Friday, January 30, 2015

Spiritual Journey


I consider myself to be a man of Faith.

I wasn't always that way.

As a child I gloried in the Lord and all His Works.

As a teenager I slid away from the Light.

While I acknowledged the Savior and remembered God from time to time, I didn't always do so. I did things which were wrong in the sight of my Creator. What's worse, I did not raise my children to fear and love the Lord our God.

With that being said...*

Just before retiring from the Air Force, my saint of a mother-in-law passed away. It was unexpected and sudden.

What's worse is that we were in Germany, preparing to head back to the States and begin our lives as civilians. My mother-in-law died in Korea, half a planet away.

Needless to say The Missus Herself was devastated.

Not two years before, her father had passed away, just before The Naviguesser went off to college. The Missus Herself and the kids did make it to Korea before my father-in-law passed, we had had fair warning of his condition. She had the opportunity to say farewell to her Dad.

Not so this time. Her oldest sister called and told us. Omma (엄마) was gone. Just like that. She had come to visit us the autumn before, this small Korean lady with almost no English traveled halfway around the world to visit us. There were plans for her to come visit us in the States that summer.

Now, she was gone.

The Missus Herself elected to stay home and continue the preparation for our transition to civvy street. A hard choice but as she said, "She's already gone. What can I do?"

It was hard on her. I didn't realize at the time just how hard it was.

Here she was, a native of Korea, now an American citizen by choice, living in another foreign land, Germany, preparing to leave the military with all the unknowns which that entails.

When we finally "arrived" (we had been in the U.S. for two and a half months before I finally landed a job in Little Rhody) The Missus Herself was all adrift.

Her oldest child was an hour away at university. The girls were in high school, Your Humble Scribe was away at work all day and there she was, in a brand new community where she hardly knew anyone at all.

A stranger in a strange land in many, many ways.

One thing she had been trying to get me to do while still in the Air Force was to go to church. I said that I did not see much point in that. As I put it, "I've had my fill of organized religion, no thanks. Not going back."

I'll be the first to admit that I can be the stupidest person on Earth at times.


One day, while we were all out, The Missus Herself went on a voyage of exploration around our new town. What she found changed our lives forever.

It seems that there was this small church built of stone on the town common (we still have those in some New England towns). She parked nearby and went and sat on the front steps of this little church. Something told her that she belonged there. It was meant to be. When I came home, she told me all about this little church. She also told me that we would be attending services there the very next Sunday.

My ChurchGoogle Street View

I indicated, "No, I will not be going to church on Sunday."

Like I said, stupid. I can be stupid from time to time.

Long story short, I did go with her to that church.

And have been going ever since.

That was 1999.

The congregation of that small church have become family. In every sense, in every meaning of that word. We love them. They love us. We are at home there.

I have friends and acquaintances who don't believe. Not just in organized religion but don't believe that there is a Creator. Apparently we are simply the product of random chance. So is everything else which you can see, hear, feel and touch.

I pity those poor benighted souls. They, like my former self, don't know what they are missing. They really don't.

I will tell more stories of my faith journey. It continues still. I learn something every day and it all tracks back to the Glory of God. This I believe, this I know.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 NIV
I served my country for 24 years. Now I'm content to serve the Lord.




* For when it's not a war story, nor a fairy tale.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why Not Minot?*

A B-52H Stratofortress taxis during an alert exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Monday, March 6, 2006.
(U. S. Air Force Photo by SSgt. Jocelyn Rich)
Minot Air Force Base.

North Dakota.

Minot is what we called a "Northern Tier Base," with good reason. Where is Minot? (You might ask.)

Google Maps

Not far from Canada. That's where Minot is. Not far from Canada.

While it's not Way Up North (H/T to Rev Paul) it's north enough for my tastes. Thank you very much.

So what does Minot have to do with today's post? Well, sit back boys and girls, the Sarge is about to tell you a story. All of which is true, at least to the best of my recollection.

