so much material kicked up that pilots lose all visual reference to the ground -- and when the ground is lost, the probability decreases that the helicopter will land right side up. We have already experienced a degree of this with the accident earlier this year.

You're probably imagining this taking place during daylight hours. Try imagining a night landing instead. The dust situation at night can make the situation downright dire, regardless of whether the enemy is anywhere around.

Threat number two bears some relation to the first: It's poor visibility, often made worse by atmospheric dust, combined with a tendancy to ignore common sense.

Generally, we get weather reports of current conditions and forecasts of visibility -- that is, how far away from the aircraft we can see clearly. If visibility falls below a certain minimum, we are not allowed to fly. And if a pilot suspects that the conditions are or will be lower than the official reports or forecasts, then the pilot has the authority to delay the flight.

Since visibility in Iraq is often compromised with blowing dust, we take the weather forecasters' determination of visibility with a grain of salt (or dust) and usually step outside to find the visibility to be much worse than the official forecast. But that rarely leads to a scrapped mission. Sometimes, we fly because of peer pressure. And commanders are often pushy, attempting to accomplish the mission no matter what, even if the weather is sub-par.

Regardless -- when the visibility is poor and we take off, we become our own enemy. As the old aviation saying goes, 'All take offs are voluntary, but all landings are mandatory!' Bad conditions equal difficult, risky landings.

(As if the pot needed stirring with this audience, I pose the question, "How is it that a pilot may decide not to execute a mission for safety concerns, i.e. weather is sub-par, but the troops of 343rd Quartermasters Company, from Rock Hill, S.C., were punished for their protest of mission versus safety?")

This brings us to the number one "enemy" we face in Iraq. It's us, and I mean that literally.

Collisions between coalition aircraft pose the greatest threat to helicopters in Iraq from my point of view -- witness the miss (which should really have been labeled a near hit) that I occured on my second mission in Iraq, not to mention the five or six others I've experienced since. As a pilot, my biggest worry is that we will meet some other aircraft traveling at the same altitude, on converging headings, with one of us "blacked outed," that is, with our overt lights turned off.

Since my first mission in Iraq my perception of the biggest threat has changed. I don't worry about getting shot, but about how much of an enemy we are to ourselves.

-- Written 4/30/2006

By Bert Stover |  May 19, 2006; 2:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Maybe I have a chance to comment before the thread degenerates into the usual 90%-off-topic maelstrom of frothing at the mouth.

Mr. Stover, you sound like someone who is likely to become an "old pilot", which is the best kind. I fervently hope that you and all your buddies do.

Enjoy what you can; do the good that you can; come home safe and sound. And thanks -- both for answering the call and for putting a personal face on something that is otherwise too distant and too big for most of us to grasp.

Be well.
Btw, for those perennial commenters who may assume a particular political orientation for me, be advised that I can froth with the best, but this isn't the venue for that. I, for one, would like Mr. Stover to want to keep in touch with us.

Posted by: Hugh | May 19, 2006 11:18 AM

Wow, no extensive postings yet...maybe old whats-his-name can't find "stuff" to cut and paste. Mr. Stover, your listings of "threat" was best portrayed in a cartoon some years back, it said, "we've found the is us"! Please know that all of your readers are looking to hear from you and thank-you for "keeping it real". Man, we pray for you and the other patriots safety every day and long to see you reunited with loved ones.

Posted by: Joe | May 19, 2006 12:50 PM

Are you simply being cynical with this topic? At any rate, thank you for providing a format for those who have something to say to speak out. You chose a great topic.

PLANET USA: The American Illusion or Delusion!

This past Sunday, former Speaker of The House, Newt Gingrich, was special guest of the television news show, Meet The Press, with Tim Russert. The reproachful words that emanated through Mr. Gingrich's wry grin, reflected the narrow-mindedness and backwards thinking, not to mention double-standards, that are held by too many American policymakers and too many of America's citizens.

Mr. Gingrich said, and I am paraphrasing, given the Iranian President's statement that Israel (America's 51st state) should be annihilated from the face of the earth (the earth which apparently belongs to the United States of America), the country of Iran should be prevented from voting any longer in the United Nation['s General Assembly; in other words Iran and its President should be sanctioned.

I thought, why doesn't this guy, along with his backwards thinking, return to the mothballs from which he recently emerged from? Mr. Gingrich, some of us in this world are trying to move forward, not back to the monolithic period from which you and others like you apparently hatched. You have had your day, please go away, for it the kind of reprobation and brainwashing by unenlightened American policymakers and citizens like you, that has put American in peril and at odds with too many of the sane thinkers in the rest of the world, including many of America's own allies.

But keep in mind, that like Newt, Mr. Rumsfield (who I unaffectionately refer to as Mr. Rumsfox and sometimes Mr. Rumsfool-for the murder of many of God's children), has stated his willingness to discard and to leave behind those allies, nations and people who refuse to go along with their insanity, policies and inane behavior whose purpose is to maintain a worldworld monopoly on power and resources.

Today we have neocons and theocons, however, Mr. Gingrich, who would like to be President of Planet USA, is simply a con who deserves to be a part of America's misguided historical past.

It is odd and almost incomprehensible that in a country where freedom of Speech is valued, a country where politicians and citizens alike openly speak out about attacking other countries, just as America has engaged in doing recently with regard to the countries of N. Korea, Iran, China and Iraq, that Mr. Gingrich and others could conclude and even suggest that any that another nation should be sanctioned for doing to a lesser degree what the United States has been doing itself over the past half-century.

