You may have heard for every soldier on the ground and engaged in actual combat, there are at least 10 soldiers who are working in support positions to ensure the fighting soldier has everything from beans to bullets needed to accomplish the mission. This ratio is also somewhat applicable to soldiers who fly aircraft; for every pilot, you have mechanics, fuelers and other support team members who keep the birds maintained and ready.
For example, in the 101st Airborne, where the borne is via helicopters, many of the 101st soldiers rarely get the opportunity to fly in our aircraft. Sometimes, such as in my case, the closest I get to the birds is to order, stock and supply the various parts needed by the mechanics to keep the aircraft flying.
This, of course, doesn’t take into account the initial transportation involved during deployment; traveling to and from the base of operations. Getting to TK from Kandahar, I flew in a Chinook helicopter with about 20 other people, our respective gear, and “space available” mail; all jammed in and tightly strapped down. But, since there was no window and I was facing a wall of tied-down equipment (and a mail package in my lap), I might as well have been on a truck or a very loud subway.
Today, however, the good people at our airfield offered soldiers a chance to experience the view from above with a great 20-minute flight on a Blackhawk helicopter. The flight was very smooth and we went in a large circle from the center of the valley, up to the bordering mountains, and back to our base. Think of the TK valley as a dinner plate with a Moon Pie touching the center and the left/top rim of the plate; the circumference of the Pie was the path of our flight.
Each soldier got to sit right by an opening so we all had a really great view. There were no windows so I stuck my head out the opening like a dog in the family car; I had a big grin and the jet stream rippled my cheeks against my face. A couple of lucky soldiers got the opportunity to fire the 240; a 6.5 mm automatic machine gun. I was sitting with my back to the door gunner and didn’t know this was going to happen so when the firing started, I’ll admit I was wee bit startled. Oh, the weapon firing was done up against the mountains, no where near any populace.
I forgot to ask the pilot how far up we were flying; it seemed to be around 300 meters, but that is purely an uneducated guess on my part. We certainly could see everything quite well and I was struck by the very clear river-irrigation demarcation lines. As you will note in the photos, where there is water, there is green and where there is no water, it is dry, dusty brown.
For me, it was very interesting to get the view of the surrounding area; to put into perspective how there are many people living very close by me and to see the dramatic difference of the presence of water. It helped me get a feel for how the local populace's homes, their farms, and their lives, are just out of my everyday sight, but very visible and present when I got up in the air.