I returned yesterday from a three week stint at FOB Warrior near Kirkuk. My battalion has been taking turns sending pilots and helicopters to Warrior to support the commander up there. Warrior has OH-58 scout helicopters (Kiowas) but no Blackhawks so they rely on us for all passenger air transport. Four crews traveled to Kirkuk for this three week rotation. I shared the day shift with one crew and the other two crews were on the night shift.
I have mixed feelings about the deployment. On the positive side, we lived two per CHU and had a good dining facility, a modern gym, quick laundry turn-around, and flew a lot. On the flip side, when we were not flying we were required to remain on standy-by at the hanger for up to 12 hours at a time. Also, I flew with the same person every single day. This allowed me to learn a lot but also tends to get old. Finally, I actually missed Speicher, which I have begun to see as home.
The mission load was heavy, varied, and interesting. I flew about 60 hours in 3 weeks. By way of comparison I flew 100 hours in the preceding 16 weeks. We flew battlefield circulations just like at Speicher. We also flew "aerial snap traffic control points (TCPs). These involve loading the aircraft with infantry (and a bomb sniffing dog) and flying around the greater metropolitan Kirkuk area looking for suspicious vehicles or people. When something suspicious was spotted we swooped down, dropped off the ground forces, and provided aerial security while they conducted searches. This allowed me to get used to doing quick landings to fields and roads and to get comfortable flying around buildings, wires, towers, camels, cars, sheep, and other obstacles. It also allowed me to play with the dogs when they weren't working. It made me miss my pups but I couldn't have thought of a better way to spend my time than allowing a German Shepherd to practice attacking me.