You’re flying along on a combat airlift mission over the Sunni Triangle. External lights off, plane blacked out, night-vision goggles on. Baghdad fell just days ago.
Just a few miles from Saddam International Airport–it has yet to be renamed–a burst of tracer fire comes up off the left wing. Needles spearing up into the night. Maybe a half mile out, not close enough to threaten. You call out tracers at nine o’clock, but you don’t need to break off course. Hmm. Weird.
Next night, something similar. Over the outskirts of Baghdad, antiaircraft artillery blossoms a thousand yards out at two o’clock. Whatever.
And on the next mission it happens again. This time, a rocket-propelled grenade arcs up way in front of you, hits nothing, winks out like a cigarette butt tossed away. You ask your buddies, “What are those knuckleheads shooting at? There’s nothing out there.”
Then it dawns on you. You’re flying a blacked-out airplane. The bad guys can’t see you, but they can hear you. They’re firing up at the noise. Those knuckleheads are shooting at YOU.