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Color of War


This area of Iraq is ethnically diverse.  Kurds living with Arabs living with Turkmen.  Yezidis with Muslims of both Sunni and Shiite varieties.  If your helicopter makes an emergency landing in a Yezidi area, the locals might be serving tea and folding your laundry before search and rescue arrives.  Don’t mess with their women, though.  Some Kurdish/Yezidi women have blonde or red hair with green eyes.  Many are beautiful, but Yezidi women are off-limits and punishment can be death by stoning.  So stick to the tea and food—which is great.


After some twenty minutes of flying, we landed at a FARP (Forward Arming and Refueling Point, a little helicopter gas station where you can get gas, rockets and bullets).  We refueled, then picked up some soldiers and went hunting for bad guys.


We flew south from the Sinjar mountains into a vast desert that was, as expected, wind-swept and desolate.  In some places, dried lakes left the parched earth sprinkled with white salt.  The winds traced long sand shadows behind even the smallest shrubs.


Mud Dabbers:  These people still live close enough to water to build mud homes, which look like they would melt if there were heavy rains.  Far off into the desert, there are only tents.  Kids ran out and waved; the crew chiefs waved back.


Into the wild.


Deeper into the drylands, more satellite receivers.


Although drought has come even to the deserts, wadis still remember the rains.


Weapons are often hidden in the wadis.  Even from the air, the number of wadis make searching difficult.


On the ground, soldiers driving with night vision goggles instead of headlights can make fatal errors.


We often flew very low and very slow, sometimes only hovering while rotors washed dust.  The soldiers use the helicopters to follow tire tracks, but there are so many different tracks, many of them curling and crisscrossing, that following them can prove nearly impossible.


Eye on the gas.  Through the earphones, pilots frequently can be heard discussing fuel consumption and distance to the nearest FARP.



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