Wednesday, April 20, 2005

An Interview With 2Slick.......

For those of you who don't know, 2Slick is a "Former Army Black Hawk Pilot. Deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne from Feb '03 to Jan '04 (OIF 1), and Kuwait (with 3rd Army HQ) from Aug '04 to Jan '05." (As described on his blog) He is also a contributer to the book, "IRAQ: Providing Hope" listed on his website.
His blog was intensely fascinating and informative to read while he was in Iraq, he was a 2004 Weblog Award finalist as well. (He also won an "award" on my site, but that's another story...;-)
I asked him when he returned if he would answer some questions. There were so many things I wanted to know about how things were over there. Here is the first part of that interview:

How did you decide to become a blackhawk helicopter pilot?

I knew I had a service obligation after West Point, and Army Aviation seemed like the most exciting way to go about it. My eyes held out just long enough to pass the first flight physical (I've been wearing glasses ever since), and my grades were good enough to get my first choice. Once I arrived at flight school, I trained on a Bell Jet Ranger (A civilian OH-58), and learned about the various airframes in the inventory- UH-60 (Black Hawk) was easily the choice for me- it's the most versitile and exciting aircraft in the fleet!

Can you describe your basic mission in Iraq?

Initially (during the invasion), I was a operations/logistics officer. I was focused on getting my brigade from Fort Campbell, KY to Kuwait, and then eventually into Iraq.

Once we settled into Mosul Airfield, I began to assume the Civil-Military Operations role for my brigade. I ended up leading the Mosul University project. Our job was to interface with the University Staff/Faculty, provide emergency assistance (initially), opportunity upgrades (based on how much money I had at any given time), security assistance, intel gathering, etc.

Describe your scariest mission or the one that affected you the most.

During the "major combat operations"- I led a small team of about 12 troops to the Mosul Train Station to await a rail shipment. It was my first night in Mosul (after having spent 2 weeks in Najaf and 3 weeks in Baghdad). The train was supposed to arrive at 9 pm. It didn't. We waited until 8 the next morning. All night long, shots rang out all over the place. Many bullets came very close to us. We could hear them cracking the air as they whizzed by us. It was pretty terrifying. And then there was a huge burst of gunfire at a Univeristy protest that I was trying to put down. That put a good scare in me. I know that many people experienced much worse, so I didn't think much of it. But I guess it was pretty scary in retrospect...

Regarding the politics of the war, how was the overall moral of the soldiers over there ?

Initially, we didn't really follow the public sentiment back home. We were just too busy doing our jobs. I'd say morale was very high while I was there. Only about 10% of the troops whined about being there- and those were usually the younger, less-educated, I-miss-my-mommy types.

What was yours and other soldiers major news sources?

Initially- letters from home. It eventually became the internet (which I'm sure it now- combined with Fox News).

What were the reporters on the ground like?

Usually friendly. Sometimes overbearing. Sometimes apologetic ("I know it sucks that we only cover the bad news, but we need paychecks, ya know?"). They pretty much dissappeared after the end of "major combat operations."

Did you see a change in the attitude of the people there the longer you were there? If so, explain how.

Yes. Initially they seemed skeptical and/or curious- just like us. The more we interacted with them, the more trusting and cordial they became. I think that usually happens when the Americans come to town. You'd never know it by watching the news, but it happens. I've seen it 3 times (Korea, Iraq, Kuwait)

After having been there and back home, do you still feel strongly about the rightness of us going into Iraq?

Absolutely. Just read my blog...

Stay tuned for the next installment sometime next week.