2010: I was in a Royal Air Force helicopter, a Merlin Mk3 to be precise.
I was flying through Helmand province in Afghanistan, it was Operation HERRICK.
I was a helicopter crewman (Imagine the guy on the gun in the Huey on all those Vietnam films).
Flying at 100ft and 140 knots (160mph) was exciting, fun, thrilling and eye opening. But overall, it was dangerous.
People wanted me and my colleagues dead. They were actively targeting my colleagues and I, attempting to end our lives. Would it happen to me? Would I die? Nope, I was invincible. I was 27, not that young in comparison to some of the guys around me, but I was only six years into my RAF career and this was my 3rd operational tour. I had survived being shot at and coming under indirect fire (rocket/motor attack) whilst being station at Basrah Airfield and flying around Southern Iraq. Why wouldn’t I survive Afghanistan?
We were picking up troops that had partaken in front line operations just moments ago. We were dropping off troops who would be conducting front line strike operations in just a few moments. High pressure, high tempo, high profile.
Jorge Arangure (Editor-in-chief for Vice Sports) recently featured on the Effectively Wild podcast. He spoke about the potential for tragedy when players go home, but more specifically in the Dominican Republic. He spoke about the mentality of not wearing a seatbelt whilst driving out there, also making reference to him looking at him in a strange way when he wears his whilst being there.
The point that struck a chord with me was this line:
…sometimes for a lot of these guys – it’s sort of you know – when you have athletes at this level there’s this feeling of invincibility…
I know I wasn’t an athlete at that level, I never will be, but I can certainly understand that feeling of invincibility. I had it, those I flew with probably had it, I imagine most people who operated in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last 20 years would have had it.
“I’ve survived this long, why won’t I survive again? I’ve flown this route before whilst coming under fire, why won’t I survive again?”
This post isn’t trying to take away from the recent tragic events that have affected baseball. It is still tragic, no matter the circumstances. There also is clear differences between the circumstances listed. All I’m trying to do is explain how some people in high pressure, high tempo and high profile positions feel and act.
Remember, flying low-level in a helicopter in Afghanistan is dangerous. So is driving under the influence or driving without wearing a seatbelt. I have only ever done one of these, but I was young, I was invincible. Without sounding like an old fogey, my advice to not do any of the above.