Taher Al-Taher


Major Taher Al-Taher was the unluckiest man that night. But he was the most resourceful one.

Taher Al-Taher had just returned from his annual leave. All he wanted to do that night was to watch the television with his seven months pregnant wife. Flying was the last thing on his mind. Then he got that call asking him to go to the Air Base.

As the four planes left the base, Taher did not think that there would be a fight. So he went to wash for his dawn prayer. A prayer that he did not do. When the orders came for the second formation to scramble Taher realized things are rather tense and that he should take his duties more seriously. He looked at his plane and there was a young pilot in its cockpit, a pilot Taher had finished training few months ago. Taher was concerned about the young man and felt that he should be the one in that cockpit. He was better trained and that plane had specific problems. So he knocked on the cockpit, ordered the young pilot to step down and took his place.

As he took off to face the enemy, Taher was shocked by the proximity of the enemy. They were just four miles away from the base and created an eminent threat to the base. He could not use his missiles, they did not have enough time to warm up. Yet Taher could not sit idle and wait for them to warm up. He had to do something.

He popped his plane high into the sky. Then fell like a rock on that Iraqi helicopter peppering it with his machine gun. As the helicopter caught fire Taher pulled his plane up. A very dangerous maneuver to do at night because he could not see the ground and could have crashed his plane. But Taher was very skillful with his Mirage, he was a weapons instructor.

Then Taher goes on to down another two planes with his missiles. After completing his mission Taher requested to land for further deployment. He was ordered to refuel and go to Ahmed Al-Jaber Air Base.

As he approached Ahmed Al-Jaber Air Base he had another problem. He had to land on the side road. The other pilots before him had done that. But his plane had a problem. The plane brakes were not working. So Taher had to land his plane on that narrow road with no brakes. But again Taher was skillful and resourceful. He approached the side road with the bare minimum speed. As he touched down he raised the nose of his plane as much as he could and applied the air brakes. He landed safely and took his plane into one of the shelters.

While the Iraqis were bombing the Air Base Taher never forgot his religious and family duties. He did his dawn prayer that he did not have time to do and called his wife asking her to go to her parent’s house. Then waited for further orders.

As the orders came to go to Saudi Arabia Taher had another problem. One of the sliding doors of his shelter did not open. It was stuck due to the sandstorm they had the day before. So they had to bring in a four-wheel car and push that door open.

But then again there was another problem. The plane engine would not start. He had already pushed the ignition switch three times. The instructions were that he should not press it again and should step down from the plane because pressing it again might cause the accumulated fuel in the combustion chamber to explode thus destroy the plane and kill its pilot.  Taher put his life in danger and kept on pressing the ignition key. Starting that engine was the most important thing in the world for Taher that day, regardless of any risks. Luckily the engine started and Taher flew that plane to Saudi Arabia.

As Dessert Storm approached Taher had another problem although it was not as daunting as the ones before. He was a Squadron Leader and their missions were to bomb Iraqi positions. But non-of his pilots were trained for bombing missions on the Mirage. It took Taher a very short time to train them. Usually such training needed thirty-six missions. Taher managed to get them qualified by flying just two missions. Everybody was eager to get it right and get into the business of liberating their country.

As the orders came to go on real bombing missions they were all happy and eager. They rained wrath on the Iraqi aggressors.

Eight months after that dreadful night Taher return home to see his newborn daughter.