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April Hardy, Deployed November 2009 - September 2010, Baghdad, Iraq

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“I think the most important deployment was 2009, It was in November of 2009. Of course, up to 2010. that was the first real deployment, I guess. [and] I was in the aviation unit at the time. So, we did a lot of air traffic control. [and] We would deploy ground support and air support to the troops on the ground. [and] I think the first incident happened when I was in charge of training. I moved up very quickly in the military. It was in my independence, I guess. So, I was training somebody, and then we have this little room, an old air traffic control room, which is right on the airfield, and we were in Baghdad, Camp Liberty, at the time. That's where our first one was at. [and] I sent my good friend, because you know how you make little friends here and there. Well, my good friend went up, in an Apache, which I have on my shoulder. [and] They always go as wingmen. But the computers that we use are not very good radios. So, if you go a certain distance, you can't hear anything; you just hear scramble. [and] Then obviously, the people on the ground have scramblers. Us, we have scramblers, in particular. So, they'll scramble our station. So, we're kind of working against each other on that one. So, she went up, and she’d always tell me that she'll be back because we're like, super good friends, and she did not come back. So, what happened was, when she went up, she went outside of the boundaries. We have boundaries. [and] She told us, we need ground support, so we sent ground support to the location. [and] I took a break. I think I went to lunch or something. And I came back in and I could hear her screaming as her plane went down, because it was shot down. So that's what happened. The screams hurt… So, yeah, it happens. It's terrible because they aim for our airfield all the time. And it was almost like a double whammy, because after I heard her, you hear the C-RAMs go off which take out the mortars in the air, if they can get them. [and] I think it was like shortly after that you heard the C-RAM. And then it was pretty close to our little air traffic control. And it blew a lot of things out. I didn't go unconscious at that time. I mean, we had enough people in the air and we took care of it. [and] Then we couldn't hear her anymore, but she ended up passing. So, we knew that her and her wingmen were probably gone. But it's just like the helplessness. And then when you get hit, and then you really don't know what to do, because you're like, “Do I help myself or try to get back on the radio?” So that was probably my first incident.”