What are Newt and some of the rest of you who buy into these lies, dribble and double-standards, inhaling? Has Newt and others like him forgotten America's own TERROIST rhetoric and-military threats, not to mention is own unprovoked attacks on the sovereignty of other people and their lands, mostly recently Iraq (which you apparently trivialize).

It is sad that too many Americans have not concluded that there is something wrong with the apparent double-standard and brainwashing that we as Americans have been awash in since the inception of this country when the colonists inveigled and confiscated this (dusty) land. Why?

Similar to Mr. Gingrich, too many Americans have come to believe that somehow this Planet belongs to us, and to borrow a colloquialism, many believe that, "America Rules". Ergo, America can do whatever it wants to do, laws were made for everyone else and every other nation.

The other nations and people of the world are, according to Newt and his compadre's thinking, one by one, tp surrender their right of freedom self-determination, and become a part of the Federation of Planet USA, supreme rulers of the Universe, where every other nation and people accepts the will of the USA. The other nations of the world must be subjected to the judgments of World Courts, Guantanamo Bay, The United Nations and to the American God, )which is America itself. Similar to the book, 'The God That Failed', I predict that America will continue to falter if it continues along this same course driven by American self-will and self-interest.

Is this what you were hoping to avoid?

Peace & Grace,

P.S. If you get a chance, review the comments of Pat Buchanan and Tony Blankley (Newt's old friend) on last week's McLaughlin show, with regard to American Foreign Policy and the rest of the world, The Baltics, China, Russia and Iraq. I don't always agree with these gentleman, at times they seem very partisan. However, they cannot be confused with so-called Bush Haters, and their words this past week seemed to be very forward thinking and sober. The rest of America, those who believe that this is your planet and that your ways and your thoughts are the only correct ones, you need to wake up and change your course, which will result in a change in terms of who you place into office, i.e, Republican or Democrat or other.

If not for yourself then, do so for current and future generations, for Americans MUST LEARN TO LIVE PEACEABLY AMONG THE EARTH'S FAMILY OF NATION, eliminating its own terrorist's practices against other nations and people, and meddling and interfering into the sovereign affairs of other nations, and acting in deference to anything other than its own self-interest and self-will!

Posted by: Rev. C. Solomon | May 19, 2006 12:53 PM

C. Solomon's failure to see the difference between US military action (which does not, as a matter of policy, deliberately target innocent civilians) and terrorism (which avowedly does) indicates a broken moral compass. This is further evidenced by Solomon ignoring the pathological, murderous Saddam Hussein running Iraq and its long-suffering people into ruin (while his sons rode about town raping women at will), starting wars against his neighbors, gassing the Kurds, torturing his opponents and innocents alike, and other horrors. Only a blind bias against the US and Western Civilzation in general could cause an informed person to so discount the evil found in such failed states as Iraq, and then fail to support anybody, even Bush, who stood up to the plate and removed the bloody dictator.

Posted by: Jeb Bonsteel | May 19, 2006 02:33 PM

So, Jeb Bonsteel, what does your moral compass say about a (draft-dodging) leader who lies his way into war and the 35000+ dead iraqi's?

Posted by: dave | May 19, 2006 04:11 PM

I like Jeb Bonsteel's attitude. He may be in error but he seems not to be in doubt. It bothers him not at all that Bush lied about the reasons to go to war nor is he perturbed that Rummy may have sold Saddam the poison gas which he used against Iran and the Kurds. I'm sure it matters not at all that Cheney talked the Shah into starting a nuclear program that is now rearing its ugly head. Bonsteel is worried about a dictator killing his own citizens but only in Iraq, not in North Korea or anywhere else in the world.

Posted by: Kalmani | May 20, 2006 07:19 AM

"How is it that a pilot may decide not to execute a mission for safety concerns, i.e. weather is sub-par, but the troops of 343rd Quartermasters Company, from Rock Hill, S.C., were punished for their protest of mission versus safety?"

Perhaps it's because the cost of training and equipping members of the Quartermasters' Company isn't nearly as much as training and equipping pilots.

Posted by: Elmo | May 20, 2006 08:10 AM

CWO Stover, you and everyone over there are in my prayers. Good luck. Please believe that though many people think the war was a mistake and have lost faith in President Bush (if they ever had any), the vast majority of them hope for some good to come out of it and have nothing but respect for the job you are doing and your service to our country.

Posted by: Kim | May 20, 2006 08:11 AM

The acute issues of fighting in the desert using helicopters pales in comparison to the chronic risks of Mesothelioma, which may surface decades after the present Washington regime has been consigned to eternal infamy.

Posted by: Dr S Banerji | May 20, 2006 09:18 AM

thanks for your sacrifice and hard work - you don't deserve the "leadership" you've got. let's get you home ASAP.

Posted by: benjoya | May 20, 2006 09:51 AM

Hi Bert, That was an interesting comment line, don't you think?
Dr. Banerji is spot on, "a tumor derived from the mesothelial tissue,as that lining the peritoneium or pleura." I was never warned about the dangers of dust or high frequency noise as a youth and suffer for it today with no entity accepting fault except myself. Be sure to wear a mask rated at least N95.
Pogo always said,"We has met the enemy and he is Us".
Oh, and Che, Uncle Remus did not hug the tarbaby, he tells us that Brother Fox constructed TarBaby as a trap for Brother Rabbit, who being annoyed that the tarbaby would not answer polite querys, up and hauled off and wacked him (repeatedly), thereby being caught(in a sticky situation). There is more involved though. If you don't know your folklore,than you shouldn't use it as metaphore.

