>It’s that time of the year…

>It’s beginning to look a lot like summer in Iraq. Temperatures are getting close to the high 30s C (in the 90s F), and you can definitely tell it in the aircraft. One of the little peculiarities of the Black Hawk (and most Army helicopters) is that there’s no air conditioning in it. Seriously, they paid $8 million for the aircraft and it has no air conditioning.

With the sun beating through the top of the canopy, you get a bit of a magnifying lens effect which makes it that much hotter. It doesn’t help either that the “window” is just a little fist-sized ram scoop on each cockpit door, which makes ventilation damn near impossible.

And let’s not forget that once you hit the hotter temperatures, it’s time to start remembering all those things you practiced in the simulator regarding pressure altitude. You are also reminded of everything you’ve been told about the fact that it takes more power to hover at hotter temperatures. Otherwise, you might have a little surprise like I did yesterday, when I saw just a little bit of yellow on the torque meter when I came up to a hover.

Flying over Iraq has plenty of boring moments. Not surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of flat desert, and even following along on the map presents its difficulties, as most maps simply show vast expanses of varying shades of tan. There’s also the occasional smart comment on the map which actually labels a point “sand and rocks”. Well, at least if I’m on an evaluation flight, I’ll never be lost. I can confidently point to the “sand and rocks” point on the map and claim that that is my true position, GPS be damned.

But not all of Iraq is like this. Indeed, there are a few areas–particularly near the Mesopotamia region of Iraq–where you will see green fields where farmers are growing crops. There had to be some fertile land in Iraq, otherwise people would not have been living here for thousands of years.

Being on a base in the middle of the desert, I miss trees and grass. Typical Army landscaping compounds the desert dilemma by covering the area with nothing but dust, gravel and pavement. Throw in shipping containers, hangars, concrete barriers and sandbags, maybe the occasional trailer or latrine, and you have a depressing sight.

People always wonder why I don’t take more pictures of Iraq. Well, when you’re on a base that’s far from an urban area, you really don’t have anything interesting to take pictures of, unless you find your local construction zone interesting.

But some bases actually have quite a few trees, a welcome sight, and one I stared at for more than a few minutes. I even marveled at the fact that there were areas where grass was growing, and the occasional flower was blooming. At one base, I could even see wheat growing on the ground. My base was so desolate that even weeds were rare. I almost cringed every time I saw a Soldier pull weeds and grass out of the ground during cleaning details.

So please, don’t have Soldiers pull weeds–it’s almost a morale booster to have weeds in the first place. Plus, according to the Iraqi nationals, some of the weeds are actually edible. Or, maybe they’re playing an elaborate practical joke, who knows.

About Crispin Burke

Major Crispin Burke is a US Army aviator qualified in the UH-60 and LUH-72 helicopters. Major Burke has served in the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, and Joint Task Force-Bravo in Honduras. In what is likely a sad statement on the state of humanity, Major Burke's writings, musings, and irreverent cartoons have been featured at Small Wars Journal, National Defense University, Foreign Policy Online, Wired Magazine, Egremont, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Great Satan's Girlfriend.
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