By Dan Clare The New York Times
My last memory of Iraq was of boarding a transport plane on the flight line at Balad Air Base in late January 2008. It had been raining and we were hoping to get out of the country before “MUDCON,” or mud conditions, turned every inch of desert not hiding below flight line or rocks into peanut butter.
From the corner of my eye I saw a helicopter coming in. It was early in the morning, we’d been awake all night. And there was a Black Hawk helicopter with its generic Red Cross symbol on the nose.
I still hear the sound from time to time — sometimes during a nightly newscast and other times under the hum of a fan in the house. And I wonder who is where getting hurt.
I spent four months in Iraq on active duty public affairs as a military journalist and media escort trying to get the Air Force story “told.” In truth, the Air Force’s role in Iraq had changed dramatically as the majority of the war had shifted to ground combat. With the Air Force budget on the decline, our task was to remind the American people that the Air Force was critical to the fight. It was a tough sell.
The civilian media wasn’t naturally attracted to the proportionate fraction of expeditionary airmen who were on the ground outside the wire or the Herculean logistics and transportation support the service was providing.
If not for a lift to another base in Iraq, the stories the media most wanted to tell came from the Air Force Theater Hospital, the only full-spectrum trauma hospital in the Iraq and the hub for patients being medically evacuated from the combat zone.
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