Last month, me and MAJ Mike Biankowski went down to Camp Echo, in Diwaniyah. Camp Echo is the coalition base: Poles, Mongols, Armenians, and a bunch of others. We had a small US engineer detachment working there at the time, putting up T walls for a new Joint Security Station. Me and Mile lucked into our trip when their crane went down and needed some new hydraulic hoses. We boldly volunteered to be the guys to fly them down. Well, anything to get off Victory Base is more like the truth.
Anyway, we flew from Liberty Helipad on 18 October at about 0930, enroute to Camp Delta, at Al Kut, our first stop. First picture is of a Baghdad street scene as we flew out.
Second picture is of a highway interchange, and I left it full size so you can blow it up and check the details.
Note Iraqi Police car at center beneath bridge and officer standing at roadside. Also at extreme right, note red, white and black building on highway bridge and barricades – this is an Iraqi Army traffic checkpoint. Various concrete walls and barriers at bottom, top right and other places are part of the Baghdad barrier plan, which has been quite successful in controlling flow of bad guys in and out of the capital. All these “minor details” are new since I was here last.
Third photo is of a mud village we flew over on the way to Al Jut – lots of details there as well.
Sorry for the “smudgy” look – these were shot through the windows on the UH-60 so are not too clear.
We landed and the crew shut down the bird, as we had to wait to carry some local big wigs (sheiks) up to Baghdad on the return trip, and they were late. The first photo is what you can see from the flight line at lovely Camp Delta, the FOB of Choice.
Delta is an old Iraqi AF base – nice runways – you can see it easily if you check out Google Maps – search for Al Kut, Iraq, select hybrid view and then look to the south west of town across the river – you can’t miss the air base with the twin runways and the old fighter dispersal areas.
We were on the ground for awhile, so we talked to the KBR firemen, had some water, took another picture or two.
Finally the Iraqi big shots arrived, we all loaded up on the bird, belted in, shut the doors.
The pilot hits the start button and that whiny noise of a turbine spinning up starts for a few seconds and then shuts off. The crew chief opens the door on my side of the bird (left) and motions for me to get out. He and the other crewman (well, crew-woman) start “pumping up” the hydraulic accumulator, that stores air pressure at about 3000 psi that is used to push the hydraulic fluid that starts the auxiliary power unit that starts the main engines.
It was pretty hard work – and it of course got harder as it went along – since the pressure continued to go up. They had to take some breaks during the program.
So after they had the accumulator pumped up, I got back in, they got back in and we tried again. Then I got out and they pumped it back up and we got back in and we tried to start it again. And again, and again. I think maybe four of five times.
By then, the crew was fagged out from pumping up the system, and it was clear we weren’t going anywhere fast. You can tell when they open up every access panel on the bird and start poking all around. The crew guessed that the igniter was out on the APU – they said “It’s supposed to be making a clicking noise and I can’t hear it clicking”. The raw fuel leaking out of the exhaust was kind of neat, too.
I thought it was great however, because unlike in the USAF, the crew immediately got out their tools and started to try and figure out what was wrong with the bird, and the two crew chiefs from the other bird came over to help out. In the good ole USAF, the plane breaks, and the Pilots Union and Crew Union members sit down for a break and wait till the Mechanic Union members arrive, helped by the Truck Driver Union and Ladder Placement Union members…
So the Iraqi big shots went to sit in their air conditioned SUVs and we watched the crew mess with the bird.
As you may know, there are quite a few countries with soldiers over here- I think between 25-30 or so… Anyway – here’s a test: What flag in on the first photo?
Answer is on the second.
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