Posted by: Brian J | May 20, 2006 11:20 AM

Army aviation is goverened by an Army Regulation know as AR 95-1. There are various paragraphs in the AR which deals with ceiling and visibility and the AR comes right out and indicates that if the weather is below those minimuns thou shalt not fly. Also in chapter 5 of the aircraft operators manual there are certain weather conditions into which the aviator is prohibited from flying.
However, I am sure that you will find that the majority of army aviatiors, in the case where a soliders life is in danger due to enemy conditions, will find that the weather minimums are well within AR 95-1 criteria.
As a former Dawg, Bert want to thank you and all of "A" Dawgs the best and I am very proud of what you are doing. "Heel to no One"

Posted by: Dawg28 | May 20, 2006 02:03 PM

Dear Mr. Stover:

Good luck to you and all your comrades and may you complete your operations with maximum success. With respect to the posters who continue to shed rivers of tears about the justifications for war and Iraqi deaths who cares? Why are we in Iraq? To attack Iran and Syria in the future, and Babylon's strategic location makes it an excellent site for "pressuring" such nice little muslim peoples. As to the number of Iraqi deaths I could care less, indeed, I hope many more Iraqis die, and not just Iraqis. Let the muslims taste the holy war they so fervently desire and so richly deserve in their flesh.

Posted by: Santiago Matamoros | May 20, 2006 04:05 PM

I know CWO Stover is no longer at Al Asad but at Al Taqaddam (sp?), but if anyone wants to know what an Iraqi dust storm looks like check out this web site featuring a particularly nasty one at Al Asad in April 2005:

No question about it, it's dangerous just to get in the air in that desert. I wish all the cut and paste posters and ranters would take their stuff elsewhere. I, too, have my opinions about this war, but CWO Stover's blog is about the people serving there, not about politics. Whenever he posts something I'm reminded of my niece at Al Asad and it helps me feel a connection to her.

Posted by: Carla | May 20, 2006 04:14 PM

It's spelled commentary. Stick to cut and paste. It's easier to scroll past.

Check out GXonline for an interesting view of KBR written by a reporter embedded in Al Asad. Thank you for keeping us informed. Be safe.

Posted by: home alone | May 20, 2006 07:14 PM

Mr. Stover should probably come home before hid diaper gets any wetter.

Posted by: Ed Vest | May 20, 2006 09:34 PM

Mr. Vest,
Have you ever tried to land a helicopter in the desert?? That was unneccessarily nasty.

Posted by: home alone | May 20, 2006 11:49 PM

Yes we are governed by ar 95-1 and our operators manual.However as a pilot in command, we have the final authority whether or not to launch, and we have all the blame if something goes wrong. Mission dictates, and we weigh all the information given to us, we use our experience and some gut feeling too, before deciding to launch. Weather forecasts here are rarely correct.The dust can rise from the surface to 14000 ft, and can go to zero visability in an instant.There is a lack of instrument procedures here in Iraq, so if you "punch in" you have a few options to get on the ground. Using any one of these options can put you in a dangerous profile for shoulder fired missle attack. So if we decide to launch during marginal weather its based on the mission. Saving a life (ours or theirs and yes the U.S. does both)is a higher prority, than just moving someone or something from point A to point B. If we were to make a bad decision to launch in less than favorable condiions and God forbid we crash, we will have done the enemy's job for him, and he never had to fire a shot. There is another saying " There are old aviators and there are bold aviators, but there are no old bold aviators". I have personally had a hand in Bert's train up, I have watched him evolve from a "Wobley One" to a very mission capable aviator, he is brave and represents our country well. I will have nearly 26 years of service when this is over and I plan to retire upon return. Until then I will continue to guide and help Bert along in his transformation. With his own decision making process and a little guidance from a "crusty old 4" he will also grow "old" and I plan to do my best to help him achieve that status. Finally to Ed Vast, who the hell are you to judge Bert ? Do not sit in the safety of your living room and belittle a soldier trying to do his job, you jerk. If you are trying to imply that he is afraid with your diaper comment, let me say this. No one has shown it, but we are all afraid, we are in a war zone and soldiers die everyday. We are afraid that are families hearts would break if something happened to one of us. We fear the weather, we fear the darkness of a no illumination night, there are alot of things to fear. We fear for each other's safety. But most of all, we are afraid to let each other down. So we drive on, one foot in front of the other and one day at a time. So Ed while you sit in your home doing what ever it is you do, why don't you think about pitching in, helping out, send a care package to any soldier, go visit a wounded soldier in the hospital, or if you have nothing good to say just STFU. Thanks

Posted by: Cw4 in Bert's unit | May 21, 2006 02:29 AM

American Duplicity/American Hypocrisy

Jeb and others like him,

The bible teaches that the truth will make you free. Neither America nor the rest of the world will ever be free until Americans and America itself comes to grips with its own hypocrisy and duplicity. If America is ever to be free from tyranny, it must abstain from its own tyrannical practices, policies and behaviors.

Like you, many Americans believe that they are being patriotic when they accept brain-freeze and ignore the realities that are right in front of their faces. America is the best that I have ever of in using the practice of labeling in order to disparage and demonize other people, groups and nations, particularly when they do the same. Referring to the Al Quada and others as terrorist,s for engaging in the same behavior and practices that the United States engages is the norm for America and too many Americans.

Terrorism is wrong, no matter who does it. I remind you that America did the same to Iraq, as the Saudi's did to the USA on 911. I am for eliminating all terrorists and all terrorist practices, including those of America.

