July 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 3 
Integrated Defense Systems

For the love of the job

A unique team supported Apaches during combat in Iraq


Kathy Crain and Connie Goddard pose in front of their tent in Tikrit, IraqConnie Goddard and Kathy Crain understood they were in for a serious adventure when they signed on to provide support to the U.S. Army during combat in Iraq.

Women had filled support and combat assignments before, but this teaming of Goddard and Crain, who work in the Aerospace Support business unit of Integrated Defense Systems at Mesa, Ariz., marked the first Boeing all-female support team in a combat zone.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Goddard and Crain were in Tikrit, Iraq, in the middle of the desert from October 2003 to March 2004 with the D company of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.

Goddard provided Apache Longbow helicopter technical expertise, and Crain provided in-theater logistics support. They also provided some humanitarian support when they helped coordinate a clothing drive for Iraqi children.

Goddard and Crain slept in coed tents with U.S. Army soldiers, ate at the mess hall, went days without showers, washed clothes by hand and endured nights when they heard the nearby impact of explosives shot off by local rebel groups. They survived sandstorms by day and bitter cold by night.

"Life was difficult in Iraq," Goddard said. "Besides work, you had to focus trying to live. You don't have time to think about much else. There are no distractions like TV, radio or malls. And it's tough find a place to get warm and comfortable. When I first arrived and saw the conditions, I cried. I didn't think I could do this."

She said she received a lot of encouragement from the on-site chaplain.

Goddard was based in Iraq full-time to help maintain the Apache, while Crain was based in Kuwait and traveled in and out Iraq to deliver parts and solve problems. Because of the war, Crain would often get stranded in Iraq for weeks, unable to get safe passage back to Kuwait.

The two women were on call 24/ Sometimes, they awoke at 3 a.m. to help with a technical problem or to call the United States to find an Apache part.

Goddard remembers the night Saddam Hussein was captured in a hole just 10 kilometers (6 miles) from their camp.

"When they got him, all communications were shut down," she said. "Satellites went dead. We had no communications with the outside so the news would not spread quickly. We heard reports that villagers in the town of Tikrit were running around celebrating."

Since most of the Apache missions took place at night, Goddard spent her days with Apache maintainers-working alongside them, assisting them and training them.

"The Battalion's 18 aircraft performed split-based operations of 12,000 combat flight hours in a hostile and dangerous environment, while maintaining operational readiness of 83 percent," said Technical Support Manager Nate Van Keuren. "Without Boeing's expert logistic and technical assistance, this achievement would have been very unlikely."

Besides helping the troops, Goddard and Crain took advantage of a unique opportunity to meet some humanitarian needs. Goddard helped coordinate a clothing drive for the children in a nearby Iraqi village. Students from a church in Iowa sent 34 boxes of coats, outfits, toys, dolls, socks, underwear and shoes to the children.

"They were so happy to receive the gifts," Goddard wrote in a letter to the students in Iowa. "Some of the children had never had a doll before."

For Goddard, the toughest part of working in Iraq was getting attached to the troops and watching them fly off on evening missions, knowing there was a chance they would not return.

"I'd do a thumbs up and think: 'See ya in two.' It takes two hours for an Apache to burn a bag of fuel," Goddard said. "Fortunately, they all came back."

So why would two women endure unduly harsh conditions during combat just for a job?

"I love this helicopter," Goddard said. "I love my work on the flight line. I would do it all over again."

Crain is a little more hesitant: "It was quite an experience," she admitted, "but I'm not sure I am ready to go back to Iraq."



Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.