Hello from Iraq:
I have made it to the war zone. Only the war is almost over, There is small action, but nothing like a few years ago. Afghanistan is the next big push, and maybe we will get a piece of that. It reminds me of that movie Mr. Roberts....where Mr. Roberts wanted to get into the war, the one that was passing him by, and he finally catches up with it in the end. Well here I am , I caught up with my war....
I left Ft Hood at 5 am on the 30th, only the army could orchestrate such a painful trip, almost 24 hours of travel. Ft Hood to DFW by bus. DFW to ATL then Germany then Kuwait. I don't remember my Viet Nam deployment being that painful. 350 guys on a MD11. The Army has 150,000 troops here, and on any given day 10% are coming or going.
I arrived at 2300 hours on the 31st of Dec in Kuwait, then a bus ride to Ali Al Salem AFB. We processed in, and were greeted by an old Army aviator friend from Rhode Island Guard, Tom Magan. Tom was great he got us all rooms at the Air Base ( much nicer than the tent city we were to stay in). I was able to spend some time with Tom and we brought in the new year...Thanks Tom.
My next part of my adventure was the C130 ride to Al Sahara ( COB Spiecher). It was cold noisy and crowded, just as I remember them to be, circa SEA 1970.
I reported into my unit at 2400 hours on the 3rd of Jan 2009. It is cold enough to snow here at night, 40 to 50 in the day.
My unit and the mission we fly is the spear of the sword, and is the reason we are winning here. We hunt and find Hajie.
After getting to know my way around I was assigned a billet, my room mate is an old timer with a lot of experience. He also little odd. He washes his uniforms in the shower. Mind you laundry is free. The dust here is like baby powder, and it gets everywhere when the wind blows.
The chow is good and plentiful, you can gain weight if you are not careful. I had to get a Flt Phys here, and because of my age they gave me an EKG...( first problem was they put the leads on wrong) that made the reading wrong, had to go see another Doctor, then another EKG the machine broke and after 5 attempts they sort of got it all right. I told the old nurse, I hope my stool sample doesn't go that bad, she hands me a kit ands tells me I have to get my own. I will let your imagination be your guide on that.
For my Phoenix friends I have a Phoenix patch and decal in my room and I have my Fly the Friendly Skies of Laos Shirt.
Well that's all for now keep the blue side up and stay in touch.
CWO David Cassalia
I thought I would give some comparison observations between Iraq 2009 and Viet Nam 1970.
Billeting here is a trailer with tile floors and air conditioning. The building is protected by 20 ft high earth filled structure.
We have electric, TVs , Internet, and real beds. I can call home on skype.
Billeting then was wood frame with screen for ventilation. The building was protected by sandbags , we filled. The beds were army cots, and we stayed in touch with home through the mail, or maybe a radio relay phone patch that lasted all of three minutes. We did have electric though!
The latrine is heated with flushing toilets and hot showers. You do have to walk outside to get to them.
Then we had 55 gal drums not flush able , burnable though. hot water what's was that?....We still had to walk to them.
The mess hall was metal trays and mystery meat...or c rations..
We have a mess hall here than produces a choice of anything from hot dogs and hamburgers to Mongolian stir fry.
The bottom line is it has gotten better for the soldier. It is still a group of folks away from home, in a crappy climate doing something that few want or are willing to do. And they do it unconditionally.
CWO David Cassalia
Some of you all have asked for some details of how things are going and about the mission so far.....I will tell you all I can without breaking any rules. First of all if you googled Task Force Odin you will find interesting reading. You will notice that or mission works with UAVs as well as civilian contract air ops. We are all in the Recon and targeting game. We have a patch that said " we hunt humans" that kind of explains it better I think. The missions run up to 6 hours and are flown day and night. Right now I am on nights. There is no IFR structure like in the states. If you go IMC it is up to to find your way and land somewhere. We have approaches to the airfields around Iraq with PAR approaches. ( I had to use one of those to get back in tonight).
We all have extra duties, mine are the backseaters records, and airfield officer ( I keep the lights working).The weather here has been cold at night and cool in the day time. I hear that the summer is 120 during the day 100 at night. There is no sand that I can see, just dirt, light brown dirt. It turns to a powder like consistency and it gets everywhere. When the wind picks it up you taste it, smell it, and get it in your eyes.
We have a missile defense system and when if goes off it gets your attention. We do not get many rocket or mortar attacks but we have had one or two...
The food is great. The guys and gals I work with are all good, kids mostly but then they all are compared to me.
The soldiers that are out on patrol are the guys really having a tough time they are exposed to the IEDs and weather. My mission is to cut down on the IEDs, so far we do just that.
I have more pictures on Facebook if you'd like to see more.
