A Lifeline to Home -- From Baghdad

By James King

January 2016

Although I have experienced my entire Boeing career in the field of vertical-lift aviation, my story involves a quite different product line of Boeing. In 2004, I was a judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. That summer, with very little notice, I was activated and deployed to support the Coalition Provisional Authority's efforts to restore Iraq's infrastructure and help stand up that country's new government. With little time to prepare, I left my wife and three young children in Philadelphia and headed over to Baghdad.

Needless to say, the communications between Baghdad and my home in Philadelphia that summer were very limited. Approximately three weeks after my arrival, I was having a discussion outdoors with some of my associates after dinner and overheard a nearby individual dressed in civilian clothes mention to another person that he was a Boeing employee. The mention of the word "Boeing" caught my ear, so I walked over and introduced myself as a fellow Boeing employee, though presently serving in an active-duty capacity for the U.S. Air Force.

During our discussion, the individual identified himself as a representative of Boeing's satellite communications group. He said he had a satellite phone and offered to let me use it to call home. He showed me how to dial it and said he'd be back in a few minutes.

An hour later, he returned and I was still talking to my family. That hour was one of the best 60 minutes I have spent in my life. Under the circumstances, it was certainly the best hour I spent in Baghdad. Considering the fact I was over 6,000 miles (9,700 kilometers) from home in a very limited-access facility, fate put me within earshot of my fellow Boeing employee. I will never forget his benevolence and willingness to trust me to use the phone. When he returned, he didn't even act impatient during my naturally protracted goodbye with my family. He gave me a unique opportunity I will forever cherish, and his considerate act continues to this day to make me proud to be a Boeing employee.