HLZ stands for Helicopter Landing Zone. Helicopter arrivals and departures are big events over here, maybe second only to enemy contact. They blend an out-of-the-ordinary range of sensory impressions and intense emotions.  They are a time of hellos and goodbyes to friends and fellow soldiers, and anticipation about the success of impending and probably important missions. We are never sure who might be getting off the birds, and who and what supplies we might be able to load. In fact, we are never 100% sure if the birds will arrive at all, due to last minute changes in mission, weather, or something more unfortunate. When the helicopters do arrive, no one–no matter how experienced– is unimpressed by the  spectacle of their ungainly grace. On the HLZ, those waiting are blasted by hot air, peppered by pebbles, and covered in dust. Over the roar of engines and blades, we communicate with the crews and among ourselves by yells and hand signals so that all tasks are accomplished in an orderly manner. The experience is democratic, all involved–US, Afghans, officers, enlisted, and civilian– help load and unload as quickly as possible. When the birds depart with all the personnel (“pax”) and supplies we hoped to get on, we give each other high-fives and consider the day’s work well done.


3 Responses to “HLZ”

  1. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Glad you’re back in the blogging saddle! HLZ, yeah!

    After reading this entry, I thought, “We have our very own Ernie Pyle!” Today’s piece just had an appealing newswire “Reports from the Front” type feel to it! The kind that all of the newspapers pick up and that everyone reads. It’s brief, yet it tells something we don’t know or think about, and it’s packed with interesting physical and “personal” details.


  2. Mark Cohen Says:

    Hi Peter,

    I can’t do better than Chris’ comment. With “ungainly grace” you’re bucking for a promotion to the A.J. Liebling ranking. Always a pleasure to read your posts.


  3. Peter Molin Says:


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