The problem with America is its belief America has a divine right to dictate to all of the nations on the planet, and even the United Nations, what they must and must no do, while America engages in the nefarious activities itself.

The United Nations should be bringing charges against the United States for its illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Thank God that they just spoke up about the illegal prison at GITMO. However, the nation that feels that other nations, like Iraq for example, should have submitted to the will of the UN, will not submit itself, just as it ignored the UN, told the weapon inspectors to get out of Iraq and invaded that sovereign nation.

Already the United States is pushing back on this latest directive from the UN. The fact is, that this nation began with murderers, rapists, separatist's, slave masters, occultists and nuts who illegally immigrated into this country. And I am sure that you will rationalize those events as well, Americans are the best at explaining away their misbehavior. The fact that Americans have never truly respected the rule of law or the rights of other people, has never been a secret to anyone else than white Americans. This planet does not belong to America.

There are some of us who want to live in a peaceful world, and we will never see peace until we can get its present day abusers, America and Americans, to come to grips with American hypocrisy and duplicity. If you stop looking at others you will see that you have plenty to deal with right here in America.

By the way, you are not that Jeb who has been maintaining massive office a stone's throw from the Capitol building in Washington DC,are you, i.e., Jeb Bush?. I wonder what he is up to. At any rate, you remind me of him given your name, and in terms of your attitude and your narrow, but I am sure pseudo-patriotic, way of thinking. When will you and people like you wake up and join the enlightened thinkers of the world who want true peace, which will ultimately result in the in the United States of America being restricted to its own borders, at least until it can grow up and learn to peaceably and in harmony, and with respect with respect for people and the other nations of the PLANET EARTH!

Peace & Grace and go to church today and ask the Lord to remove the Massive Glacier that covers yours Heart!

Posted by: Rev. C. Solomon | May 21, 2006 09:11 AM

Mr. Stover,

Had a great time in church today, when I thought, ironically, about the subject of your blog, The Number One Threat In Iraq: Ourselves. The only mistake that you made was when you wrote that we were our number one threat in Iraq only; America itself is, as I have been saying over and over, the number one threat in the world and ourselves.

Ah, the rest of the world knows it. Even our allies have come to admit the same. We are the number one threat to urselves, as you have indicated, even in our own country. Thank you for that very prescient insight and for sharing that subject!

The truth is that America is not now, and never was threatened by anything or anyone in the once sovereign nation of Iraq! Our standing in the world has not improved given America's most recent intrusion into another country, and given its subsequent occupation of the once sovereign nation of Iraq, recent partner-in-crime of the USA. We continue to show the world that America is what it is, uncontrollable and at times a rogue nation that is controlled by misguided policies and narrow-minded zealots and bullies.

So the question is, why was the American Killing Machine dispatched into a nation that did not represent a threat to us, just as you have already acknowledged? Folks, The world is beginning to change. China has become a formidable power, and it is getting stronger by the day, even the EU talks from time to time now about creating a united military force. Why would Europe feel that it needs its own joint military force? They certainly did not feel like threatened by China, Russia, Iraq or Iran.

Although many of your subscribers are cynical now, there will come a day when these matters will be taken more seriously. I am certain of that. It is just a shame that our children and grandchildren will probably suffer in the future, the same kind of calamities that we have all become to accustomed to, simply because of the arrogance, apathy, selfishness, insolence and indifference of their parents and grandparents.

One thing that I am pleased at, however, is the recent poll data that we have been receiving over the past 60 days regarding the American public. Clearly Americans are not any happier with the Democrats than they are with Republicans.

So, perhaps there is recognition of a problem and a reason to hope that my fellow Americans are seemingly beginning to realize that it does not matter which Party is in power, our problems domestically and internationally are simply not being fixed. Perhaps the rest of you will wake up and realize that America itself, its own greatest threat, needs to change its policies and the direction that it has been headed in since its inception. Where? Read the Bible!

peace & grace

Posted by: Rev. C. Solomon | May 21, 2006 08:30 PM

That is not exactly what Mr Stover was talking about Reverend. He was refering to the operation of the aircraft in a desert environment and a war zone. Mr Stover was pointing out the realities that exist for any military aviator. Your anti-american slant is very out of place here, and only will serve to insult those who serve. You are not preaching to the choir, and your words fall on many deaf ears. It is way off subject, but please enlighten us all on how you think the US should behave. Please lay out for us the master plan you think we should follow. Do you want Saddam to take Iraq back over, is that a desirable result for the Iraqi people? I and the other barbaric, warlike Americans (not) are just on pins and needles to hear your plan. Please give us another "Che" like blog, and lay out your grand scheme. Try not to bash my country, if you can, but tell us how you would do things better. I hope it does not involve cyanide in kool aid at the end of it all. Oh, and ask any citizen of Iran or Kuwait if Iraq was ever a threat to them? Ask the Kurds up north.You will not like the answer. To Bert, listen to your instincts, work as a crew, and stay safe. Yours Truly,

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 21, 2006 09:17 PM

Cw4 Hill,
Thank you for your comments. Your viewpoints are thought provoking and right on target. The rest of us are too exhausted to continually take on the Rev, Dave, Che and the rest who are determined to take this blog in directions it wasn't intended to go.
Someday my husband will return home from Al Asad and I'd like to hope the majority of people here will, at the very least, appreciate his sacrifice. I am increasingly afraid that people like Ed Vest are going to be his welcoming committee.
Thank you again for your tireless support.
I appreciate your efforts.

