Finally feels like Iraq, Mar 26, 2007

Mar 26, 2007

I got shot at today! First time while in country (and out of country for that matter). Mar 26, 2007, we flew from Balad to Tallil via Blackhawk helicopter in the late morning, a relatively rare occurence due to the distance and increased risk because of high visibility (normally flights with civilian passengers only operate at night). Because of all the US helicopters having been shot down by the enemy during the weeks prior,they spent the first leg of the flight between Balad and Baghdad bobbing and weaving, flying back and forth, up and down, a kind of evasive maneuvering to keep the ground gunners guessing.

We landed at Camp Washington in the Green Zone, picked up and dropped off passengers and fuel, then took off. Flying between Baghdad and Kalsu heading south, strangely they did not perform evasive maneuvers. We just flew straight and steady in a line at normal altitude. The two guys in the back were passed out asleep. Normally flying in a blackhawk is thrilling for the first 5 minutes, after which you fall asleep from boredom. I was wide awake in the front right passenger seat facing forward, between the two gunners. My buddy Cruz and another civilian were the guys in the back seat asleep.

Five minutes outside of Baghdad, we heard 5 or 6 loud popping noises. I looked around, the gunners and flight crew looked around, all trying to figure out what had made that noise. A couple seconds later, we headed into a steep dive. The thought flashed through my mind “those pops were from a mechanical failure, we’re going to crash”. Next thing I know, we pulled out of the steep dive, my stomach lurching from the g-forces. The helo resumed evasive maneuvering. The gunners were going nuts, particularly an animated sergeant in the right gunner seat. He was looking up and down, left and right, sticking his head outside the window, looking for something to shoot at. He yelled at the two guys in the back to see if they’re ok, then to tell them to get their kevlar helmets on. He later apologized for his curtness and explained that he had been frantic because he thought they had been hurt, since they were slumped to the side while sleeping. Everyone was ok though. We continued flying a few more minutes, then touched down at Kalsu, a small FOB (forward operating base) 10-15 minutes south of Baghdad (I’m not entirely sure of it’s location, it’s probably classified, just kidding).

We got out, still not sure of what was going on. The passengers from the two helos piled out, as soldiers from the base walked towards the birds. It was a circus show for them. One of the soldiers finally informed us that we had taken ground fire. One of the flight crew from the other helo (they fly in two’s) said he saw the muzzle flash and demonstrated it’s size with his hands held about 3 feet apart. They explained that muzzle flash that large and visible in the daylight had to come from a large caliber machine gun, like a .50 cal. Good to know. The soldiers from the base scoured the underside and sides of the helo looking for damage. The only damage they could find was to one of the propellers, which had been struck by a round. One of the pilots said he realized they had taken damage from the different sound of the last pop that struck the propeller.

Cruz recreating the scene

My buddy Cruz recreating the scene

It's just a flesh wound!

It's just a flesh wound!

The flight crew confers to figure out what happened

The flight crew confers to figure out what happened

It was all a surreal experience, almost like it hadn’t happened, and was just something you read or were watching in a movie. I didn’t get a picture of me and the damaged bird. I got a few pictures of the damage and a few of the other passengers. Sadly what was on my mind the most was this really good-looking soldier girl from the Kalsu base. I was too busy checking her out to take good pictures of the scene. Oh well, at least it means I have a pulse.

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~ by returningjapanese on October 18, 2008.

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