There was another time when I was with a group that had a close call on or near the airfield. I was on a Air Force C-130 flying back in from Kuwait to our base in Balad, Iraq, after my mid-tour R&R had ended. About five minutes before we touched down at our base’s airfield, I heard what must have been the flares being fired from the sides of the C-130. These flares would be fired whenever the aircraft was under fire or simply when the radar systems detected that an enemy radar or weapon system was trying to lock in the aircraft for a target. In either case, the flares would automatically fire, giving off a heat signature that would attract any missiles that might be subsequently fired at the aircraft, thereby avoiding a disastrous hit. After the flares fired, the pilot then started doing some crazy maneuvers, which I assumed were standard procedure evasive movements that would make them a harder target to hit, but we landed shortly afterwards. As soon as we landed, the crew scrambled us all off the back of he aircraft’s lowered cargo ramp and into a bunker by the airfield. We didn’t hear any more rounds and never heard the story from the crew about what exactly happened up in the air, but the all-clear siren came after about 45 minutes. We then continued on to the bus that would transport us back to the reception station where we would be debriefed, would be arrived into the automated personnel tracking systems, would recover our duffle bags that had been on pallets on the C-130, and would then return to our units to get back to work and finish out our deployment tour.
So with the exhausting work pace and the constant stress and danger, we were continually exhausted with very little respite. The commanding general did gradually pull back our resources on Sundays and allowed our headquarters troops to keep a lightly manned presence in the operations cell, and he dispensed with the all-hands twice a day briefings on Sunday which were required for every other day. He only required that we would update our briefing slides on Sunday morning which contained our various reports on our areas of responsibility as they applied to combat operations, and he would then be given a paper copy of the slides early on Sunday morning so that he still had an up-to-date picture of the combat situation, which included: the combat intelligence and weather report; any incidents by any of our units spread throughout Iraq in the past 24 hours; any combat operations of the two brigade combat teams that were assigned to us; the logistics situation for supplies of our units; our logistic support of units we were responsible for throughout Iraq; and the status of our units’ people (to include unit manning numbers, new casualties, the medical progress or medical evacuation of the previous day’s casualties, awards numbers, and the progress of our R&R program which gave troops a chance to return home for a 15-day rest in the middle of their tour). In any case, that brief rest on Sundays was very welcome and became increasingly important as our combat tour progressed.
I pray that your Sunday would be peaceful and restful, refreshing your spirit.