Which, truth be told, gets more tenuous every day.

Or so The Missus Herself informs me.

(To read a classic Minot story, perhaps apocryphal, go here. Gave me a chuckle it did.)

Anyhoo.

So there I was...**

It was June of 1989. I remember the year because of the events which were taking place in Beijing, Tienanmen Square to be precise. You can refresh your memory here. The powers-that-be had decided that my captain and I must travel to Minot AFB, ND to discern the needs of a potential customer.

I was a software dude by this time of my Air Force career, safely ensconced in my comfortable office overlooking the main runway at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, the home of Strategic Air Command (SAC) Headquarters (HQ). (The headquarters was in Building 500, I worked in Building 40. My building was much nicer. Much nicer indeed.)

Google Maps
I had been working on a project to display information (tied to a database) on a big screen which had been requested by this particular lieutenant colonel at SAC. What I had not been informed of were the politics behind this tasking.

You would think that software to put stuff up on a big display screen would be pretty simple, even back in the '80s when we programmed with vacuum tubes, stone knives and bearskins, it was a little different because these displays were going to be used in SAC Command Posts. Think places where the people sitting in the room control B-52, B-1 and B-2 wings. Where the people in the room have control over missile silos buried out on the lone prairie.

Serious people. Real. Serious. People.

Now the requirements for the project I was tasked with were being dictated by the aforementioned light colonel (slang for lieutenant colonel, also known as a "half colonel" in British parlance). This fellow was (from what I was told) simply a pawn of some big shot over at the headquarters building.

Because, you see, most command posts already had such software. But the software was not written by a guy who had formal training in such things. No, heaven forfend, this software had been written by a SAC crew dog. What's worse, a semi-disgraced SAC crew dog!

Oh my Lord!

Okay, first off, a crew dog, in SAC parlance, is an airman*** who is a member of a crew, most particularly a flight crew. Folks who manned the nation's aerial leg of the nuclear triad. Folks who would be penetrating Soviet airspace should the balloon go up and we were engaged in "nuclear combat toe to toe with the Roosskies" to quote Major T. J. "King" Kong from the movie Dr. Strangelove.

That's Major Kong on the right, holding a copy of "Wing Attack Plan R." (Don't look, it's Top Secret!) (Public Domain, the photo, not the attack plan.)

Now this particular crew dog (a major as I recall) was, what we like to say in New England, "wicked smaht." He had sat in on many command post exercises in his day and was very familiar with what would be useful. He was also "right handy" with a computer.

So why was he "disgraced"? (Only in the eyes of real serious people who don't actually have to fight wars was he disgraced. But those folks get to make all the "big" decisions. Because they are real serious people. You know. Assholes.)

Seems that during one long arduous SAC exercise he and his fellow crew dogs (a B-52 crew as I recall) decided to have a little fun. Seems that they decided to "attack" another crew for to better morale and make people laugh and be happy. (You can see where this is going, can't you?)

So the major and his fellows donned ski masks and equipped themselves with loaded water pistols and proceeded to "attack" a fellow crew. If memory serves, this incident actually occurred on the ramp. Where the aircraft live. It's also where these guys live...

USAF security forces guard USAF photo by SrA Kenny Holston

Now in my 24-year career, it was my experience that these chaps were not chosen for their acute sense of humor. They tended to see things in black and white. While on duty they tended to be real serious people.

So these guys see a group of fellows wearing ski masks and wielding what appear to be pistols engaging in what appears to be an assault on a SAC crew. I guess the thought that these chaps were also wearing flight suits and that their "weapons" were orange never crossed their minds. Oh well, heat of the moment and all that. I suppose the major and his cohorts should count themselves lucky that the beret-wearers didn't actually open fire.

Anyhoo.

They get hauled in before the SAC wing commander who is suitably unimpressed with their youthful hi-jinks. After all, "this is SAC, we are real serious people."

