ARMY LIFE SUPPORT AREA, Kuwait – Some folks love to crack on the C-23 Sherpa cargo plane. When Joe and I boarding in Basra, a passenger on one of the buses (he was bound for a C-130) spotted our boxcar-shape ride and said, “I am sooooo glad I’m not riding in one of those deathtraps.”
Two minutes later, Joe and I were standing next to our deathtrap ride, which was going to bring us to Kuwait, and then Balad on our way to Diyala province. Sure, they’re not the biggest aircraft. And the crew has to balance the cargo and the passengers to make sure takeoffs and landings go smoothly. And apparently it bobs like a dolphin if you walk around mid-flight. But it couldn’t be that bad, right?
That’s what I thought, at least until I landed in Kuwait. A few people got off there, and they reloaded some cargo. They balanced the plane and strapped down the boxes and luggage against the back ramp.
The ramp wouldn’t close. So on a cold, windy Kuwaiti night, Joe, myself and about six other people found ourselves standing behind the plane and holding up the door while one of the crew tried to physically close it. (I wish I had photos, but, alas, no photography is allowed on the flight line.) First we had to push it flush against the plane. And then we had to shift our force to the left. Then the right. Then we had to lower it just a bit.
After about 20 minutes, the bolt slid into place. And a few minutes after that, we were wheels up for Iraq.