Thursday, April 19, 2007

Merlins & The Deputy PM

19 Mar 07
We got a tour of a Royal Air Force Merlin helicopter the other day. It’s a great helicopter and the Brits are exceptionally proud of it. The aircraft was recently selected by the USMC as the replacement helicopter for the helicopters currently used to fly the President. The Brits are very proud of that fact and when they speak of it they sound like they’ve pulled off a massive coup—the American President flying around in a British helicopter! One guy said he visited the depot where the Presidential fleet is being produced. He said there are Secret Service agents everywhere and it’s impossible to get close the helicopters.

We sent Senior Master Sergeant Mike and Master Sergeant Pat up to Baghdad today. They were supposed to travel via an Iraqi AF C-130. The C-130 called in that it would land in 15 minutes so we got their stuff loaded up and headed to the airport. Knowing Iraqi time we assumed they would be on the ground for 3 hours. Just 20 minutes after getting the initial call we arrived on the parking ramp to see the aircraft taxiing back out to the runway for take off…our guys had missed their ride.

I noticed a USAF C-130 parked on the ramp as well and decided I’d ask them where they were going. The aircraft commander met us at the door and confirmed they were headed to Baghdad but said he was already overbooked. I asked if we could hang out and see if any seats opened up. He explained he was waiting on the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and his entourage which included a US Army Lieutenant General and wouldn’t have room. Nevertheless, we waited off to the side and within 2 minutes the load master told us the pilot had told them to make room for our guys. I couldn’t imagine walking out to Air Force Two carrying our Vice President and asking the pilot if he would take a couple GIs based on nothing more than the uniforms they were wearing.

The C-130 aircraft commander had the attitude you see a lot of over here—“okay, let’s help each other out and get it done.” Not to say you don’t get that stateside but it’s taken to another level here. Guys are quick to weed through and cut out the bureaucracy that can create so much additional work when stateside. It’s great!

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