Fred Wellman Profile picture
Dec 22, 2017 16 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I have a lot of fond holiday memories from 22-yrs in the Army and 4 combat deployments. My favorite was during Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia when I was an OH-58 Aeroscout Platoon Leader for the 24th Infantry Div's Apache Battalion as we prepared to invade Iraq. Long thread: (1)
The Army was rapidly fielding new M1A1 tanks before the invasion and had carved out a huge range in the desert for training. We had a mission to clear it each day of bedouins who wandered in overnight. I volunteered for the mission on Christmas to give my guys a break. (2)
My company commander, an Apache pilot, volunteered to tag along though it was a single pilot mission. We flew out to the range building where my boss hopped out and I picked up a Major who directed me to a big Saudi compound just off range to pick up our local guide. (3)
I land and this tall classic movie Arab walks out w flowing white robes, a beard and crossed bandoliers of ammo across his chest walks out and hops in the back of my tiny aircraft. We're getting close to max weight on an OH-58C in the desert but off we go to scour the range. (4)
We clear it quickly and the Major directs me to land at a bedouin camp just off range. It was odd but I land and shut down. I was nervous because we had a forecast of a possible large shamal dust storm coming but I was just a 1LT. We hop out and the locals welcomed us warmly. (5)
We sit down in the tents with tea and chit chat while I stare at the sky. Eventually the bedouin jumps up and runs out. I ask the Arab guide what's going on and he tells me that he knows its our Christmas holiday and he wants to give us a special gift. Great, I love gifts. (6)
Eventually I wander over and boot up my radios to check the weather and basically get told to GTFO now or I won't make it home for days. I look up and see a massive wall of dust coming. I frantically yell that WE'VE GOT TO GO! The bedouin comes out with a big freaking sheep. (7)
I'm like what is this? It's our gift. A sheep to eat..and it's pissed. The Arab guide is like "you have to take it or you will offend them." I am staring at a wall of doom. a bird at max gross weight and was like "fuck it...just get in!" I strap in and crank the bird fast. (8)
Everyone jumps in and they stuff this giant freaking sheep in a grain bag up to its neck in the back with the Arab guide and I take off as this wall of doom starts bearing down on us. I scoot towards the range HQ and poof we're in the shit. I can't see hardly anything. (9)
So I drop down to like 20 knots and 10 feet off the deck and thread my way across the open desert with a scared Major in the front, an Arab dude from a movie set and an extremely pissed off sheep screaming his lungs out in the back. I've got no idea where the hell we were. (10)
As I'm about to call it the Arab guide taps me on the shoulder and points to the right. I look at the Major and he shrugs. Its just dirt to the right. But, hey, so I bank right and 20 seconds later out of the storm pops the Range HQ. I land and my CO comes wandering out. (11)
Out of my aircraft in the middle of a dust storm comes a scared, pale Army Major, a movie set Arab with pistols on his hips and a very angry sheep. My CO watches it all. Climbs in the left seat, puts the headset on and says "Do I want to know?" I was like "Nope." (12)
We launch and I literally follow the road that leads back to our FOB at about 5 feet off the deck w maybe 50 yards visibility for half an hour. We land safely on my pad and run to the tents to ride out the storm. He's like "Let's not report to Battalion whatever that was." (13)
Fine by me as I wasn't sure I could explain the whole thing myself. We sat around the rest of the day having a feast of Care Package goods and enjoying the company of each other in the middle of a desert. I'll never forget the great shamal sheep mission. Merry Christmas. End (14)
Here is me leaning on my primary Scout the ‘Mad Penguin’. I had a slick bird with no Stingers for the sheep mission. Fun side note: that’s future astronaut @astro_kimbrough standing next to me.
This is what it looks like when I tell this story in person. You’re welcome. #MerryChristmas

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