Posted by: home alone | May 21, 2006 11:31 PM

Rev. Solomon:

There will be peace when every last one of your Salafist friends is wiped off the face of the Earth and erased from human memory. Perhaps one day you will finally see what is in front of your eyes Rev. Sunshine, and please, enjoy the future.

Posted by: Santiago Matamoros | May 21, 2006 11:39 PM

Rev. C. Solomon

I have to agree with CW2 Hill. Would you consider walking the streets of Ar Ramadi thumping your bible ? You see yourself as a christian, the insurgencey will see you as an infidel and you would lose your head. You wrote "The problem with America is its belief America has a divine right to dictate to all of the nations on the planet, and even the United Nations, what they must and must no do " I see it as America will no longer stand back and take it on the chin from Muslim fanatics hell bent on killing our men, women and children and terrorizing our people in our own country. We are taking the fight to them on their turf. What you do not see is our churches, schools, and office buildings being blown up by suicide bombers. The insurgents are here in Iraq and believe me when I say they have their hands full. If you don't like America's foriegn policy, You could move to Canada with dave, The United States of America is a free country, you have the right to leave anytime you wish.

Posted by: CW4 in Bert's unit | May 22, 2006 12:39 AM

Hoorah, CW4!

As I sit here preparing to go home after 13 months in the sandbox, your matter-of-fact reply to folks who cannot tell the difference between those who serve on pointy end of the stick and those who point the stick does wonders for my blood pressure.

FWIW, I still think that the decision to invade Iraq was not in our best interest, but that is Congress' fault for abdicating its duty and allowing the executive branch to avoid the common-sense test so early and so often. I would recommend that Rev. Solomon, che, and their ilk try investing their ire in that direction if they want to do anything more useful than irritating a bunch of folks trying to do good in a bad situation.

Everybody needs to remember that, regardless of the reasons, we have well and truly committed ourselves to breaking a lot of things and hurting a lot of people, so we damned well better make sure the result is worth the cost.

You guys take care and don't do anything stupid (at least, not without a reason you could explain to your spouse). Good citizens are in short supply back home, and we need every voter we can get who really understands what happens when bad choices propagate up the political food chain.

Posted by: wlc over at Victory | May 22, 2006 09:34 AM

My apologies. I misaddressed my comment. It was intended for CW4 as well as CW2 Hill.
Thank you both again. You should have your own blog.

Posted by: home alone | May 22, 2006 09:46 AM

Stay safe and don't let the b*stards like che get you down.

Posted by: che = evil | May 22, 2006 10:04 AM

Dear Bert,
Although I will never really know what you are going through, I find your comments helpful in trying to understand what you and the rest of your military brothers and sisters are going through. I don't support the reasons for the war, but I don't blame the military - I blame the civilian authority that commands the military. Rather than just provide lip service I do what I can to support the troops. I do that by paying for a service man or woman's meal if I go to a restaurant and see them in uniform. I just tell the waitress or waiter to put their meal on my tab. Or by putting a few bucks in a collection bin. I know it's not much, but I think it lets you guys (and gals) know that you are important to us and that we support you. I also read your blog religiously because I kind'a view it as my responsibility. If you can - in the middle of all you've got going on - find the time to let me know what's going on over there, then I should find the time to read it. I am looking forward to, and praying for, the blog entry where you describe your final homecoming. I hope to read about the flags waving and the band playing and about the hugs and kisses friends and family member rush to give you. Please stay safe and thank you for everything you do to protect us.

To Rev. C. Solomon - Talk is cheap! Why don't you hop on a plane and do your preaching on the streets of Bagdad or Sadar City. With any luck your head won't be located to far from the rest of you body so there's a good chance you might be buried all together. Don't forget, it was the religious right, the moral majority, and a bunch or Bible tumping zealots that put this country where it is right now. The military was ordered to go there and follow "our leaders orders," such as they are. Now that we are there we need to folow through and leave the place in some kind of order or we will pay dearly later on. It doesn't matter if we like it or not, the situation is what it is. Is America perfect? Of course not! We make mistakes all the time, some of them monumental. But that isn't what defines us. What defines us is our willingness to assess our actions, acknowledge our mistakes and do what we can to correct them. Your comments are not constructive, they are devisive. We don't need that. Even if you believe that it was wrong to go into Irak and that we shouldn't be there now, even if you are not a big supporter of Israel, I don't think we, as a Nation, can stand by and say nothing while Iran tells the world that they want to eliminate a nation and by the way "our nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only."

To CW4,
Thanks! Y'all have a tough job and you do it with honor and distintion. God Bless you all.

Posted by: James | May 22, 2006 10:18 AM

Been there, done that, long before the Nation lost its way to the 60's, draft dodgers, dope, money, the Universities and many other thing. I now say, just walk down to the beach and wave the white flag or better wave a woman's skirt with her in it. We'll all feel better until we begin lining up in front of the firing squad but maybe afterwards the World Court of UN will hold a trial.

Posted by: awheck | May 22, 2006 01:42 PM

First off, let me say that I know nothing of flying a helicopter and nor do I claim to know anything about war other than what I see on TV. But may I just ask a question, and hear me on this one. What is stopping the pilots from using thier instruments and flying blind? Am I to assume that my tax dollars are spent on on a pilot that can't fly blind? My piloting experience comes from video games and maybe thier instruments aren't as accurate as the ones on my flight sim but I could land a fly and land a virtual plane on instruments alone. These pilots with thousands of hours and millions of dollars worth of radar equipment and a vast array of communication are so thrown out of the loop that they don't know where thier friendlies are flying??? It must be complete chaos with helicopters that don't know what's in thier own damn airspace. But in defense of your informative article I do say that you are protecting the lives of many individuals and your doing it in the worst of conditions. I don't claim to be an expert and I certainly don't want qualified pilots to feel as though I am belittling thier complex, skilled training and arduous work, in lieu of starting an arguement. I simply want to submit that if we are at risk from ourselves then maybe we should seek to control ourselves in means other than how we currently do things. And I do support the troops but I do not support the President.

