The Final Flight
Pride and cheer.


Today President George W. Bush will deliver a speech on the endgame in Iraq. Yesterday my son Ian sent an e-mail from Kuwait about coming back to the United States. The two messages — one from the commander-in-chief, the other from an airman — are of a piece. They express pride and good cheer at having come through one of the most remarkable military campaigns in U.S. — indeed, in world — history. But while the president must maintain the dignity of the office and refrain from looking too triumphant, my son and his colleagues can express their feelings more openly with each other. What is more, by putting those feelings in an e-mail, Ian’s words can give family and friends back home a real-time sense of what thousands of other young men and women in uniform are feeling. The message is titled “The Final Flight.”

Hello everyone.

I was a part of something amazing today. We launched out a large number of aircraft that are headed home. What’s amazing is that we did it all at once. This event represented the culmination of all our work here. All the pilots and all the crew chiefs were out there, doing their work and saying goodbye. It was an incredible sight. People were taking pictures, maintenance crews were cheering, and pilots were visibly euphoric — they were headed home! Although it was a relatively small event compared to last month’s flight line activities, it meant everything to all of us. I will never forget it.

This event reminded me of a cold Michigan morning, last February, at 2.30 A.M. I along with a large number of Battle Creek crew chiefs and pilots launched out our fleet. Destination: Kuwait. We were flying into the unknown. We did not know what to expect or how long our tour of duty would last. Now, looking back, I find it hard to comprehend all that really did happen. We fought and won a just war. The world is changed, and I am changed.

The rest of us are waiting for airlift. As soon as we can get mobility support, we too will be headed home. This could happen within a matter of weeks. Mid May is realistic but we will prepare for mid June. I will keep you all updated.

Thank you again for all of your love and support. It has made a world of difference to me.

Ian C. Whitney, SrA, USAF
332 EAMXS/ 110 EFW

Gleaves Whitney’s son Ian serves as an A-10 crew chief in the Michigan Air National Guard. This is the 11th in a series of reports from Kuwait.