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‘Copters, pilots serve vital role in Middle East

By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

We were exhausted and on our way back to the Forward Operating Base (FOB) after completing a mission the previous period of darkness.

At 0800 hours, while looking out the open door of a Black Hawk helicopter and listening to Elvis Presley sing “Suspicious Minds” on my iPod, I was waiving back at some children looking up as we flew over their village. In the warmth of the early morning sunlight, I remembered that is was my birthday.

This is an entry that I made in my military journal; a snapshot of a moment in time of my experience here in Iraq.

The fastest route to the mission is through the air. Helicopters have evolved for many different types of military missions, including air assault, scouting/intelligence, troop transport and resupply. These aircraft help to ensure our ground troops’ success by gathering enemy data, moving troops and supplies and delivering firepower from above.

I first learned to appreciate all that military helicopters and their daring pilots can do from one of my friends, Don Amoroso of Shepherdstown. Don was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

The UH-60 Black Hawk that I referenced in my journal entry is the military’s all-purpose assault and transport helicopter. The unit cost of the Army’s UH-60L Black Hawk is about $6 million. I’ve been told that it costs about $6,000 an hour to operate a Blackhawk.

The UH-60 entered service with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in June 1979. The UH-60 saw its first combat service in Grenada in 1983. UH-60As also served in the invasion of Panama in 1989.

UH-60A and UH-60L Black Hawks participated in the Gulf War of 1991. In 1993, Black Hawks featured prominently in the assault on Mogadishu in Somalia. Black Hawks also saw action in the Balkans and Haiti in the 1990s. And as you know from my journal entry, Black Hawk helicopters

continue to serve in Iraq and also Afghanistan.

When the military needs to move large numbers of troops, ammunition or supplies, the CH-47D Chinook helicopter is our workhorse. This twin-turbine, tandem rotor helicopter is built for heavy lifting. And when reconfigured as the MH-47, the Chinook speeds us into difficult terrain on night missions.

Still, the Black Hawks are my favorite because I can see more of the scenery. Iraq is a beautiful country that is full of life.

– Tom Maiden lives in Shepherdstown with his wife and four children. He is currently serving in Iraq. When not serving as a “Citizen Sailor,” Tom works part-time teaching insurance & financial planning at Shepherd University and owns a financial planning practice in Shepherdstown.