So while the major (and his fellow crew dogs) were taken off flight status for a while (for to punish them and reduce the load on their wallets) he wrote this software.

Apparently it wasn't good enough for the "real serious people" and this light colonel at Offutt was told off to find a software dude to re-work the software. I was chosen, I worked my magic, based on what the light colonel told me was desired.

I produced something which pleased the light colonel so my boss (Captain Gene Kelly - ISYN, we also had a Captain Phil Collins) and Your Humble Scribe were ordered to head for Minot and show off what we had done.

When we arrived at Minot we were issued a small pickup truck to get around in. We then discovered that my civilian driver's license had expired, so I could not drive said truck. That would be the good captain's responsibility. After signing for the truck, with the captain behind the wheel and me settled into the passenger's seat, I turned to look at my captain.

Before I could say anything, Capt Kelly said, "One word Sarge, just one word and I'll recommend that you get orders for Minot to really iron out this software."

"Certainly Sir. I wasn't going to say anything Sir."

With some grumbling (from the captain, I was smiling like nobody's business) we set off for the transient quarters and a meal.

The next day I sat down with the major who wrote the software currently in use. He showed me what it did, then he asked to see my software. I told him that he didn't really want to see it.

"Why not Sarge?"

"Well Sir. My software sucks. It does exactly what the light colonel asked for but it's obvious that the good colonel does not know shit from Shinola. Pardon my French."

"Let's see it anyway Sarge."

With a sigh I showed him what we had. He agreed with my assessment of the colonel's knowledge level of what was desired. 'Twas then that the major regaled me with the tale of the ski masks and his assumption that because he had done the software, it would never be good enough.

Ah ha, says I.

Then we sat through a command post exercise. We were told to sit quietly near the back of the room and only speak if spoken to. Seems the august personage of the Air Division commander was going to participate in the exercise. This fellow was a one star (brigadier) general and commanded the Air Division at Minot. Said Air Division comprised a B-52 wing (one each) and a Strategic Missile Wing (one each).

Yes, the fellow was in charge of some serious firepower. He was also a fairly serious person.

After the exercise the general himself asked for our assessment of the software they were using to display status and such on the "big board" and whether or not our software was better, the same or worse.

The captain looked at me.

I looked at the captain.

Captain Kelly (no doubt as payback for making him drive the truck) said, "What do you think Sarge?"

With the general looking intently at me, I sat up straight in my chair. Glanced at my captain, cleared my throat and said...


"Well Sir. Our software sucks and is so far from meeting your requirements that I should apologize for wasting your time. The software that you're using now is perfect. I would not change a thing. Maybe a faster computer would be nice, but that's it."

The room went silent. The general was staring at me and I was starting to wonder what job I would be doing there at Minot for the rest of my career. Then the general smiled.

"No son, I should be apologizing to you and the captain here. I suspected that this whole thing was just some headquarters bullshit and you've just confirmed that."

The general then stood (as did we) and shook our hands, thanking us for our honesty and wishing us a safe trip back to Offutt.

On the way to the airport, Captain Kelly said, "Jesus Sarge, but you scare me some times."

Frank and straightforward, that's me. Even with generals.

Of course, there's another story right there. I will tell it someday. Just not today.







*Freezin's the reason. (The standard Air Force riposte to "Why not Minot?")
** SJC
*** Airman is a generic term for a uniformed member of the United States Air Force. It's also a rank but we're using the former meaning here. (Much like "soldier" is a generic term for Army personnel.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Life in New England

(Source)
So we have weathered yet another "Snowmageddon." To hear the big networks tell it in the day leading up to the storm, you'd think the apocalypse was headed our way. At the local grocery store you would think that the government had announced that the Chicoms were off the coast and landing barges full of Chinese marines were steaming up Narragansett Bay. Really? Do you need 75 gallons of milk and 300 loaves of bread?