CWO David Cassalia
As I start this situation report I am compelled to go back 39 years ago on March 4th 1971. LamSon 719 deep inside Laos. My aircraft was shot down and crashed in the LZ we were attempting to land in. My crew and I were all rescued by another crew that had seen us go down. Butch Doan and Don Davis stayed in the LZ, taking an intense amount of small arms fire, while we made our way up the hill to their waiting aircraft. We all made out OK, and the rest is history. I tell this story because my unit lost two crews in Laos and they did not make it back. I was lucky , Butch and Don I owe you, big time. Don Davis said to me be carefull, it would take he and Butch along time to get here to save me if I got shot down this time. Butch would have a hard time here no BEER.
Now the present. I must describe to you all the base, COB Spiecher. COB stands for Combat Operations Base. The name Spiecher is for Navy Lt Spiecher, who shot down by a MIG ( possibly from this base) during Gulf War I. It is said that he was taken prisoner and was even kept here. He is still listed as MIA, he was never found. The base was at one time the home for the Iraq Air Force Academy. It was also a Mig base as well. It has two parallel runways a mile apart. The base is about 4 mile square. I have stated previous that the ground here is dirt/clay. There is no sand. The dirt is very fine and when it's broken down to a powder consistency, some what like talcum powder, it gets everywhere. There are gravel roads and parking areas. The gravel comes from the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The river rock is anywhere from crushed fine gravel to stones the size of a softball, so when you are walking at night you are always stepping on uneven ground and one must take care not to twist an ankle. All the buildings are surrounded by 10 high jersey barriers or Hescos. Hescos are chain link fence with a cloth liners, linked together to form a box and filled with dirt. The base is about 15 miles north west of Tikrit. We have a PX two gyms three dinning facilities. We have contract security guards from Uganda and the are very gracious people. I enjoy talking with them.
Now some of the cast of characters I fly with. These are all great guys. Everyone here is a volunteer and has made at least one or more deployments.
My room mate is Chris, he is a tall skinny pelican looking kind of fellow. He is the one who washes his clothes in the shower, (our laundry is free here). He is very much the grumpy old man here. If you say good morning your liable to get a " what's so good about it" or worse answer. Oh the aromatic smell of one who washes his clothes in on the shower floor brings a tear to my eyes...
Then there is Scott our SIP, the best I have ever come across and a very nice guy, lots of experience. Scott is very quite and unassuming, glasses an accountant look. When he is alone in the office he listens to the Doors or some heavy metal music, totally not what you would expect. When he is walking around he is always looking down collecting , you guessed it rocks....by the pocket load. So his nick name is Rocks.
We have a Frank Burns aka MASH. Frank is a "I know it all done it all" and is a world champ brown nose.
One of my favorites is Hilton, a baseball player from Texas. He has been my source of entertainment for a while. He turned cold water on me in the shower, and since then we have gone back and fourth with the pranks. I stole his shorts in the shower so he couldn't get dressed.
We have an ex rodeo rider that just tells it like it is, if he thinks its a stupid idea he will say '' that's a stupid idea". And rank is of no concern to him. The sign outside his room said it all, Anger management " Go choke Yourself". He refers to me as G. Gordon , because my shaved head and mustache remind him of G. Gordon Liddy.
Then there is Bowen a quick witted, never at a lost for a come back, very funny guy. He is a Jet Blue captain that is here some what like me. He is one of those I would fly with anywhere any time kind of pilots. He can imitate anyone or thing and that adds to the entertainment. The best is his British cockney accent.
The youngsters, I refer to as the Cabbage patch kids.
Ben, from Oregon is your typical Senior Army aviator he keeps the standards high, as well as the laughs. He is an aviation nut, his family has a flying aviation museum back in Oregon that is awesome. Ben is a also an outspoken chap that can let you know quickly what's on his mind. He is the quint accentual Scotchman, red faced and ready to challenge you, but full of humor.
Angry Andy our Safety Officer ( he is not an Angry Guy at all) he is our resident Cigar aficionado...he can't smoke all the cigars that he has. Working on a Masters degree while here.
Sgt. Wolf, is like Slim Pickens, the western actor from Dr. Stranglove movie.He has this southern drawl that sounds just like Pickens," Sir I'll tell you what, lets make like a cow paddy and hit the trail" he has other aphorisms, however I am keeping this clean. Sgt. Foster our ultiment fighter dude.
Major Stagpole, the man who told a Brigade Sgt Major to , F off when the Sgt. suggested that his Nike socks were not regulation at the gym. Awesome! Well that's it for now, another Ground Hog day in the giant federal prison called Spiecher. I now know what prison is like.
Well folks here I am 6 months into the tour. I am getting ready to go on leave soon. I can not wait to get home to my wife and the kids...I have missed them very much.
For all of you non believers that do not know what a Sit Rep is , it is a Situation Report. The Army is full of abbreviations. Like for instance DFAC is the Dinning Facility, DMAIN is Division Headquarters, TOC is Tactical Operations Center and the list goes on and on , like a second language.
How do I report about this tour so far? Everyone knows about Iraq from the news, and we all know how credible they are. I can explain that yeah, I fly a King Air in combat. Oh yawn! that's not a real military aircraft after all no guns. I can report that it has been some of the hardest and demanding flying I have ever done. I can describe that is is like being on Mars. The blowing dust and the heat that is like an oven. It is a challenge to fly anything in these conditions. Flying these airplanes at Max gross weight, at the very end of the performance charts, even sometimes over them. Trying to return to base in low viability and little lighting at night.
