Flying under the radar
After spending the last five years serving in the U.S. Army in Germany, Capt. Mike Humble has returned to the U.S. He and his family spent the last month visiting his parents, Dan and Sharon, in Wahpeton.
During his time overseas, Humble was deployed to Afghanistan once and Iraq twice.
As co-valedictorian of his high school class at Wolford School. Humble applied and was accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point. In the fall of 1998, he entered for four years of schooling and military training.
“After West Point, I went to Ft. Rucker, Ala., for flight school,” Humble said. “And then left there in April of 2005 and then went to Germany.”
His wife and son accompanied him to Germany, where he served first with Bravo Troop 2-6 Cavalry for about a year when it became HHC, 3-159 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion.
“It’s the same mission, just different color guidon. It used to be red and white, now it’s black and white,” he said.
He switched units again in November 2006 to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB). Midway through that assignment he took command of Bravo Company 2-159 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion and served with that unit for 23 months.
He serves as a pilot flying AH-64D Apache helicopters. His first deployment in 2006 was to Afghanistan, where he spent 7 1/2 months flying lift security for Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters. Chinooks are the twin rotor helicopters that can carry many soldiers. Blackhawks pick up soldiers and carry them to different sites. During this tour, he was with the 2-6 Cavalry, Bravo Company 3-159 and the 12th CAB.
For a part of his first tour in Iraq in 2008, Humble served with the 12th CAB and then, about half way through the 14 month tour, became commander of Bravo Company 2-159. His unit covered a broader area doing reconnaissance security.
“We flew anywhere from Samarra all the way down to Basrah, which is the very southern end of Iraq,” he said.
For example, command would give his unit a road to fly up and down to look for the enemy planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or trying to set up ambushes. They’d also fly security for convoys or ground soldiers on a clearing operation.
“We were the eyes overhead,” he said. “We’re like the big bouncers in the corner of the bar.”
On his second deployment to Iraq in 2009, Humble served entirely with Bravo Company 2-159.
When asked why he chose to fly over being a ground soldier, he said, “Flying’s fun.”
As a part of his training, Humble disengages himself when attacking the enemy.
“I grew up on a farm. I love hunting and, this sounds kind of crude, but it’s still what I do,” he said.
However, Humble doesn’t want to be perceived as heartless. His unit is basically a security force.
“Our job is more along the lines of a police force (in the U.S.),” he said. “We’re there for the primary purpose of protecting our own ground guys. We’re like cops here. If you do something bad, we’ll come find you.”
He said combat becomes a two-way range. Although the enemies are humans, being in an aircraft, soldiers are far removed from the action. Most engagements are a mile or more out.
“Yes you will still see them, but it’s kind of along the lines of playing a video game,” he said. “If you think about it, they started it. If they’re firing on our guys, we shoot back.”
Humble’s continued his training this summer at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. His wife, Patti, and their two children, Daniel, 6, and Alexander, 11 months, will accompany him. He will enter the captain’s career course and will find out during the course whether he will return overseas.
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the Daily News of Wahpeton and is republished with permission.
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