Geez.

This storm brought far less snow and havoc than the one we had back in 2013. Which I chronicled in a series of posts starting here.

Still and all, to hear the wind howling last night you had to wonder if the roof would still be on the house come dawn.

It was.

One thing which was damaged by the storm was the Official Tall Ship of Rhode Island, the sloop Providence.

USS Rhode Island in the foreground, Providence is under sail to Rhode Island's starboard side.
(US Navy Photo by PH1 Roers)

She had been hauled out of the water for the winter. The storm tipped her onto her beam ends and dis-masted her as you can see in the following photos. You can read the full story at that link given for the source of the photos.

Source
Source

It is worth noting that the sloop Providence was the first ship commissioned into the Continental Navy and the first Command of John Paul Jones.

Hopefully they'll get her repaired and back into the water by the spring.

Yes, that sucks that she was damaged.

As for me, the walk is cleared of snow, the driveway is clear and it's back to work tomorrow. So another winter adventure is in the books. Quiet compared to some, I do not have a problem with that. Not at all.

Sunday Afternoon
Monday Afternoon

Tuesday Morning
I'm really happy that I'm inside!
Hard to tell the amount of fallen snow due to drifting.
Winter Wonderland. (Yeah, right.)
A couple of inches of snow to the left, a couple of feet of snow to the right.
If I had to guess, I'd say we had a foot of snow.
Unlike meteorologists, I'm not paid to guess.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Trivia - What's In a Name?



Not to rehash old news, this is a trivia post after all, but for those that didn't know, the 10th of 55 35 32 Littoral Combat Ships Fast Frigates has been named for the former US Congresswoman from Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords.  When this was announced in 2012, it wasn't well received by many people in and out of the Navy, including me, because of the clear politicization going on with the ship naming conventions.  I tend to think a ship should be named after past ships, founding fathers, long-dead Presidents, Naval Heroes/MOH Awardees, cities, and states.  END OF LIST.  I wish we could still use strong adjectives like Intrepid, Valiant, Stalwart, and the like, but I digress.  Nothing against Ms. Giffords, and what happened to her was tragic, but her accomplishments don't compare to the politicians who've had ships named after them, even if her husband is a Naval Astronaut.

To give you a little "Inside Baseball" on this decision, it was done following well-publicized reports of heavy corrosion on both ships, and some scathing scrutiny by certain Congressmen.  SECNAV naming a ship after the then-darling of the Democratic Party probably didn't save the ship class from being cut, but it probably guaranteed we'd get at least 10 of them.  "Gutsiest move I ever saw man" even if I don't like the move in the first place.

Naming our weapon systems after Politicos falls squarely on the Navy brass, done to curry favor and make strategic political gains, and can really only happen in the Navy.  It's not like we can name the next Army tank after Harry Reid, or a USAF fighter or bomber after Condi Rice or Hillary Clinton. Having (expensive) capital ships, and the politics that comes with them, that's a burden the Navy alone must bear.  By the way- PMRF is being renamed for Sen. Inouye.

Thanks be to God, King Neptune, or Curtis LeMay however, we're still able to bless our Military aircraft with cool names.  That being said, I'll get on with why I've gathered you all here today.

Tuna's Tuesday Trivia for today has to be a little different.  Usually, (Usually?  Ok, it's only been 3 weeks) I post a bunch of pictures followed by questions, but that would give away all the answers and ruin the concept I've planned for you willing participants.  So, I'll minimize the picture posting a bit, and make you actually read something.  At some point we all had to transition from picture books to reading books, and the same goes for Tuna's Tuesday Trivia, at least for this week.

