Release The Hounds!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Email From Iraq

I reproduce from Hugh Hewitt's site in its totality an email from one of our Marines in Iraq: Flying Angels Today started out like almost every other day for me since I have been in Iraq. I got up at 0400, took a cold shower, and used my headlamp to dress in the dark so as not to wake my roommates. I walked just over a mile to the squadron hangar to receive the day's flight brief. I did not have time to eat breakfast as the chow hall had not yet opened. I picked up a nutrition bar laying on my desk and a bottle of water so I could eat and drink something before I went flying as I didn?t know if I would be back before lunch or not. I grabbed my flight equipment, M-16, and my emergency assault pack and proceeded to my helicopter. We pre-flighted the aircraft, started up, and taxied for take off. I assumed that today flight would be like yesterdays, and similar to the day before. Moving people and supplies from one part of Iraq to the other. We call it Ground Hog day, after the movie staring Bill Murray. Every day starts to seem the same here. However, today was not like the others. Today was different. Today was real. Our mission today was to extract Army soldiers from the field. They had been conducting operations to quell insurgent activities in their area of operations. Our Operations department had briefed us that the soldiers had been out patrolling for over two weeks. I knew the soldiers would be tired, dirty, and more than likely a little ripe! I also knew the soldiers would be very appreciative on getting a helicopter ride back to their base camp as they could get a well deserved hot meal and a shower. As a Marine, I like to give the Army a hard time. The Army seems to enjoy giving it right back at me. This is just good-natured professional rivalry. Every service likes to think they are the toughest, smartest, and best-looking troops in the world. I was looking forward to making a few pointed remarks to my fellow warriors over the intercom system and listening to their replies. However, I never got the chance. Our mission was changed while in route. The extract was cancelled. Instead, we were to land at their base camp and pick up five Angels. An Angel is the brevity code we use to describe the deceased. Instead of picking up hungry and tired soldiers, we now were going to be flying out the same soldiers who were just recently sharing a laugh with their friends. The five Angels were carefully loaded on our aircraft one at a time. The Commanding Officer of the unit we were supporting helped load the Angels himself. He walked past the cockpit, and reached out his hand, as the senior pilot gave the Commanding Officer his hand in return. A quick squeeze of the hand, between two strangers, and two different services, over individuals we Marines never had the pleasure to meet. However, in that quick instant, the Army and the Marines Corps were one in the same. Fellow warriors had died! The simple squeeze of the hand between the two Officers let the Army know we understood their sorrow. After the Angels were loaded, we completed our Take Off Checklist and began our departure from the camp. The unit stood at attention, over fifty rigid soldiers, saluting their fallen comrades as we exited the landing zone. I would be lying if I told you I did not shed a tear as I transitioned to forward flight. The Army was paying its last respects to their friends and brothers in arms. I was honored to have been a witness to this magnificent display of devotion. It is this dedication, commitment, and brotherhood, which make me proud to serve in our Armed Forces. Though the five Angels on our aircraft will never know it, they were sent off with dignity and honor. However, something tells me they do know! LtCol Jacques "Jackal" Naviaux II Commanding Officer HMM-764 Al Asad, Iraq
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