'Hump Day' Is Upon Us

When I think of "hump day" in this country, I consider what's done versus what's left to do. For those that need some help understanding what we do, this post will give you an idea.

Its been six months since we departed Yuma, Ariz. We moved an entire utility helicopter battalion to a hostile environment halfway around the world, taking just two weeks to begin flying a mission and working with the Marine Corps. During the first couple months, we all worked out of Al Asad, an air base so huge that walking to and from work sucked up most of the day. We learned there why the Army made a helicopter battalion practice land navigation before deployment.

We learned that flying a Black Hawk for six hours under night-vision goggles would become the norm, a far cry from the 90 minutes we usually flew for training in the U.S. The maintenance personnel learned that we could operate only if a working crew was on around the clock.

Alpha company was ordered to move again, to Al Taquaddum. In two days we moved an entire flight company halfway to Baghdad -- while continuing to fly missions. As temperatures rose with the onset of summer, Alpha's crew chiefs and door gunners learned they would have to pull maintenance without hangar space, baking in the sun as they continued to provide support 24/7, maintaining aircraft and providing the eyes and security for pilots flying missions. Keep in mind maintenance only happens when the aircraft are parked, so crew chiefs and door gunners have to fly their missions -- a five- to nine-hour ordeals -- then stick around to make sure the aircraft are ready to be deployed on the next shift. Their long hours and sweat keep this unit flying.

During the first half of our time in Iraq, we have spent countless hours building relationships and infrastructure to make our jobs easier. Hopefully this will pay off as we move into the second half. We have several hurdles ahead, one of which will be simultaneously the most rewarding and the most challenging. Preparation for moving back to the U.S. will be hard because we have to pack up and pare down, all while providing a continuous level of operations. It will be the most rewarding because each of us will start to see the signs of going home to family, friends and the civilian lives we all left behind.

This is just a small overview of what we've done and I hope there are those in the unit that feel comfortable, keeping OPSEC in mind, to add to what we've done and what we have left to do in the days to come.

By Bert Stover |  August 10, 2006; 7:08 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
Previous: I'm a Pilot in Command, Let the Learning Begin | Next: A Sign of Things to Come, An Al Asad Visit

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Congrats on becoming a Pilot in Command!! You have worked hard!! You begin to talk about coming home.....my son has his window in mid-Sept. to leave Al Asad, has just finished his 4 days in Qatar....your blog has been so interesting to me....you are about a month or so ahead of him in what you write about and it has helped me tremendously!! His MOS is totally different, but your experiences of arriving, moving into the Cans, R&R, etc. have been the same....it has helped me as a Mom!! Thank you for taking the time to write! I would love to read what others think of your blog, but I can't get through the "unnecessary political nonsense" to do so!! I continue to keep you in my prayers and I thank you for the hard work you are doing!! Tell the others serving with you we pray for them and we thank them for what they are doing! Stay focused and keep your head up!

Posted by: Mechanic's Mom | August 10, 2006 10:30 AM

Bert,
You and your crew are probably already aware that extentions and redeployments are the name of the game as far as this war is concerned. Some guys have rotated 2 and 3 times while others have literally had their bags packed, and ready to go home only to be told that they are staying a while longer. As much as it pains me to say this, you are probably better off not seeing this as the midway point of your deployment. Count the weeks or months to your next leave, but try not to think about when your coming home for good. Unfortunately, thinking about having only 6 more months to go may set you guys up for a bad case of anger, frustration, or clinical depression if things don't go your way when it supposed to be time to go home. Take each day as it comes, stay as close as to your friends and family as you can. Good Luck!

Posted by: James | August 10, 2006 10:41 AM

just saw an article in the paper of a UH60 crash in Anbar...praying it wasn't your unit and if it was, praying that you are all ok and accounted for.

Posted by: CW3 Gordon Cimoli | August 10, 2006 01:28 PM

New to your blog, find it very interesting. Have a friend at TQ and like learning what it's like there. I appreciate what you are doing...thank you.

Posted by: Jeanne | August 10, 2006 11:37 PM

Yo Che,

We don't need to read no steenkin' spamaganda!

www.leftiessuck.com

Posted by: Luth Lexor | August 11, 2006 03:37 AM

CW3 Cimoli, it was not on of our 224th Blackhawks. Please keep praying for safe flights for our troops anyway.

Congrats Bert on your PIC! You all are doing an excellent job.

Posted by: military wife | August 11, 2006 03:25 PM

It seems to be getting so much worse in Iraq. I think that they should bring our boys home. We have been lied to about this war from the beginning and probabally to the end. This whole administration has been a mess, and not good for the American People, OUr soldiers are doing great even under these curcomstances. But they deserve a life with their family's.

Posted by: Patsy Goodrum | September 14, 2006 10:47 AM

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