A helicopter unit of the Mississippi National Guard, 185th Aviation group based in Meridian is vital to the U.S. mission in Iraq and for military operations around the world. But what is life like for these "citizen soldiers" Correspondent Doug Grindle visited Company G as it was getting ready for a night mission in Iraq. He filed the following story.
Company G of the 185th aviation is helping transition a replacement unit into their slot. It has spent the last year flying cargo and soldiers around Iraq. The mission has kept thousands of U.S. soldiers off the dangerous roads of Iraq.
"Instead of having them on the roads, it saved hundreds of lives of passengers, keeping them off the road, where there is a threat of IEDs," said Maj. David Morris of Hattiesburg, Miss.
Chinooks are a decades-old work horse and the Army uses them as transport helicopters, but they are heavily armed too to defend themselves against attacks that have happened time and again for this unit in Iraq.
"It's a humbling experience," said Jesse Green of Meridian, Miss. "When you have tracers coming at you, it's a humbling experience. It puts things in perspective. It's a different feeling."
"You see a lot of rockets and RPGs. They shoot at the sound. If they can't see the helicopter, they'll shoot and just take pot shots at you," Morris said.
As these soldiers headed home, they said the mission has been a good one, with plenty of flying. Many soldiers feel by flying these missions, they have accomplished something positive for Iraq.
"As far as people back home, what we're doing here is a good job," said Jason Freeman of Meridian. "Saddam Hussein needed to be taken away. I don't think we need to Americanize it all. The Iraqis just need to have the opportunity to have a free country, just as we did."
"It has made an impact," Green said. "You see them when you fly over the villages and you see them waving. It has made an impact and a positive one, I'd like to think."
These kinds of operations are the order of the day on this Army base and it's an adjustment that both ground crew and flight crew have already made.