I can tell you that an SA 7 travels at Mach 2 ++ and you will only see it maybe for a few seconds. Either your missile defense system will work or it won't, if it doesn't you will never know because you will be history.
I can tell how proud I am to serve with the very best of American young people. They are unselfishly doing what few would or care to do. I fly with one pilot that has a terminally ill 2 year old. He has had to pre-plan his sons funeral just in case. I asked him why are you here? He said, because its my turn, my duty! Another young trooper is on his way to Afghanistan after this. These are just a few of the heros I serve with.
I can report how even though your here with other soldiers, you crave the contact with home family and friends to hold off the loneliness. To all those that kept in touch, and also supported me, thank you.
The war here is slowly winding down. We have made a difference. The locals say they are better off, and of course they are. I believe we will always be here in this region of the world for a number of reasons. Terrorism, Israel and Iran, Pakistan and nuclear weapons and of course Oil. I am on the down side of this now. I am getting ready to go home on leave and be with my wife and kids. I can't wait. I feel I have grown professionally , physically and spiritually. I know I am a better person now than when I started this.
Memorial Flight 09/20/2009
Final SitRep 10/01/2009
Here it is my last days in the OIF. It seems like a world away from when I arrived here almost a year ago. Now I am leaving, it seems not real to me. On my leave, and even before I deployed to Iraq , people would tell me, thank you for what I was doing. The people that really need to be thanked are my wife and children, they have made the greatest sacrifice. Secondly my colleges at work that had to fly the extra schedule to make up for my absence.
I have been asked why would anyone leave their family and a great job to come back into the Army and go to Iraq? I can answer that very simply, I have spent most of my adult life as a soldier. When 911 happened I knew that this war was going to take a lot more people than the Army had to send. I would do what ever I could to protect my country, and my family. It was the way I was brought up and I guess I have an over active patriotic gene. It may sound corn ball to some but that's the truth and I did it for those reasons.
I have had the opportunity to serve and fly with some great young Americans and most have been younger than me!! They are what keeps our country safe and you can all be proud of them. I will miss them when I leave but feel very fortunate to have met each one. I have always tried to add some humor to my reports and this one will be no different.
I mentioned that we always have a cast of characters so I will reminisce with you on a few of them. First off, Danny Wright, the Irish kid from PA. Danny and I attend mass together. He is always running late. Every time I would see him, I would ask how things were going? He would say I really would like to talk with you but I am late so off he would run...
Then there is Sweet Pee a soft spoken Texas guy that could be the only guy to get away with jinking the airplane around while the commander was trying to use the relief tube. His room mate is Nate the likeable guy that the girls all like. I call him the Hamster, no matter how mad you are at him as soon a s you see his smile and hear his laugh you just can not stay mad at him. ( No Nate you can not date any of my daughters).
There is Kawj Rob, from Kawjilin in the Marshall Islands. Rob is our scheduler and is constantly bombarded with I can't fly at night, or my ass hurts etc..... he does quite well with fielding all the complaints, perhaps medication has helped.
Cpt M. the Korean from New Jersey, he speaks like a California surfer dude and does not speak any Korean. We call him Ho Bac Mod-ee (that means Pumpkin head in Korean) This of course drives him crazy so we keep it up.
George H or the Rattler as we call him. He has made connections everyplace on Spiecher. If you need something he is the man. Adam is one of our new pilots, he said when he was born he weighed 13 lbs, all head. They called him Pac Man when he was little because his head was so big.
Cpt. Sisk or Cisco as we call him just a nice guy reminds me of a cross between the 40 year old Virgin and Mr. Rogers....
Maj Kennepp or Special K as I call her. She cares for h her troops and is committed to them ,a good leader. Special Ks husband is here as well we call him the Mrs....of course...he is good guy as well.
Tony C my Italian friend from RI. He could star in the Sopranos. Tony always has a happy view of things.
Gary T. The only guy older than me, also a Vietnam guy. We shared a CHU and it was sort of like Hawk Eye and Honey Cut on MASH type of relationship.
Our flight surgeon is an ex-special forces guy. He at any given time has more weapons than all of us put together. Doc as we call him, always is saying "push it up" , I say Doc I believe you do push it up if you know what I mean.
We have one guy that when taking a check ride, pretended to have an imaginary friend. Every time the IP asked him a question he would look over his shoulder and ask his "friend". The IP stopped asking questions.
The camaraderie that brings us together is what helps us all get through the long nights and dust storms, or the almost mid airs with other aircraft. It is the bond that will tie us all forever. I will not miss the heat, or the dust. The long missions at night, or trying to get back in to Home Plate on a low visibility night. I will miss the people, and I will keep that in a special place with the memories of my other brothers from my last war... Good Bye Iraq....Good Bye B Troop.