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Feature Stories

NEWS | March 18, 2021

15 years later, pilots reunite for Mideast flight mission

By Capt. Travis Mueller

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rich Adams and 1st Lt. Ernie Carlson flew 1500 hours-worth of combat missions in an AH-64 Apache helicopter during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006.

Fifteen years later, now Chief Warrant Officer 5 Adams and Maj. Carlson are back in the Middle East serving with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against Daesh, and Operation Spartan Shield.

They recently had an opportunity to fly a mission together again, just like old times but this time in a UH-60 Black Hawk.

The biggest thing they talked about was how different this current mission feels.

“While our mission has changed drastically it helps knowing that the Kuwaitis are thriving and the Iraqis are becoming more and more self-policing. We both look forward to the day when these overseas deployments will be no longer necessary,” said Adams. “In 2006, I had two young children and LT Carlson was just out of college. Today my kids are adults and all grown up and Carlson leaves his wife and two young children back home.”

What was the biggest difference this time for Carlson?

“We both have a little more grey hair,” he said.

“But Chief Adams has probably taught me more over the years than anyone I’ve ever flown with,” Carlson added. “One of my first memories with Rich is getting in a fight early on in Iraq. I was the gunner and talking to ground forces with a little excitement in my voice. Rich took the radio from me and finished my transmission. Once he was complete he firmly told me ‘no one wants to hear an excited Apache pilot.’ We finished the mission that day and ever since then, I usually take a breath and think for a second before making radio transmissions.”

They say the one thing that hasn’t changed is that they miss their families and look forward to the day when they are home with them. Getting through those tough times, separated from their families, is something they have helped each other get through since 2006.

Adams currently serves as the 28th ECAB’s aviation mission survivability officer and Carlson serves as the operations officer for 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion.