'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.
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