Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nighttime Calls

As I may have mentioned earlier, I am once again in Qalat on a Medevac mission where my aircraft follows a Medevac Blackhawk to provide gun support while they go into a pickup zone to extract the wounded. On this rotation I have had the opportunity to fly a couple of missions at night using night vision goggles.
The first was just after I arrived to Qalat this time. We were delayed in Kandahar because of aircraft maintenance issues and took off late. The sun went down on the way here and we had to transition to using NVGs midflight. Luckily, if you have already mounted your goggles, all it takes to turn them on is to flip them down over your eyes. We landed at 6:55, and rushed to shut down the aircraft so we could get to chow which closed at 7:00PM since we had already missed lunch. We just made it, quickly ate, and were just getting back to our tent when we got a call to launch. We rushed out to the aircraft, started up and took off for a 30 minute flight to one of the forward operating bases to our North. The entire area to our North is mountainous and it was challenging to fly in the mountains, especially using NVGs which condense our usual 210 degree field of view (with peripheral vision) into approximately 40 degrees. Also everything is a shade of green. However, this just made it more interesting, and we successfully picked up the wounded soldier and brought him to the field hospital.
Our second goggle flight happened about a week later, at 2:00AM. We received the call to launch and quickly got dressed and while simultaneously waking up. After launching to the same area as the previous flight, we quickly arrived at the pickup zone and the medevac aircraft landed and picked up the soldier next to the accident site. He had accidentally fallen into a river while on night patrol, and he required medical care. We were able to get him back to the field hospital quickly and safely. I was so pumped on adrenaline after the early morning wake up that it took a couple of hours to get to sleep after we got back. It took a couple of days to get back onto a semi-normal schedule, but it was a very interesting and memorable experience and its good to know that we were able to help wounded soldiers to get the medical care that they need.

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