Amnews.com - Pilot returns from Iraq to meet new family member
Pilot returns from Iraq to meet new family member
By ANN R. HARNEY
HARRODSBURG - When Brian Lackey returned home from Iraq earlier this month, there was a new member of his family he had yet to meet.
The chief warrant officer was introduced to his daughter, 5-month-old Erin Lackey, and welcomed home by his wife, Harrodsburg native Emily, and their 5-year-old daughter, Baylee, who was four years old when he left Fort Campbell in March.
Brian Lackey, 33, is a helicopter pilot in the famed 101st Airborne Division and has been in the Army for 10 and one-half years. He hopes his tour of duty in Iraq will end in March 2004 so he can come home to stay and get to know Erin even better. He is home on a period of rest and relaxation, and will return to duty in Iraq early next month.
The UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter Lackey pilots is used primarily for transport and carries almost everything, keeping other elements of the division supplied. After dropping troops where they are needed, the Blackhawks return carrying food, water, fuel, ammunition, and, when necessary, the choppers carry casualties from the front lines to treatment areas.
It is evident when Lackey talks that he wishes he could have been at home in June when Erin was born. He credits his wife, the daughter of Lonnie and Phyllis Campbell of Harrodsburg, with holding the family together. "She is very strong," Lackey says. While taking care of their home and children, Emily Lackey is also a full time teacher at a school at Fort Campbell.
"She took the weight off of my shoulders," he said of his wife. "She supported what we were doing (in Iraq) and took care of things back home." They met when they were students at Carson Newman College and have been married nine and a half years. He grew up in Arlington, Va.
For his part, Brian Lackey was so busy around the time his second child was born that his focus had to be on his job. The unit left Kuwait and was part of the longest air assault in history, Lackey said. It came as the war got under way and the unit left Kuwait for Karbala.
Lackey said pilots were flying between eight and 10 hours a day, only stopping to refuel, and they left their engines running as their choppers took on fuel. They often slept in their aircraft.
The work is so intense that he has been in the air 350 hours in the eight months he has been in Iraq. He flew 115 hours in April and May after hostilities began at the very end of March. He said he flies 250 hours in a normal year at home, and he is approaching the milestone of 1,000 hours in the cockpit.
One of Lackey's favorite parts of the job is flying at night, using night vision goggles. "You feel more confident because you can see them, but they can't see you. You're more focused and you use different senses. Everything comes up on you fast. It's exciting."
Radio contact between helicopters flying in the dark keeps down the number of accidents and the number of casualties blamed on "friendly fire." "We fly as we train," he said. "We literally do what we do in training at Fort Campbell. It helps when we're working with other units. That's why we've had little collateral damage."
The first part of the war, Lackey and his colleagues were not at permanent bases, but in recent months, he has been based near Mosul, just a 20-minute helicopter ride from the Iraqi-Turkish boarder.
AT&T supplies a bank of 40 telephones the soldiers can use to call home, but they don't always work and the calls are not free, so phone cards are popular gifts. While the food has improved, there are better facilities for communications with home and more comfortable living arrangements, it is a very dangerous place for Americans, as it is in many parts of the country.
"The danger level is as high as it was at the beginning," he said. "(Those opposing the Americans) have gotten smarter." Everyday life is somewhat easier and Lackey credits the Army with making conditions as good as they are for the soldiers and their families.
"The Army is really good about taking care of the families. We have so many soldiers in the same situation as I was (when Erin was born) and the Army made every effort to offer us as much assistance as they can."
In Mosul, Lackey has taken part in public relations as well as flying and the Iraqis not attacking Americans are friendly and outgoing, and many of the young people speak English. U.S. forces on the ground have helped rebuild and resupply a school and reopened the largest university in Iraq, helping resupply the university with equipment including computers.
Lackey plans to make the Army his career and he'd like to remain in the 101st Airborne Division for the rest of that career, but he knows he'll be transferred to another unit when he gets home.
He is grateful for the support for the troops from home. "It's been tremendous. The support makes it easier; it lets you know they haven't forgotten you. Sometimes over there you feel so alone. The support is very warm and more than I imagined."
Amnews.com - Pilot returns from Iraq to meet new family member
these American inspectors are wasting their time."
Iraq scientists say they lied over weapons
By CHARLES J. HANLEY
Iraqi scientists never revived their long-dead nuclear bomb program, and in fact lied to Saddam Hussein about how much progress they were making before U.S.-led attacks shut the operation down for good in 1991, Iraqi physicists say.
