It Would Be An Honor
Here at the FOB you get use to noises and sights that are not the norm.
Yesterday as I was talking to my wife Katherine on the phone, it was one of the few times the connection was good enough to have a reasonable conversation, but the background noise was pretty loud. There was a fire fight going on off in the distance. Clearly outside the perimeter, but close enough to hear the staccato of the rifle fire intermixed with the much louder and faster automatic fire that was most likely coming from a weapon mounted on top of a vehicle, ours.
It didn’t last too long. In fact, I knew it would be over soon when the deafening sounds and the vibrations of everything in the room caused by the spinning rotor blades over my hut headed out in the direction of the fire fight. Within minutes it was all quiet. I’m not sure if Katherine knew what was happening and I didn’t really see the need to tell her the blow by blow. Did these flying machines end the fire fight? I don’t know, but if needed they were there on station and ready to go.
The rotor blades I am talking about belong to the Vampires. They fly all the time and they are a sight to see. It seems as if there are always two of these awesome machines zipping about overhead.
The 1st Battalion 227th Aviation Regiment is an attack helicopter battalion that is a sub unit of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade (1ACB), the aviation brigade for the 1st Cavalry Division. The battalion is an AH-64D Apache task force based out of Fort Hood, Texas. That’s appropriate.
Charlie Company “Vampires” is an AH-64D Attack Helicopter company currently assigned to Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan. Along with the Avengers of A Company, the Vampires currently provide Recon & Security and Close Combat Attack support to a wide range of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
I mentioned in an earlier article that the Apache looks, to me at least, like a menacing mechanical dragon. These dragons are mean. Some of the weapons and armament are standard, some not but they are capable of carrying guns as in the 30 × 113 mm (1.18 × 4.45 in) M230 Chain Gun with 1,200 rounds. They have hard-points which are four pylon stations on the stub wings. They carry rockets like the Hydra 70 mm, and CRV7 70 mm air-to-ground rocket. They also carry missiles that are typically AGM-114 Hellfire variants but the AIM-92 Stinger may also be carried. Quite an arsenal and when this thing is bearing down on a target, it is all over for the folks on the receiving end.
If you have been following my adventures, you know I live right there in Gonzales County in Harwood. My son, now a 2LT in the US Army, graduated from Gonzales High School before he went on to the United States Military Academy at West Point. My family was born and raised in Texas and I guess that makes me look at these mean machines a little differently. These soldiers are based out of Texas. That makes them from home.
I wanted to do something special for the community I live in, so I had my wife send me a Come and Take It flag. The flag, white and black, is a proud symbol of the Texas spirit and the start of the Texas revolution. I went to visit the Vampires and asked if it was possible to have the flag flown by one of the Apache Attack Helicopters.
Possible? That was an understatement. As I entered the building where the pilots and crew of the Apaches work, I was met by a large and somewhat intimidating Sergeant First Class Loftin. I introduced myself and laid out what I was wanting to do.
During my conversation with SFC Loftin, he stopped me and asked, “Hey, aren’t you the guy that walks that big German Shepherd down here? I took a picture of you two the other day. It came out real good. Want to see?”
“Yep. That’s me and Jack,” I answered.
I then took out the flag and his eyes lit up. He knew all about the flag. He knew the history, the meaning, and even more surprising to me, he knew where it came from. SFC Loftin is a Texas boy and when he saw the flag from Gonzales Texas, his only comment was “It would be an honor to fly this flag.”
The flag will be flown by the Vampires Apache attack helicopters in combat missions. SFC Loftin will then have it signed by the pilots and crews and I will bring it back to Texas when I return.
Here’s a little history tidbit, that if you don’t know then shame on you. Do you know who officially named the Apache helicopter? Well do you?
It was Col. Kenneth McGinty from Gonzales, Texas – home of the Gonzales Apaches!!
Just another fact we should all be very proud of. I know I am. And something else I’m proud of, I’m proud to be in the presence of these men and women here in Afghanistan who risk their lives day in and day out because they were asked to.
Because they feel it is their duty. Because they all volunteered to do the hard things, the things most people back home can’t begin to fathom. And this particular group flies Apaches, based out of Texas, and named in Gonzales.
Yes, it is indeed, an Honor.
From here in Afghanistan, I’m Jon Harris and this has been another Dispatch from Downrange.