• VIEW FROM THE CHINOOK: As a military reporter, the Monitor's Ann Scott Tyson has generally focused on ground forces and their jobs. "I'd never really talked to the people charged with the perilous work of getting soldiers into position and pulling them out," she says.
For today's story on air power in Afghanistan (page 7), Ann asked one pilot how he felt about dropping off the soldiers in a field of waist-high snow. His top concern, he told her, was to get them there safely and put them in the right spot quickly, in case they face immediate fire. Pilots often must make split-second decisions about where that spot is.
The happier task comes at the end of the mission. The pilot told Ann that it feels good when he goes to pick the soldiers up. The guys on the ground concur: One soldier Ann talked to last year referred to a Chinook coming down to pick them up as "the gates of heaven opening."
• INTERPRETING BLASTS: As correspondent Nicholas Blanford passed a huge American military base on the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq, yesterday, he heard a massive explosion (page 7).
"We pulled over and there was a column of gray smoke billowing out of the center of the base," says Nick. "Then there were more explosions. We saw what looked like soldiers running for cover. It quickly became clear that this was not an attack, however. The explosions were too big for anything insurgents have. It turned out that the Americans were destroying old munitions."
But local residents didn't see it that way. "For the rest of the day, everyone we talked to about the wave of attacks in Mosul cited the explosions that morning, saying it was the latest example of the Iraqi resistance at work.
Deputy world editor
• SCORE ONE MORE FOR SOCCER: Last week, correspondent Dan Murphy reported on the remarkable turnaround by Iraq's national soccer team ("From tortured past, Iraqi team gets kick out of soccer again," Nov. 20, 2003). Now soccer-loving Iraqis across the skill spectrum are about to get another boost - this time from Japan.
Contributor Bennett Richardson reports that local soccer clubs across the archipelago have pooled resources to keep the soccer ball rolling for Iraqis. Last week, Japan's foreign minister, Yukio Takeuchi, gathered the donations: 1,214 soccer balls, 4,853 uniforms, and 394 pairs of spiked shoes. The Foreign Ministry is sending the sporting goods by sea to Iraq.