Monday, February 05, 2007

Landing back in Iraq

After we landed at KCIA they crammed us into a convoy of Army buses. Why they can’t just run a C130 shuttle out of the international airport into Iraq I do not know, but they always truck passengers up to Ali Al Salem and fly them in from there. I heard a rumor that Iraqi insurgents have been crossing the border to observe American troop movements in Kuwait, and that there had even been several grenade attacks and an IED, but our convoy had two gun trucks and a Kuwaiti Police escort, so I suppose we were safe. Still, it felt uncomfortable to be traveling without a weapon. I noticed that neither of the gun trucks sported a fifty cal.

In any event, the trip was uneventful. At Salem we picked up our gear and were crammed onto a C-130 along with a US Border Patrol unit. I didn’t even know the Border Patrol had military units, but they apparently do. These guys were fully kitted out and carrying modified M16s, M4s, and even 249s. Very rough and tough looking guys, older than the average soldier or Marine, but you could tell they were new to the theater – they still had creases in their pants. They were headed to Anbar to help seal the flow of men and arms filtering back and forth across the border. Good luck with that – I think it’s going to take more than a platoon of customs agents. I was the only one to speak to them.

As we crossed over into Iraqi airspace the two loadmasters took their positions on special seats that allowed them to look out of two round windows in the fuselage. It took a moment before I realized that they were watching for the tell tale smoke trails from a surface-to-air missile arcing up – a sure sign that it’s time to shit your pants. So far as I know, the only defense a C-130 has against heat seeking missiles is flares, which they launch in an attempt to confuse the missiles homing device. Although I realized that it was pretty unlikely a 130 would be shot down, it was still a pretty weird feeling to know that a single flare might be all that stood between you and , well, an unpleasant landing.

On the final approach into BIAP we made a tight circle over the airfield and just started spiraling down. I’d heard that it was steep ride in, but you don’t realize how steep until you actually experience it. I swear to God that several times I felt as if I was floating in air – only the seatbelt (and the fact that I was jammed in shoulder-to-shoulder) prevented me from falling out of the canvas seat. At what seemed like the last possible moment the aircraft straightened up and we glided onto the runway nice and easy.

As we deplaned I could hear the RPGs in the distance. I won’t say it was good to be back, but it is what it is.


Blogger KAB said...

Hey - maybe we can get some of that vigilante Texas border patrol to volunteer on a border where they can see some action.

February 05, 2007 3:54 PM  

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