Christmas Day, I dedicated a post to my brother-in-law, Sam, who is currently serving our country as an Army helicopter pilot in Iraq.
Then, as many of us are guilty of doing, I went back to my shopping and hanging out with friends and DVR and Starbucks.
Quite honestly, I sometimes think that's a tiny part of what Sam and his fellow soldiers fight for--for us to go about our business, living our lives in freedom. Freedom from fear and freedom from terror.
I know military life overseas has changed drastically from the days my grandfathers fought the Axis powers and when my dad spent a year in Thailand with the Air Force during the 1970s. I thought it might be interesting for us to hear more about a soldier's life from Sam, so I am putting together a little series of interviews. Today's gives us a bit of insight into how a soldier prepares to deploy and what he might miss the most. Upcoming interviews will follow Sam's job, where he lives when he's in Iraq, and what he does when he's not working.
Here's a bit more about Sam, a US Army Captain, who married my sister in Septemer, 2009. They've known each other since 4th grade, and started dating in high school!
*His answers are in italics. The photos from Iraq were taken by Sam.*
1. What is your job in the Army?
Platoon Leader, Forward Support MEDEVAC Team/ UH-60 Blackhawk Pilot
(The extent of my knowledge of Blackhawks is limited to the movie "Blackhawk Down". From what I've gathered, what the above terminology means is that Sam is in charge of other guys and he flies injured soldiers to safety in his helicopter.)
2. What's your favorite thing about being in the Army?
Solving problems, helping my Soldiers learn and progress, the MEDEVAC mission, and, of course, flying.
3. When you are in the States, where are you stationed?
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky
4. Where are you currently?
Al Anbar Province, Iraq
5. Once you know you'll be deploying, how long does the Army typically give you, and what do you have to do (at home and work) to prepare?
I hate to say "it depends," but I'm going to. It depends. Most conventional units typically have been doing a year deployed and a year or so at home. One can generally anticipate future deployments about 10 months out. Each unit is different, and many get much less notice.
6. I'm guessing you don't get a first-class ticket on an airliner to the Mid-East. How do you travel, and how does your helicopter get there?
We travel on chartered airliners to get to Kuwait . They are on regular airplanes with flight-attendants, meals, etc., except that all the seats are for deploying/military personnel.
Our helicopters get packed up and put on a ship a few weeks before we leave the States. We pick them up at the seaport in Kuwait, do some required maintenance, and fly North from there.
7. Is the trip less daunting, since this is your second time in the Mid-East?
I'm not sure "daunting" would be the word I'd use to describe it, but there are aspects of the job that are easier the second time around. I have a lot more knowledge of my job and aviation experience...that certainly helps. The biggest change is that there are many fewer combat casualties this rotation, so that is a pretty significant change, and a good one. I guess that makes it easier, but being away from Alison- 16 weeks pregnant-makes it tougher to be away this time around.
(Yes, I'm going to be an Aunt Manda in September!)
8. We know you miss your beautiful wifey. Name one thing you miss.
Too many to list. I guess I should say I miss the day-to-day interaction the most. The last time we lived in the same location was Ballad, Iraq, in 2008.
(Alison is an Air Force nurse and was stationed in Iraq with Sam in 2008)
Needless to say, we are really looking forward to setting up a home and being "normal" for awhile. Being apart has really made me appreciate the little things.
9. If you could sit down at any restaurant on date with Alison right now, which one would it be?
If we were in Tennessee, I think we would agree to the Blackhorse Pub. Beer cheese dip, garlic crust pizza, and a house Black and Tan. I think she would agree on that one. (Very necessary shameless plug!)
That's all I have for today's interview. I hope it gave you a neat peek at what it's like to be in the Army. Next time I'll be asking Sam for some more information on what's it like to fly helicopters, and I have some great photos to share!
For today...please don't leave ME a comment. I'd love it if you'd leave a note for Sam and his fellow soldiers in Al Anbar. If you have any questions about a soldier's life in Iraq, please email me, or ask here and I'll include them in the next interview. Sam reads this blog all the way in Iraq (out of familial duty) and I thought it would be nice for him to see some encouraging notes today (or tomorrow...I'm not good with time zones).
Come back tomorrow for a fun GIVEAWAY!
1 hour ago