This article is about alumnus Joel Magsig, a 1994 mechanical engineering graduate of Rose-Hulman, who was on duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Article and photo by Steve Liewer of the European Stars and Stripes. Reprinted with permission from Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication. Copyright 2003 Stars and Stripes. http://www.stripes.com
The fleeing Iraqis had left piles of sand on the runway and scattered airport ground equipment across the tarmac. American M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles had parked at key intersections, Magsig said.
Then it dawned on them: Theirs was the first coalition aircraft to land at the newly liberated airport.
“Everybody was waving as we flew by,” Magsig, 31, of Homestead, Fla., recalled the next day. “It could have been under better circumstances, with a little more pomp, but it was just as well. I was glad to have a place to put it down.”
Magsig and Inman, from the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment in Illesheim, Germany, had been escorting a medical evacuation UH-60 Black Hawk carrying two badly injured 3rd Infantry Division soldiers to a combat surgical hospital in the rear.
They ran into a burst of ground fire from a sport utility vehicle in a grove of trees. They turned around and flew toward it, but Magsig couldn’t fire his guns, missiles or rockets. A bullet had pierced the fire-control panel that controls the weapons systems.
Other bullets severed the radio antenna, pierced the tail-rotor gearbox and flattened a tire. A mangled bullet jacket penetrated the cockpit, brushing Magsig’s flight suit and landing between his legs.
After landing and a short inspection on the airport taxiway, Magsig concluded the Apache, nevertheless, could fly. He and Inman climbed in and flew back to the base camp well south of Karbala.
“Some would call it luck,” Magsig said. “I would call it God watching out for us.”
Blackjack 6’s unexpected landing at Baghdad International Airport highlighted a morale-boosting three-day campaign for the three squadrons of Task Force 11th Aviation during the battle for the Iraqi capital.
task force, flying daylight missions with all three of its Apache units,
destroyed between 40 and 50 Iraqi tanks, personnel carriers, air defense guns,
artillery systems and armed vehicles, said Maj. John Lindsay, the task force’s
Operation Iraqi Freedom also affected campus. Three students had to withdraw from classes after being activated for military duty, and students, faculty and staff showed their support for troops overseas.
Students, faculty and staff conducted letter writing campaigns, support groups and remembrance walls. The letter-writing campaign was organized by Blue Key Honor Society and local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. Jacob Meyers, a senior electrical engineering major, organized the letter campaign.
Elsewhere on campus, a Wall of Honor was established in Moench Hall with pictures of students, children of Rose-Hulman faculty and staff, and friends currently overseas.