Before that first Gulf War, the chief of the weapons program resorted to "blatant exaggeration" in telling Iraq's president how much bomb material was being produced, key scientist Imad Khadduri writes in a new book.
Other leading physicists, in Baghdad interviews, said the hope for an Iraqi atomic bomb was never realistic. "It was all like building sand castles," said Abdel Mehdi Talib, Baghdad University's dean of sciences.
Seven months after a U.S.-British invasion toppled Saddam's Baath Party government, Iraqi scientists have grown more vocal in countering Bush administration claims, used to justify the war, that Baghdad had "reconstituted" nuclear weapons development, and that it once was a mere six months from making a bomb.
At best, Khadduri writes, it would have taken Iraq several years to build a nuclear weapon if the 1991 war and subsequent U.N. inspections had not intervened.
His self-published "Iraq's Nuclear Mirage," a chronicle of years of secret weapons work and of a final escape into exile, is part of this senior scientist's emergence from a low profile in Canada - intended to refute what he calls a "massive deception" in Washington that led the United States into war.
Months of searching by hundreds of U.S. experts have found no trace of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in Iraq, just as U.N. inspectors found none before the war. No Iraqi scientists have confirmed the programs were revived in recent years.
Bush administration officials still speak, nonetheless, of a threat from such weapons - of Baghdad's "robust plans" for them, as Vice President Dick Cheney puts it - in defending last March's U.S. invasion of Iraq. They offer no hard evidence, however.
Khadduri, a U.S.- and British-educated physicist, writes that he did theoretical work on nuclear weapons as long ago as the mid-1970s, after joining Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission. By the late 1980s, as the secret bomb program accelerated, he was in a pivotal position as coordinator of all its scientific and engineering information.
The U.N. inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who dismantled the bomb program after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 war, saw Khadduri as a key source and conducted an all-day interview with him earlier this year in Toronto, where he has resided since 1998.
"Iraq's Nuclear Mirage," available via online booksellers, dismisses the U.S. contention that the atom-bomb establishment was somehow resurrected after the IAEA demolished it, U.N. inspectors were stationed in Iraq and Iraqi specialists were scattered.
"Where is the scientific and engineering staff required for such an enormous effort?" he asks. "Where are the buildings and infrastructure?"
The continuing U.S. weapons hunt amounts to no more than "investigating mirages," he says.
An ex-bombmaker still in Iraq is just as dismissive of the unsubstantiated U.S. allegations.
"There was no point in trying to revive this program. There was no material, no equipment, no scientists," former bomb designer Sabah Abdul Noor said in a recent interview at Baghdad's Technology University.
"Scientists were scattered and under the eyes of inspectors, totally scattered. To do a project, you have to be together."
Talib, the newly elected university dean, was an anti-Baathist who didn't participate in the bomb program, but was close to many who did. They vastly oversold their accomplishments before 1991, the physicist said.
"They put a lot of lies on Saddam Hussein," he said in a Baghdad interview. "They took a lot of money out of him through what you call, in English, bluffing." When their installations were finally demolished, it "saved their necks" by burying their mistakes, he said. "They could tell Saddam, `There's nothing left.'"
Khadduri, in his core position in the program, could attest to the overselling.
He writes that when he transferred top-secret documents of bomb program chief Jafar Dhia Jafar to an optical disc in 1991, he found the "blatant exaggeration" in a 1990 report to Saddam.
With its clever wording, Khadduri said in a telephone interview from Toronto, "one could easily have been convinced we had produced a couple of kilograms of enriched uranium instead of a couple of grams" - that is, about four pounds of bomb material instead of a fraction of an ounce.
A bomb would have required some 40 pounds of highly enriched uranium.
In a 1997 summary, the IAEA said there were no indications the Iraqis ever produced more than a few grams of such material. It also said there were "no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance."
Khadduri and others said the design and actual production of a bomb would have been an extremely difficult task.
It was an impossible quest, "all futility," said one of Baghdad's senior nuclear physicists, Hamed M. al-Bahili.
Al-Bahili, who joined the Atomic Energy Commission in 1968 but remained outside the weapons program, said his colleagues inside "all knew they wouldn't achieve results." As for whether the program was later revived, he said, "these American inspectors are wasting their time."
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