Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who Fights This War? Door Gunner and Runner



Sgt. James McKeithan, a door gunner in Company B, Task Force Diablo, checks his equipment before a flight at Camp Adder, Tallil, Iraq. As a door gunner in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, McKeithan flies the night skies. He said the most exciting mission he would have gone on, a support role in an air assault, actually got canceled.

The runner-up was what he described as a hot unloading of pallets at Basra. This means the pallets are dropped from the cargo ramp while the helicopter is still moving. McKeithan said the most difficult part of his job came when he was required to perform overnight missions on eight consecutive nights.

A resident of Carlisle, Pa., 22-year-old McKeithan is a full-time Army National Guard Soldier. He served on the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's Mobile Event Team before he deployed to Iraq. He plans to serve full-time with the Guard when he returns and attend college at night. He has one year of college left to finish earning his degree as a registered nurse.

After that, he will pursue additional training to become a nurse anesthetist. When he is not working, McKeithan is a competitor. His last Army physical fitness score was 336 (300 is considered a perfect score), with a two-mile run time of 12 minutes and 12 seconds. He said his goal is 350 with a run time of 11 minutes and 30 seconds. He plans to run the Army 10-Miler in Iraq. He said he ran the race in Washington D.C. in 2008 with a time of one hour and six minutes. He also participates in mixed martial arts fighting and is a registered competitor in four states.

Family Black Sheep Flies a MEDEVAC Blackhawk

Brooklyn-born Amira Talifi, (not her real name) is a helicopter pilot I served with in the Army National Guard. She is one of seven ch...