April 21, 2003. Coalition forces, led by the Americans, have taken Baghdad and greater Iraq. The conventional fighting was mostly over and the search for weapons of mass destruction had begun. Saddam’s statue had toppled in the square. President Bush’s staff was busy not contemplating the possible fallout of a carrier landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner reading, ‘Mission Accomplished.’
For the pilots and crew of the USS Nimitz, on station in the Arabian Gulf, flight operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom had already become routine. Less than two months after the events described in the post Three Days, the uncertainty of world events had yielded to the greater threats of complacency and the rampant convective weather in the region.
On the evening of my big brother’s birthday, I was scheduled to fly yet another OIF patrol mission with my usual wingman. And when you are not a great planner, like me, birthday gifts from an aircraft carrier thousands of miles away can be difficult to come by.
Thus, I share the email that both described the eventful flight and commemorated my brother’s birthday to offer a sense of what such “routine” missions on deployment are like…