Thursday, October 15, 2009

Who Flies this Aircraft?


I will be writing more soon about the crew of the Blackhawk I flew in on Saturday, but I wanted to give you a preliminary description of the four-man crew: two pilots, a door gunner, and a crew chief. They are all from an Illinois National Guard Company attached to our unit for this deployment. In the National Guard, you get people of many backgrounds serving together and that is true down to the smallest units--like a Blackhawk crew.

Pilot 1--Has 21 years in the guard, the whole time flying. He just completed flight school as the Gulf War ended so he was not deployed until 2004. At that time he was based at Balad and flying air assault missions. He said, "This (meaning the trip I was on flying at 1000 feet and 125 mph) is garrison flying. If you were here in 2004 you could have gone on a real mission--175 mph at 50 feet of the ground. That's fun." He actually gave the speeds in knots. I am sparing you the conversion.
So what does this action junkie do in civilian life? He is one of ten pilots on the governor's staff--in Illinois--since 2003. He has flown Rod Blagojevich for 6 years (except for the time he was in Iraq). He would not answer any questions about flying the disgraced gov.

Pilot 2--Decided to join the Army Guard and become a pilot in 2002. Needed a job that would be OK with a lot of leave for military duty. Took a job with the Norfolk Southern Railroad. Flight school 1 yr. in 2003. Deployed 15 months 2004-5. Advanced flight training 2007. Pre-deployment training many weeks 2008. Here 2009. Said he worked 2.5 years since he took the job, but has full seniority. Smart guy.

Door Gunner--24-year-old graduate of Massapequa High School, NY. Grew up in Queens. Enlisted at 18. Went to Iraq at 19 in 2004 as a combat infantryman in Baghdad. Came home and worked as an executive security guard. Volunteered to go to Iraq in late 2007 as a door gunner, then volunteered for another consecutive year here now. He is going to flight school next fall. He plans to deploy with his home unit in NYC to Afghanistan in 2012. Then he said, "I think with four deployments I'll be ready to settle down.

Crew Chief--26 is on his first deployment. Is going home to finish college then become an officer after he gets a bachelors degree from Illinois State.

Pilot 1 got married just before deployment and is on his honeymoon now in Australia. The other three are single.