The Speed of Heat: An Airlift Wing at War in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Published by: McFarland
Release Date: April 30, 2008
ISBN13: 978-0786437986


With its fleet of large transport aircraft, the U.S. military can put personnel and equipment anywhere on the globe within hours.  In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, virtually every soldier, every bullet, every pint of blood, and every bite of food have arrived in the war zone by airlift. 

The Speed of Heat tells the story of one Air National Guard airlift unit as related by its members.  The 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard consisted of a squadron of twelve C-130 cargo planes, the aircrews, and all the supporting sections — in all, more than 1,200 people.  The author, a former Associated Press reporter turned aviator, flew as an active member of that unit and interviewed nearly seventy servicemen and women for this book.  They include aircrews who dodged heat-seeking missiles, mechanics who made combat repairs, flight nurses who treated and transported the wounded, even two motor pool truck drivers struck by a roadside bomb.



"Individually, the Air National Guard servicemen and women featured in this book describe in heartstopping detail everything from evading heat-seeking missiles to suriving roadside bombs. But taken together, their accounts are a powerful reminder of the true nature of courage, sacrifice, and teamwork. Nobody can tell the story of our troops better than they can, and Tom Young's The Speed of Heat emphasizes that there are still countless extraordinary war stories to be told. The very least we can do, in gratitude for their service, is listen to them."
—Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers War Letters andBehind the Lines 

"This book makes the case that airlift and logistics are the heart of the military power of the United States. Combat aircraft such as fighters and bombers may get the lion’s share of attention, but they are able to do their jobs only because of units like the 167th. Historians will find this book of interest, but so will those weighing a decision about signing up for the air guard . . . It’s as complete an impression of life in that branch as can be found on contemporary bookshelves."
—George C. Larson, founding editor Of The Smithsonian's Air & Space Magazine


Chapter 21

Arabian Nights

No current obstacle data. Engine running offload not permitted during sand storms…Exercise extreme caution when landing/taking off Runway 15R/33L due to…bomb damage crater repair.

From the Airport/Facility Directory, Baghdad International Airport

Quick scan of the panels now. Fifteen thousand feet and descending at 2,000 feet per minute. Airspeed 260 knots. Oil pressures and temperatures good. Antiaircraft missile countermeasures on AUTO. The tiny green light on your helmet microphone illuminates your watch; it's 0200.

A flash on the ground, just in the corner of your eye. Grenade? Car bomb? No time to think about it.

The Combat Entry checklist is done, but you touch the external light switches again anyway. Dear God, you don't want to get shot down because you're so tired you left a strobe on. 

You're too busy to get scared, but your mouth is dry. It's the air in these planes. Just another night in Iraq.

Read the full excerpt