Same sh*t, different decade: the War on Terror just won’t end for these 2 Army pilots

“We both have a little more grey hair."

What’s worse than Groundhog Day? Groundhog Day in the Global War on Terror, where, instead of waking up every day on Feb. 2 like Bill Murray does in the 1993 movie, you deploy to the same war again and again, year after year.

But it’s a lot easier when you have a buddy with you. According to a recent press release, that’s what two Army pilots experienced by flying a reunion mission over the Middle East in a helicopter together, 15 years after they first did so in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We both have a little more grey hair,” said Maj. Ernie Carlson, who flew 1,500 combat hours in an AH-64 Apache helicopter with Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rich Adams during their 2006 tour to Iraq. Back then, they were a first lieutenant and a chief warrant officer 3, respectively. Now, Adams is an aviation mission survivability officer with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, while Carlson serves as the operations officer for 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion. But the pair still remembers one of the first firefights they experienced together. 

“I was the gunner and talking to ground forces with a little excitement in my voice,” Carlson said. “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.”

Same sh*t, different decade: the War on Terror just won’t end for these 2 Army pilots
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rich Adams and 1st Lt. Ernie Carlson pictured aboard their Apache helicopter in 2006 (Courtesy photo).

Now they’re back, only instead of fighting against Shia or Sunni insurgents in Iraq, they’re deployed to Kuwait, supporting the fight against the so-called Islamic State across the Middle East as part of Operation Inherent Resolve; and helping build up other countries’ militaries as part of Operation Spartan Shield. That’s not the only change: instead of flying an Apache attack helicopter, the pair took a UH-60 Black Hawk out on their reunion flight.

The Thursday press release about the flight is part of a long-running series of stories that show just how long the Global War on Terror has dragged on. There’s the classic story about a kid born after 9/11 who’s now old enough to fight in the Global War On Terror, the recurring posts about how a service member reaches X number of deployments, and the low-key depressing articles about a parent and child who are serving in the same warzone. These stories are not meant to be sad, but how else can one react to the same war going on for generations? 

Even Adams, one of the pilots profiled in Thursday’s press release, seemed a little frustrated to have to go back overseas yet again, especially now that his kids are grown.

“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.”

Being away from home and family is one of the facts of military life, and this is by no means a dig against these two soldiers. It’s just that going off to the same war again and again over the course of a lifetime does not seem like the best use of our military and dedicated service members, like these two.

Same sh*t, different decade: the War on Terror just won’t end for these 2 Army pilots
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Adams and Maj. Ernie Carlson recently had an opportunity to fly a mission together again, just like old times but this time in a UH-60 Black Hawk. (Army photo / Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rich Adams)

Featured Image – Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rich Adams and 1st Lt. Ernie Carlson, pictured here in 2006, 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. (Courtesy photo)

Related: There’s A New ‘Father And Son Served In Afghanistan’ Puff Piece, And Boy Is It Depressing

David Roza

David Rozacovers the Air Force and anything Star Wars-related. He joined Task & Purpose in 2019, after covering local news in Maine and then FDA policy in Washington D.C. He loves hearing the stories of individual airmen and their families, and he also holds the unpopular opinion that Imperial stormtroopers are actually excellent marksmen. david.roza@taskandpurpose.com Contact the author here.

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