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Pilot: Combat 'as terrifying as I thought'

Apache pilot Joe Goode reads from his journal.

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An U.S. apache helicopter pilot recounts his first trip into battle and his first taste of combat (March 31)
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Apache helicopter pilot Joe Goode of the 11th Attack Regiment of the Army V Corps flew during one of the first firefights between coalition helicopters and the Iraqi Republican Guard. Here is his diary entry after the battle.

SOUTHERN IRAQ (CNN) -- 24 March, 2003. Combat is as terrifying as I thought it would be. Even more, actually.

My first experience came late last night and into this morning. I've seen the damage to some and heard of the damage to the rest of the aircraft in the battalion.

Ours was the only one to come through the battle unscathed. [Co-pilot and gunner] Cindy [Rosel] and I can't believe it. After all the fire we went through. You could have walked on top of it. It was so thick.

Talk about a crazy night. Everything seemed to be going as planned for the first five minutes or so and then we fired our first shot and the city erupted in gunfire all around us. Before we knew it we were scattered and making evasive maneuvers.

It was as if we had stirred up a hornet's nest. We lost sight of each other and the ability to fight as a team. I thought my heart was going to pound free of my chest.

The radios, all four of them, crackled of reports of guys taking hits making evasive maneuvers, trying to regroup and rally.

We took fire again. And as crazy as it sounds, the flight from that 57 millimeter S60 Triple-A (antiaircraft artillery) was spectacular. It all lasted only momentarily as we broke down to cover again, all the while juking left and right to avoid fire.

We brought the helicopter out of the pattern we were circling in and turned southwest. What was before us both terrified and amazed me. It was the very same area where Doug and Ron had been shot down and many of the others had taken hits.

With Cindy pointing out fire I pulled in all the power I had to pull and drove the cyclic forward. Colombo 025 was blasting the leaves off of palm trees and the sand off rooftops.

Total time of two and a half hours all aircraft and crew were back safe.

I pulled the power levers back to idle and my right leg finally stopped shaking.

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