Posted by: CG | May 22, 2006 03:36 PM

CG, flying a formation of helicopters through seriously IFR conditions is asking for a collision. Most military helicopters do not have any fancy radar for detecting other aircraft (or other impediments to continued flight, such as power lines). The Army relies upon the pilot's good instincts aided by multiple sets of eyeballs to avoid premature termination of controlled flight.

Think of it this way: would you continue driving or pull off to the side if you suddenly found yourself unable to see more than a few car-lengths in any direction? That's pretty close to what Bert and his fellow aviators were faced with.

Posted by: wlc over at Victory | May 22, 2006 04:39 PM

CW2Hill and others,

Thank you for asking, for I do have a plan. For everything that I say, I hope that you will think about your and children as well as our grandchildren that are yet to be born. Ask yourself, are we truly providing a safer world or planet for our posterity? Or will we bequeath to tham a world that is managed by the one who has the most weapons, the most sophisticated military, or the deadliest bombs?

In scripture, prophets like Jeremiah and Daniel, and apostles like the Apostle Paul, pointed out the faults in their own nation. As I have already been accused of, America bashing, Jeremiah and other prophets and Apostles were accused of being against their own nation. Today, the Apostle Paul would have been accused of being anti-Semitic given his commentary about the nation of Israel that is recorded in the book of Romans, chapter 10. Jeremiahh was placed in a dungeon!

In fact all of these people of God, were all trying to save their own nation, by encouraging them to be honest with themselves about their own nation's misdeeds, and to make the changes that would result in long-term prosperity for themselves and their posterity, and to have peace with their creator. You cannot say that Iraq and Iran are wrong, and therefore deserving of the judgment and the justice of the USA, when the USA does the same things!

Too many Americans have gladly accepted the conditioning that they have received in America, from the time that they were kids, i.e., that America is always correct with respect to its foreign, as well as its domestic policies. Sorry folks, not when America is in conflict with the universal laws of God.

Lets consider the situation with Iraq. Why is it that Americans expected Iraq to obey U.N. Resolutions when America completely ignored the United Nations, as it is often known to do. In fact the USA not only ignored the UN, but warned the UN's inspectors to get out of the way, for America was coming through. What if any other country did that? Should their priests, prophets, Imams, rabbi's or preachers speak up as I am doing?

Why do Americans always have speak of one standard for the ROW, that it will not adhere to itself, even if that means defying a 180 nation, international body that disagrees with the behavior and actions of the USA? Can anyone find it possible to admit the truth, without bashing me for pointing out the truth?

One writer on this blog boasted that America removed a 'bloody dictator'. Think about this. How many people on the planet said that George Bush was acting like a dictator himself? So Americans say that Saddam was a dictator, and other world leaders said that George Bush was acting like a dictator. Whose right? Should some nation with a sophisticated military come in here and remove G. Bush from power,topple our government, and murder innocent American citizens while doing so?

Is this the image that we want to portray to the world given that we will not act in concert with, or respect the International body known as the U.N. America's illegitimate use abuse of power is causing the rest of the world concern. By the way, if you are wondering I have already attempted to contact Mr. Bush to point out his totalitarian practices. That is what the prophets did in the Bible, the honest ones would point out to the Kings, Judges and other leaders God's will, not the will of the flesh.

Mr. Bush, like many of you, is proud of the new government that was recently installed in Iraq, and I am sure that many of you will feel that the end justified the means. America has a habit of breaking a law, and then saying, well they are better off now than they were before. Ever heard that before?

Well, Americans have to learn that there are legitimate ways for one to accomplish legitimate purposes. Imagine if criminals used the logic of white American supremacists to accomplish their ends. They could also say, well I killed him for example, however, he is better off dead than he is alive. How many times have Americans said that? Well we even put people in jail for mercy killing. Anyone ever heard of the exclusionary rule? I wonder why we came up with laws like that?

Again, some of you have forgotten that there is more than one way to accomplish an end. And that is what the rest of the world has been trying to tell you for decades.

How can one nation, the USA, tell 180 other nations that comprise the International body of nations that you are simply wrong and irrelevant? Get this, America never tells the rest of the world that we disagree with you, instead America simply says that, the ROW is wrong!

What message does this send to the ROW about a nation that purportedly stands for democracy and majoritarian rule? The fact is that America feels that whatever America concludes is right, even when they use people like Dr. Rice and others to spin their propaganda and fabrications.

This morning I watched Dr. Rice on Sunday's Meet the Press yesterday. She continued to invoke the name of IAEA, and the United Nations with regard to Iran. Like Newt Gingrich, she completely ignores the fact that the United States ignored the United Nations and the IAEA. The USA is adept at invoking the name of the USA when it suits its purposes. However, the same USA undermines our most important International body and speaks out about its lack of relevance. Why? Because Americans want to place its own spin on the world.

Folks, no nation or people should think of themselves as being above the law. But Americans feel that they are the Law, and in effect they can change the rules as they please. The plan begins with honesty and a willingness to change, and in so doing, correcting our internal problems, while at the same time we learn to join in and partner with the world organizations to help solve the problems of the world.

