Flight of Sickness

Nine years and hundreds of flights.The idea of suiting up in flak vest and helmet for another mission sounds like a daily chore.Like brushing teeth. Like putting your shoes on.G-Forces play with your body once you get into an aircraft. Even helicopters can slosh your organs around inside. One aviation flight I will never forget happened onboard a C 23 Sherpa. This little 2 propeller plane made in 1976 has incredible maneuverability easily creating G-Force with a quick move. Let me tell you about the time during the summer of 2006 every passenger except myself lost it on a plane ride. The C 23 Sherpa (Retired from service by the Army National Guard in 2014) is a little, military transport vehicle made by the Short Brothers in Ireland. It can transport 3 pallets worth of goods or 20 people in red webbed seats. Speed tops out at 281 MPH at 12,000 feet. It has a length of 58 ft with a wingspan of 74 ft. On the ground it only stood 16 ft. But this plane got the job done during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Many older Army National Guardsmen flew this plane. Seasoned vets with many, many flight hours. So my mission as a Department of Defense Contractor entailed a flight from Camp Al-Tadamum to Camp Al Asad. I just finished servicing equipment for my mission and I needed to head over to Al Asad and seek out more equipment.I got my bullet proof vest on and helmet along with 200lbs of tools in a huge container on large wheels I pulled around. I carried my whole existence around with a sleeping bag and 9 days’ worth of clothes on top in a green duffel bag. I slept in many passenger terminals and tents. So I knew how to make myself comfortable, even on rocks. This air field at least had a paved strip so I rolled in style all of my tools towards the plane.Several older, gray haired, well-groomed men, who’ve seen many combat missions greeted me with a smile. You could tell they got a kick out of their job. Suited up in green, one piece uniforms with ranks of Captain, Lieutenant and NCO ranks they helped everyone load up their bags. I had to get some help with my huge cargo. Usually I get help with my cargo load. We act a bit like family out here. So with their mischievous grins, the elderly pilots and crew helped us. Many of us were middle aged or younger. A couple of Iraqi translators made their way onto the flight as well.Finally the aircraft prepared to leave the runway. Everyone strapped in. Simple lap harnesses kept us in our seats. We all faced each other on the craft, ten on each side with the cargo in the middle. All of the cargo, our bags sat strapped in with large cargo belts and webbing. We all tried to get comfortable but there is only so much room. Elbow to elbow we sat next to each other. I got lucky sitting near the cockpit and only had one person next to me with the other side free. Take-off was easy and gentle. We rose up, but only so high. The idea is to keep low and fast, so the aircraft presented less of a target up in the sky to the enemy. Several times I sat in a plane or helicopter while bullets whizzed into the body of the aircraft. It’s like a crappy lottery you don’t want to win. I am lucky enough this particular trip no one shot at us. But something else, more physically wrenching happened.As the aircraft approached maximum flight speed and height, temperature climbed up inside. Within 15 minutes everyone started to sweat. No air moved. You would think during summertime at least a small fan would be turned on. Nope. Everyone looked around with misery filled eyes.Then the maneuvers started.With gleeful grins the pilots did a nap of the earth maneuver over mountains and trees. What is this?Some call it ground hugging. Others call it terrain masking or flying under the radar. In World War 2 it was called Hedgehopping. The plane stayed as close as possible to the terrain without hitting the trees or mountains. So with temperature climbing we kept moving through enemy territory, hugging the earth. A small turn took place, we felt it. A sharp dive here. Then we pulled up and flew to the side. Now it felt like a rollercoaster. Inside a sweat box.Everyone sweated profusely then. Tension built up.I learned a small trick from a friend. Tighten up your core muscles in your stomach. Breathe shallow and just flex your stomach, like a perpetual crunch.Boy did that trick help.The first person grabbed a sick bag. Right across from me on the other wall of ten seats he threw up. I smelled the stomach acids and what he ate. Just like that it infected everyone else like dominoes falling down. Every passenger threw up except for myself and a Master Sergeant two seats down from me. The s

Source: Flight of Sickness


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