January 24, 2005

Night Moves

When I was here in the summer I didn't get to go outside at night. Our house was in the RZ and we weren't allowed to leave it. I did go up on the roof every now and then to look around but our guards took a dim view of this so I mostly stayed inside.

This trip, however, I'm living in the GZ, and it's dark earlier this time of year, so I'm outside regularly after dark. I've seen some things that have almost blown my mind. Remember when you were a little kid and the fire truck went by? It was the biggest, loudest, coolest (esp. if you were a boy) thing you had seen in your life. It's kind of like that.

Our camp is on the flight path for the helicopter pad in the GZ, there's an obvious pattern: two transport choppers escorted by two gunships. I'm used to small airports, esp. at night, what I'm not used to is having aircraft fly around at night with their lights off. I hear a noise and I look up for the lights ... doesn't work here, you can't find anything that way. Also, these helicopters are big, massively powered twin turbines, pushing a LOT of air to stay in the sky. They move fast, constantly execute high bank maneuvers (hard to hit) and are armored and armed to the teeth.

So you're walking outside and you hear "whomp whomp whomp whomp" and you know it's getting louder fast, and you look up and you can't see anything and the echos are keeping you from figuring out where it's coming from and you know the weapons system is hot and you're almost certainly on FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) and the pilot can see you, and if the gunner is bored there's a cross hair on you too, but you can't see anything and the "WHOMPS" are getting louder until the thing breaks out of the darkness like a wraith and is heading to fly right over you, skimming the trees and streetlights, and the sound is suddenly deafening with a WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP that shakes your bones with a bass line louder than you've heard at any rave and you're almost overcome by the sound and the fury and the second one materializes right on the flank of the first tracing its motions and doubling the effect and you twist your head and body to keep up as they go by and ... whooom, they're gone, followed shortly by a big wind that almost magnifies the silence.

When the Chinooks (big double bladed helicopters) fly overhead it's even louder, though somehow less menacing than the gun ships.

Another example: walking back to the car from the cafeteria the other night, got to cross the street and waiting for a break in traffic. Okay, no cars, just that one light way down the street let's go. Hey, what is that thing, it sounds like a huge semi pulling a massive load and over-revving the engine. It's only got one headlight. What is that? Man it's loud. It's really hauling ass too, that huge engine is revving way too fast to be a semi, it sounds like a turbine, and it's bigger than any semi truck engine I've ever heard. Crap, there's only so far off the side of the road we can go and this thing is heading right for us. Stop here and watch as the noise grows and -- GGGRRRRRMMMMMMMMMMMM, the M1 tank goes flying by, must be doing 50mph, faster than anyone else drives on that road, 3' from your nose and toes. It is louder than a freight train. You can yell at the top of your lungs and not only can you not hear yourself yell, you're being shaken so hard that you can't even *feel* yourself yell. The main gun points right down the street at oncoming traffic, staying eerily still, as if distended from the vehicle (I assume this is the auto-aiming system), there is no windshield or window to look in and make eye contact with the driver, it's like some kind of automaton from a science fiction movie.

See, I'd pay to be here and see this stuff. Just like the little kid with the fire truck I'm in awe. As soon as something like this passes I turn to whomever I'm with, and see the mirror of awe on their face, and say "that, my friend, is the sound of freedom".

I'm glad they're on my side.

Posted by rick at January 24, 2005 05:09 AM