As always, the din from the rotors of the Black Hawk was overwhelming. As though the whole picture were on mute, the rotorwash drowning out all other noise, I watched as Col. Mike Meese, my professor this past spring, climbed silently into the helicopter and buckled up across from me, followed by three more soldiers in their bulky armor. Then Col. Meese’s voice crackled loudly over the intercom: “Sir! This is Wes Morgan!” I couldn’t see who the colonel was talking to, the cabin was so cramped, but I knew a moment before I heard an easily recognizable voice reply: “Good to have you with us, Wesley. Glad to finally meet you.” As the officer next to me pushed back to make way, another gray-clad, armored soldier leaned across the crowded space of the cabin to shake my hand. It was him alright: four stars on his hat, four more on his armor, the face you see on the news, and a nametag that read Petraeus.
Change of plans
I’d gotten up Saturday morning at Forward Operating Base Union III, home of 1-14 Cavalry, expecting a long morning before heading over to the embassy landing zone to get going for the day. I’d learned the previous afternoon that I was going to spend Saturday afternoon with Petraeus on a “battlefield circulation” – a tour of a unit’s area of operations with the general, some of his staff, and space for four or five members of the media, including me.
The plan was for me to get a ride over the International Zone landing zone around noon, where Petraeus’ two helicopters would stop on the way up to the day’s battlefield to pick up me and the other reporters. At 0900, though, as I sat in the Union III hajji caf