Monday, September 12, 2005

The Everyday Heroes of the Flying Tigers Head Home

The 8-229 AVN Flying Tigers have been in Iraq since January, making this our ninth month here in the Sunni Triangle. And, like all ventures, our part of the story is coming to a close. In a few short weeks, the 8-229 AVN Flying Tigers will complete our battle handover to the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles. This will be their second tour in Iraq.

I have to tell you, I’m proud of what the men and women who make up the Flying Tigers have accomplished. Our pilots, with support from our ground crews, have flown almost 1,500 separate missions here. The early ones were during the first national elections Iraq had seen since the ‘50s. Many more followed, covering the convoys, raids, and patrols of the ground units the Flying Tigers support every day.

The everyday heroes who make up this unit may not be the kinds of people you would ever see in a Hollywood movie. The main reason is that they are the kinds of folks you have for next door neighbors. So, I don’t expect to see the story of the Flying Tigers in Iraq made into a full length feature movie.

No, the everyday heroes who make up the Flying Tigers are just like the other everyday heroes who make up the police, the firefighters, the emergency response teams, and all the other teams of citizens back home who risk their lives for the rest of us.

For example, our hard working exectutive officer (XO), Major Mayflower. An honor to work with this guy. A real, honest to god, natural born leader. He has managed to work 12 to 14 hour days for the past 18 months to keep this battalion running, and some how keep his sense of humor, too. All the little tasks that need coordinated between and within this battalion and others fall under his domain. He is the Battalion Commander's key point man in all those organizational tasks.

And, there’s Staff Sergeant Butcher. This guy is incredible. Twenty-five years old, third time here in the war zone, and he volunteered. Not the whiny National Guard or Reservist who claims to be a “conscientious objector” four days before his unit deploys. This guy is smart, hard working, and solid. You couldn’t ask for a better soldier.

One thing I’ve learned from working with the men and women of the 8-229 AVN Flying Tigers. That is, if you want to find a real hero, don’t go looking in a paper back novel, or at the movie screen, or on TV. Those are only weak, 2-dimensional representations. Over simplifications of reality. Cartoons.


Real heroes walk amongst us everyday. They’re at the mall, at the place you work, they’re in your Churches, Temples and or Synagogues. They’re all over the place.

Fact is, chances are, the next time you want to need a hero, go look in the mirror. He’s right there, waiting for you.

No sweat.