Lt Col Maura George participated in our "The Greatest Generation Meets the Next Generation: Women in Flight" panel back in November at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica.
"My most memorable flight was in Iraq but it’s not a happy story. This was early 2003 when the war had just kicked off. Communication was complicated since there was no internet, cell phones, televisions, or newspapers and we were frequently on the move to different sites within the country. I flew Blackhawk helicopters and was part of an Army Medevac company. On this particular night, I was supposed to be on “second up”. This means that if our first responders were off helping some soldiers or already on a mission, my crew would be the next on the list to get called. We got a call that there was a missing helicopter. It was one of our Medevac helicopters that had not made it back from a forwardly deployed location. Our “first up” crew responded to try to figure out what was going on. Was this a missing aircraft? Was this a downed aircraft? So then, my crew became the “first up” crew as the other crew was out searching for the missing helicopter. Shortly thereafter, we got a call that there was a soldier with a head wound that needed to be evacuated and brought to a hospital. So, as we were trying to figure out what was going on with the missing helicopter, we had to deal with our own mission. The whole time we were trying to stay focused on the mission at hand, but all we heard was this radio chatter about a helicopter that had crashed. We knew it was one of ours and that there were casualties but we didn’t know who was lost. Amongst this confusion, was the first time I saw us actually getting shot at; the first time I saw tracers and realized that they were tracers-and not some sort of fireworks at a wedding or some other celebration. I know that must sound silly but again, this was very early in the war. My company had only been actively conducting Medevac missions in the country for a few weeks and I had never seen tracers at night before. It seemed that every time we’d turn, we’d see these bursts of light and say “okay, well I guess don’t go there.” We eventually made it to the combat hospital and landed next to our sister Medevac helicopter and crew who had been first on scene of the downed helicopter (a different crew from the “first up” crew that launched earlier). We saw that crew and, other than sending our flight medic over to verify the names of our fallen friends, we gave them space knowing they weren’t ready to talk about anything that had happened and frankly neither were we. It was just too raw and too painful and we still needed to focus on flying back to our camp that night so we put it out of our minds as best we could until we were done with our mission. The downed helicopter had run into some power lines while maneuvering to avoid enemy fire and crashed into the Tigris river with three casualties of the crew of four. That was the first crew that our company lost and unfortunately, not the last. I think about that night, those men, and the many nights that followed all the time. All gave some. Some gave all."
Lt Colonel Maura George is a former US Army pilot and current USAF pilot stationed at the United States Air Force Academy, CO, as a flight instructor for Cadets. With over 21 years of military service, she has flown the UH-1 Huey, UH-60 Blackhawk, C-130 Hercules, and TG-16 Sailplane aircraft and has deployed in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom four times to include combat tours as an airlift/cargo pilot and helicopter Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) pilot.