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The worst flying experience of Chief Coker’s life was the flight back from the Lynx to the Serpent that night with the MH-47 Chinook in tow. Many unfortunate things in the Universe united that night to provide for the most harrowing ride of Team Gravy’s life. It wasn’t so much as the “this” or the “that” as it was the “everything!” It was a wretched suite of afflictions, any one of which would have been a daunting challenge by itself.

The men were dog-tired. Flight regulations dictate that pilots MUST have crew rest time that is consistent with their number of flight hours. Chief spent his crew rest fighting cobras, blowing up pictures of Saddam, and enjoying his perch on pipe and plank instead of sleeping.

The pilots were suffering from sinus headaches, a thing that just screws with everything associated with the head, causing, among other things, the ears to not work well, which in turn causes adversity to balance. The Valsalva maneuver stops functioning in such a situation, which leads to unequal pressure between the sinuses and the ambient, leading to more pain and misorientation during altitude changes. The only (nearly) empty consolation was to see the Ranger medic at Serpent Base for an issue of what amounted a voodoo potion from the eye of a newt and a spoonful of Hasidol.