Saturday, July 21, 2007

Flying into Iraq - a Soldier's Tale

I was just made aware of Michael J. Totten’s Middle East Journal which is now linked to the right in my BlogRoll.

I highly recommend that you follow the account of his on-going journey through Iraq. He seems completely dedicated to describing exactly what he witnesses during his experiences in Iraq without bias. Mr. Totten seems bent on defying generally accepted media practice of reporting a twisted view of Iraq as a chaotic battleground that leaves its citizens no where to turn to escape the violence.

In fact, he perceives an entirely different circumstance:

"You’d think explosions and gunfire define Iraq if you look at this country from far away on the news. They do not. The media is a total distortion machine. Certain areas are still extremely violent, but the country as a whole is defined by heat, not war, at least in the summer. It is Iraq’s most singular characteristic."

I encourage you to follow Mr. Totten’s travels.

During his latest blog, Mr. Totten describes his plane flight into Iraq:

"This was not United Airlines.

The funny thing about the steep corkscrew dive is that I couldn’t feel it. Anyone who says it is scary, as some journalists do, is talking b.s. If you can’t look out the window or see the instruments in the cockpit, you’ll have no idea if the plane is right-side up, flying in a straight line, upside down, sideways, or even spinning into a death spiral. I’m not sure how the others knew when to put on their helmets. Perhaps someone signaled. No one could hear anything over the roar of the plane through their ear plugs.

The landing was smooth and felt no different from an American Airlines touch down in Los Angeles."

I absolutely had to comment on Mr. Totten’s site concerning this passage. And now I want to share that comment with you. You may find the story below interesting as I attempt to describe the details of an event that most of our soldiers face today when they travel to Iraq. However, this event isn’t one that will cause political upheaval or sell newspapers, so I doubt you will ever be privy to it unless some boredom-stricken soldier like me decides to share it with you. Nonetheless, I can confidently say that it is a pretty amusing story… It is amusing for me to tell in retrospect. Enjoy.

Again, the following was originally posted as a comment to another site, in response to the passage above, so if some of the terms used seem to be directed towards an individual reader, it because of the text’s original purpose.


That being said, I felt absolutely compelled to tell you of my experience of flying into Iraq and how it differs quite noticeably from yours.

First of all, I consider myself a pretty thoroughly battle-tested individual. This was also the case the first time that I had to fly into Iraq. I was involved in the invasion during my first tour, so flying into Iraq for my second tour was quite a different experience.

I quote you:

“The funny thing about the steep corkscrew dive is that I couldn’t feel it. Anyone who says it is scary, as some journalists do, is talking b.s.”

Man, do I ever humbly disagree!!

I flew from Kuwait to Al Anbar province, Iraq en route to a year of battle in Ar Ramadi. My flight experience nearly caused me to piss myself. Check that – I am quite sure that I did, in fact, piss myself.

You see, the Air Force personnel on my flight had assured us that the flight would be completed in something like an hour and forty minutes. So I quickly dozed off as the plane traveled towards its destination. Well short of the estimated hour and forty minutes, our plane began its descent. And, unlike your description, I most definitely noticed it!!

Of course, no one took the time to inform me that such evasive landings were necessary. Furthermore, no one took the time to make sure that I was aware that such an evasive landing might take place well short of the mentioned time of landing. I was pretty sure that we were crashing. This is when I think I lost control of some limited bodily functions – but it’s hard to say as my uniform was pretty thoroughly caked in a mixture of fresh perspiration and dried sweat that had accumulated over the long and varied travel that you described so meticulously in your post.

Thankfully, the plane landed safely and I was afforded the opportunity to serve my country in Iraq for a second time. I would end up getting the opportunity to see several other planes land in the same airfield that I did and I can assure you that the occupants of those aircraft surely noticed their landings as well.


allan evans said...

Decided to come over for a quick visit...I'll be back. The more you learn about Totten, I think you will appreciate even more his no nonsense approach to reporting what he sees. We all have biases of some sort, but he usually manages to let you know what his is going in. His commenters get a little 'passionate' and animated, but they are worth reading, too.

John said...

Steve, thanks for relating your own experience spiraling into a landing in a combat zone.

I'm sure everyone's experience is slightly different, and possibly Totten's awareness of what was coming helped prevent alarm.

Followed the link you left on your comment at C-C-G blog. Hope you're also reading Michael Yon, as he's done some incredibly good reporting from Iraq.

Thanks for your service to our country, and best to you in your studies.

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