* 2 min read
We are a collection of stories. We forget many of our life’s stories. But some of stories, we get to tell to our children and grandchildren. Some of our stories are short, but they are told for a lifetime. These stories are tattooed on our brains. I re-experience the personal story in this blog every time I mention it to friends, family members, co-workers, and now, to social media followers.
Around mid-2007, CNN and all the other major news channels came close to running a major breaking news headline in evening hours, something similar to: “Black Hawk Down in Baghdad! First two-star general killed, two pilots, a captain, and a linguist” – luckily that did not happen.
I was accompanying a two-star British General who was a Deputy Commanding General, Multi-National Forces – Iraq (MNF-I), from “Washington” helipad in the Green Zone to Victory Base Complex (VBC). It was in the late evening hours of the day. Baghdad was dark without electricity. Our Black Hawk pilots were wearing night vision goggles. I was sitting next to the general at the back of the helicopter. The helicopter was at ready-to-fly status, rotary wings at high speed. Seconds before take-off, I decided to pull out my camera to get ready to take pictures above darkened Baghdad. In a moment of extreme stupidity, I took a picture of the captain who was sitting across from me.
Suddenly, the pilots and the captain started to scream at me through the headsets, something like:
“You idiot! You were about to kill us”
“You stupid! How can you take a picture at night?”
“You were about to blind us in mid-air”
Apparently, I could have blinded the pilots in mid-air, causing the Black Hawk to crash. The strong camera flash at night could’ve caused temporary flash blindness to the pilots who were wearing night vision goggles. Out of an innocent mistake, I could have caused a major problem. I ended up delaying the flight a few extra minutes until the pilots recovered their sight.
After we arrived at our destination, and I got my butt handed to me, I experienced my first leadership lesson – forgiveness. I had broken the rule innocently, and everybody knew I had no malicious intent in doing so. I was forgiven, and continued working with the same general.
I know it is a story about making something out of nothing, but stories like this make us unique. Stories about moments like this will last for our lifetime. They are souvenirs from our past. We treasure the experience for our lifetime.
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