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Ghosts of Vietnam


The Hueys we flew in today were the same ones they used in Vietnam.  They are small and very maneuverable.  I was a little afraid I would fall out.  My brain knew that the chances were small.  I knew and felt that when the helicopter banks, you are pushed down into the seats, not out of the helicopter.  My body didn’t believe it, however.  When my brain instructed my hand to let go of the seat to take a picture, my hand didn’t always get the word, so I missed some cool bank shots.  In defense of my fortitude, take a look at my seat.  You may be able to understand my dilemma.

my seat

We were doing reconnaissance of the battle space with the Marines and an Iraqi colonel.  They understood the terrain much better than I did.  I was glad that I got to go along.  When they pointed out the important features, I could understand the logic, but I admit that I was mostly thrilled by the views and the adventure.   

 lake tharthar

Above is Lake Tharthar.  The little ripples are birds flying off the water.  It was like watching a nature show.  Below is an isolated farm.

AL Anbar farm

Flying in the Huey gave me greater appreciation for the courage of the men who served in Vietnam.  I could hardly imagine flying this platform into a battle where committed guys on the ground were shooting at you.  The Vietnam Vets deserved a better welcome home than we gave them.

Huey window

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Amen to that last part...

I have gotten quite the education from Vietnam veterans in regards to the HU1Es - - but you are in the Y model, I believe. One afternoon, I was telling the story behind the Huey we have in the National Museum of the Marine Corps and a gentleman tells me had had been a gunner on a Huey during Vietnam. He pointed out the 30mm guns mounted to racks on the side (probably a different configuration than what you are flying in now) and he told me about how he'd have to change the barrels after a run - - while inflight. I can't imagine hanging out the side of one of those things strapped to a harness changing a gun barrel.

That is such a beautiful lake, so blue! Is it fresh water? I could imagine a resort/spa on its shores.

How difficult is it in regards to helping the Iraqis with economic development in that area? It looks so barren. Its hard to imagine agriculture being very profitable. What is the biggest challenge facing your AO in regards to reconstruction and development?


John Matel responds

The water is fresh, but not very deep. It is a made made lake, which I suppose accounts for the lack of vegetation near the edges.

Most of the AO is barren, but the soils are good & when irrigated, as you see in the green strip, crops grow very well.

The biggest challenge for us is the distance and the sparse population. There were a few state owned enterprises and they suffer from the illls of socialism

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