Or what will you say in just over a decade or so when China will be equal to the USA, economically and militarily, and they decide that South Korea should be Communist again? Will it be okay for them to make that decision, ignore the UN and invade South Korea?

Wake UP!

Posted by: Rev. C. Solomon | May 22, 2006 05:52 PM

I asked what you would do differently? I suppose I have the answer. I will retort by informing you that Saddam repeatedly violated the terms of the cease fire after the first gulf war. He shot at our planes, he locked up us on radar (I was there), and he kidnapped people on the border. Under the UN sanctioned gulf war, and the terms of the cease fire; the US could have continued hostilities against the "peace loving" military of Iraq as early as 1992. Everyone seems to have forgotten this, and the terms of the UN agreements were broken so many times by Iraq it was shocking. This body of nations you speak of is a joke. The UN is a bunch of hand wringing, self serving liberals. They have the ability to use military force to stop the genocide in the Sudan, yet they form commities to "study the options", while thousands of refugees run from mortar rounds every day. They are dying, and the UN does nothing. The UN is guilty of nothing less than criminal negligence. At least the US will take the war to the enemy, make them pay on the battlefield. Have we had another 9-11 inside the US? Nope, they are all tied down in the middle east. They are fighting there, and they are loosing there. They are getting their tails kicked every day, and that is a fact, despite what you get from the news. Been there and done that, you can't convince me otherwise. So, go talk about the mighty UN somewhere else. Any body incapable of action is useless. Maybe Iraq was started on a bad foundation, this should not imply that we give up on what good can be derived from the conflict. Let no soldier or civillian die in vain. We can't ever again let terror win a battle. The message we sent to the enemy when we fled Somalia was a disaster. We told them we could not hang in there and see it done. This is why now the enemy plants their IED's. They are certian that the US will quit if they hurt us. I can tell you that they are hurting far worse than us. If people like you would stop calling us terrorists, the thing might be over already. To conclude, you WAKE UP, take off the UN, unrealistic, rose colored glasses, and pick a side. You upset me so much, calling us a terrorist state. Are you even an American? If you are, then you really suck at it. I can't remember when we beheaded any prisoners. I don't recall us ever using chemical weapons on civillians. I suppose 9-11 was our fault as well? maybe the hate in your heart for the US has blinded you to many facts. I know we are not perfect, who is? But to call my brave brothers and sisters in uniform terrorists is very unfair and untrue. We do need to change our ways (as a nation) in many regards, no doubt. Relying on the UN to guide us is just plain old stupid. One day soon, the politics will change, they always do. Let us both hope that good principles and the words of the Lord will guide us all. Hopefully, you and I can agree on this much at least. Yours Truly,

Posted by: CW2 Hill | May 22, 2006 07:05 PM

I know what you are referring to. I spent nearly six months at the old RAF base at Habbaniya (fifty miles from Baghdad) and on several occasions we flew through dust storms that limited our visibility. This was during WWII when we ( the USAAF ) shared the base and quarters with the RAF in mid 1944.

Posted by: | May 23, 2006 12:37 AM


You have a right to be angry with America's religious leaders and organizations, they have certainly failed by not speaking up to the policymakers in this country. Today's church in America has become mostly a political church, not a church of truly born again believers in the things of Christ. You can see that!

Too many men of the cloth in America, have been co-opted and are in bed with venal politicians and policymakers in this country. Few of them are like the prophets of scripture who will speak up like Micaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and others did, when they spoke up to their own leaders and countrymen and pointed out their missteps.

I am proud to say that I am not a part of the Religous Right. Just like Jesus, who stayed out of the Religous Right of his time (who eventually caused his death) I stay away from these people. In his day he was forced to begin a whole new religious movement, See Acts 2nd chapter, because the religous folks of his time were too far gone. The promise of the Holy Spirit could not be sent to the Temple of his day even with all its priests and clerics, because most of those guys were nothing more than hirelings. The Holy Spirit annointed an entirely different group of people to carry on his word.

I do read the Bible and pray, and I know that based upon the scriptures that America has been equally wrong in its own doings and like the prophets of the Bible, I was sent to my own people, not the people in Iraq, God has other people working over there. Nothing will change until every one and every nations changes, particularly America.

I remind all Americans to refer to the book of Genesis where the Angel of the Lord appeared on more than one occasion to Hagar, just as he did on one occasion to the Virgin mary. Factually, and this is not the Da Vinci code speaking, Arabs, Persians, Chineese and other people are the people of God as well. We do not have a monopoly. We should not be murdering these people on trumped up charges and/or when they respond in kind to American tyranny!

And don't forget there was a time when Americans freely walked the streets of Iraq, Iran, Palestine...shall I go on?
Well, ask yourself what happened? The answer my friend is in the question!

Peace & Grace,

P.S. To others, If the UN is so bad why does the United States continue to invoke the name of the U.N. to accomplish its purposes. Is the U.N. good only when it does what the United States wants. Something is wrong with that conclusion!

The U.N. is by far no worse, by any standard, than the United States is itself! Consider America's present, and remember America's past!

Posted by: Rev. C. Solomon | May 23, 2006 10:46 AM

Does this guy believe he's fighting a good war? I can't tell his views? He'd probably be charged with treason if he said otherwise.

