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Dartmouth pilot returning to Middle East for fourth time

Philip Dias of Dartmouth will be heading back to the Middle East for the fourth time to fly missions for the Army.

By Curt Brown
Standard-Times staff writer
August 25, 2008 6:00 AM

DARTMOUTH - Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Philip Dias leaves Saturday with the Rhode Island National Guard on his fourth tour in the Middle East - his third since the start of the Iraq war - but don't expect to hear him complain.
The 43-year-old pilot is a career soldier with 24 years in the Army and he takes whatever assignments come his way.
He might joke and make light of the situation, though.
"I just do my job," he said Sunday when asked his feelings about the war. "At this point I don't know why we're there, but it's not my job. I'm told to go there and I go.
"Everyone who is there is there by choice," he said.
He focuses on the mission when he is overseas, he said, and not the dangers.
"It's not my first rodeo," he said of the inherent dangers of being in a war zone. "I don't really think about it much. You learn not to think about it."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dias, the son of Dartmouth Select Board member Nathalie L. Dias and the late retired Harbormaster Arthur J. Dias, will be stationed in Kuwait for the next six months, flying officers and dignitaries on C-12 airplanes in and out of Baghdad.
He only just returned in May from Afghanistan, where he was a pilot near the Pakistani border, flying for various U.S. agencies, and now he is going back to the Middle East.
And when he returns to Dartmouth in March, he said, it looks like he will be home for six months and then will head back overseas for another year.
That will be his fifth tour in the Middle East.
"We're hoping that doesn't happen," he said with his wife, Sandi, by his side. "But I have to put food on the table and I'm too lazy to work and too afraid to steal."
His first tour was in 2001 before the Iraq war when he was assigned to Kuwait. His second tour was his longest - 15 months in Iraq - from 2005 to 2006.
"They need people. I just feel like it's my job to do," he said. "It doesn't hurt that I need the money."
As he and his wife spoke Sunday, they are in the middle of a massive repair of their home at the bottom of Highland Street, where they and their two sons, ages 15 and 8, hope to live when it is finished.
They have been repairing the waterfront home for the past three years.
"If I can ever stay in the states long enough, it will be finished," he said.
Mrs. Dias said she accepts and supports his choice of careers.
"It is what it is," she said. "It's just part of who we are."
She is a self-described "Army brat." She was born in Berlin, Germany, and her father, Richard Klink, served two tours with the Army in Vietnam.
She admits to worrying when her husband is on a tour and revealed she did not want him to go to Afghanistan earlier this year because it is so unstable over there.
But, she said, her husband is a safe person by nature and will not endanger anyone's life when he flies.
"This is what he loves to do, and what kind of wife would I be if I didn't support him?" she said.
She said she will look forward to the time she and their two sons can see him during a video conference on the Internet or when they receive an e-mail from him.
She said that when he was in Korea from 1997 to 1998 it was horrible they could not video conference. "I would wait for a week for a letter," she said.
So she keeps occupied and involved in the children's lives while he is away.
She sends monthly birthday cakes care of her husband for his squad. "I send him the cake, and he puts the frosting on and the jimmies and candles on."
And when he comes home, Mrs. Dias is responsible for letting everyone know about it.
She said she decorated the town with ribbons in honor of her husband's return from Iraq.
"There were 52 red, white and blue ribbons on telephone poles on Tucker Road when he came home," she said.
She said she plans to do it again in March when he returns.
Chief Warrant 4 Dias said he is career military. "I'm in until they kick me out."
In the Army, he jokes, he does not have to worry about getting laid-off and receives medical insurance, and the war is not going to last forever.
He said he tried to retire once and it did not work. He took a job as a pilot for Delta Airlines, but found he was happier when he was in Army.
"I just preferred it when I wore Army green," he said.
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