Posted by: Jennifer | May 23, 2006 03:37 PM

Thank you wlc for clearing that up in my head for me. Mr Stover has bigger balls than me. If it's half as bad as he says it is and yourself vouching for him then I appologize for even bringing it up. My brother and best friend are both fighting in Iraq and when I talk to them they tell me stories that will one day scare my grandkids. And on a side note... why is the reverend so upset? Bush stands for corruption and will back it up with covering his big oil buddies asses! I say impeach him... I recently saw a bumper sticker had me rolling in tears and laughter, it said "I never thought I'd miss Nixon". Now if that doesn't say something about our current political climate that eats breaths and sleeps scandals then I sure in the hell don't know what does! Bush is a robot, a puppet, and is running out of lies. The american people are giving him his own way out, and I say that we should use him as an example of what NOT to teach our kids to act like. I'd still like to think that our country and government stands up for beliefs and freedoms and actually protects those rights, but quite frankly I'm not seeing it. But what I do see is that many of us are taking things too far. Emotionally, spiritually, and I fear only a matter of time physically. When we all learn to work together and protect each other, by placing our spirits above that which falls, only then will we see the errors of our ways and be ready to make real change in positive ways. As you can tell I'm not a fan of Bush's and look forward to our next president giving him a boot on his ass. (am I a terrorist just for thinking this stuff) Now I'm scared that they will send dogs and secret service agents to my house and consider it a threat. I'm kidding but the government always has thier ways of bending, stretching, and warping the very fabric of reality and then clearing themselves of thier own wrong-doing. Sorry I got off on that tangent and wake me up when it's over.

Posted by: CG | May 24, 2006 12:22 AM

Let us pray that God help our children, now and even in future generations, and even Mr. Stove continue to be placed in harms way given the narrow-mindedness of their parents and the convoluted policies of their nation.

I don't know if you will see this message or not, I did respond to your other message, however, it was apparently censored by Mr. Stover.

Again, like the prophets in scripture who tried to help steer their own country in the right direction, some beaten, some put in dungeons and on in particular was hung on the cross, I will gladly take my licks and be accused of being traitor. For I told you the truth. And someone once told me, you will tell the truth if it hurts you, won't you. Answer: Yes. I am hoping to help save our nation and our kids. They could be using their time, their ideas and their intelligence in more important pursuits.

The problem with too many Americans, is the same as it has always been, pride, arrogance and ignorance. Too many of you believe in America's own propaganda, when ever Day, it seems, we find that our own government has lied to us about something else. Factually, there is wrong on both sides. however, America and Americans want to kill the other side off for their wrongs, while America continues to overlook, excuse, minimize and ignore its own. Nothing will be resolved that way folks.

You cannot point out the mote/shortcomings of the U.N. and at the same time ignore the huge beam that is in America's own eye. Keep in mind that the other side can see America's faults. One day you folks will learn that having the most money and a military does not make one RIGHT!

No problem ever gets solved when two sides are wrong, and neither one wants to repent. Killing people is not the solution for if you kill off all of the Iraqi's, destroy the U.N. then go after Iran and the remaining the so-called Axis of Evil, then you will still have American duplicity and hegemony along with, lying, cheating, spying and the terrorizing of other nations.

I am not the only one to see the real problems, just talk to America's allies. Oops, we want to get rid of them as well, given their anti-American rhetoric and failure to go along with our nonsensical policies, don't we? The people in the nation of our number one ally, England, by and large disagree with the American position as well. Er herm, should we kill them too?

Alright guys got to go, but lets all keep praying for Mr. Stover and all of our kids who face peril as a result of American ignorance, arrogance, pride and stubbornness!

In the end God will judge us ALL!

The Reverend

Posted by: Rev. C. Solomon | May 24, 2006 06:37 AM

Dear Bert,

Just want you to know that your service is exceptional. You're sending us all a "letter home." That means you're taking time away from the little bit of down time you have to give your readers here an unfiltered ground-level view that we can't otherwise get unless we are getting our own letters home.

Whether we agree or disagree with points we think you make along the way, I hope that all of us love you for going the extra mile in this way.
As the man says, "old pilots are the best kind." Keep on paying attention, Ace!

Posted by: Phil S. (SC) | May 24, 2006 07:05 AM

Stover my man ,you brought back memories, As we use to say "Helicopter pilots go down in hairy places". Seems it's still true today as it was 35 yrs ago. doesn't matter if it is a Hawk or a Huey. peace son. CW4 T.Davidson (almost retired)

Posted by: walldodger1969 | May 25, 2006 08:02 PM

Bert, it's refreshing to hear you say what we know most aviators in your position must think. Hang in there, you'll be on the downhill soon. We know how much you must really have to say and how much the public misses because of the fine line that must walked (for various reasons). Every little bit that you do is worth it and gets them one step closer to the whole story, keep up the good work and fly safe. You're in our prayers and we look forward to your next, what must be, boat rocking blog.

Posted by: | May 28, 2006 10:31 AM

This sory was was a little different from the others that I read. It was good to know how it is and what its looking like so thank you for the update.

Posted by: Korin | June 9, 2006 10:22 AM

This sory was was a little different from the others that I read. It was good to know how it is and what its looking like so thank you for the update.

Posted by: Korin | June 9, 2006 10:22 AM

I am wondering something. Probably wont get an answer from Bert though, seems he is busy with all his other blogs and going on vacation. Of course his unit is not the only ones flying helicopters there, we have been there for a few years now and pleny of units have rotated in and out of Iraq. Why hasnt anyone said anything about this before? Are the other flying units having the same problems or is Berts unit the only ones? Makes me wonder about Berts unit if they are the only ones complaining. From what I have read they are a National Guard unit? Part timers correct? Maybe the people who do this for a living can handle some of the adverse conditions and the lack of experience of a National Guard unit is part the blame here.

Posted by: No name | June 28, 2006 01:41 PM

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