Easy peasy today- I give you a category and you guess some names of aircraft that fit the category. Some of the rules- first off, my quiz, my rules- and I will break my rules.  Next, in general, one name per aircraft- foreign versions or the name given to it by another service don't count.  For example, if I asked you to give me an aircraft with the same name as a warship-  the B-66 Destroyer would fit, but it's a derivative of the A3D Skywarrior and I only award points for the original.  The Wild Weasel wouldn't work either- it's just a moniker.  However, my first rule will almost certainly apply in some instances.  It's an open book internet test (but you won't have fun if you look up every answer,) so no complaining! You may take up your concerns with Sarge however, as I expect he has a soft side for whiners.  By the way, same name but different airframe?  Go right ahead.  By the way, you'll need paper and pen for this one.  Be sure to put your name and classroom in the upper right hand corner.  Number your pages from 1 to 74!

Shall we begin?

Northrop P-61 Black Widow
1. Give me 9 aircraft that are named after things that might give you the willies- you know, reptiles, insects, creepy crawly things, and the like.



2. There's a bunch of aircraft that were given names that could be a person, such as the A-12 “Avenger” or Northrop F-15 Reporter (P-61 photo-recon variant).  See, I picked that one so you won't have to break my rule.  I'm helpful that way!  Choose 15 aircraft that fit that category.

3. Some companies named many of their aircraft after supernatural phenomena- give me 10 birds that fit that category or could be considered fictional beings or characters.

Sorry, not an airplane.

Nice effort, but the HH-3E Jolly Green Giant is just a variant.

4. How about animals?  Everybody likes animals!  Give me 7 airplanes named after land animals -no fish, puppies or cute little kittens, at least not domesticated ones.
 


                                                                               SEPECAT Jaguar                                                          Wikipedia

5.  There aren't too many aircraft named for places, but can you give me 2 aircraft named after islands?  Extra credit point for a third that breaks the rules, but completes the shape.

Grumman J2F Duck
6.  What about waterfowl?  Two please.

                                                                                     EF-111A Raven                                                                       Wikipedia
7.  You can't quoth the Raven, nevermore- because it's another variant, but give me 6 other airplanes named after birds.  Stay away from bird-related names like this:

8.  Now figure out 2 named for ships, and 2 named for dogs.

It's not a Phrog, it's a water dog! A CH-113 Labrador to be exact, but a Canuck variant of the Sea-Knight
9.  While nearly every military aircraft could be considered a weapon, there are a few that are actually named for weapons- give me 3 of them.  Andrew Luck isn't an airplane.



10.  Lockheed had a habit of naming many of their aircraft after celestial objects.  While there may be some duplicates with other categories, that's within the rules.  Name 10 of them.

11.  Almost done.  4 planes with Cat in their name.

Extra Credit- name an airplane that could be a plant or a person from a swing state.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Well, that's the end of today's trivia, and the sun's going down out here on the West Coast so I'll sign off and send this to the publisher.



Oh, sorry, you wanted answers?

1.  Bugs and stuff: Bell P-39 Airacobra Bell AH-1 Cobra Douglas B-21 Dragon (Reptile, Fictional) Lockheed F-22 Raptor Northrop F-89 Scorpion Boeing F/A-18 Hornet Piper L-4 Grasshopper Sikorsky H-5 Dragonfly


2. People: Curtiss C-46 Commando Boeing Stearman PT-13 Kaydet Consolidated B-24 Liberator Martin B-26 Marauder Consolidated PBN-1 Nomad Stinson L-5 Sentinel Consolidated B-32 Terminator North American (NA) AT-6 Texan Vought F8U Crusader Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter Grumman AF Guardian Convair B-58 Hustler Grumman A-6 Intruder Beechcraft T-34 Mentor Convair C-131 Samaritan Grumman S-2F Tracker NA T-28 Trojan NA A3J Vigilante Lockheed (LH) S-3 Viking Grumman EA-6B Prowler.  Subtract 2 points each for Predator, Pioneer, Integrator.


3. The unreal: Douglas A-24 Banshee LH P2V Neptune Boeing P-8 Poseidon Boeing E-6 Mercury McDonnell F-101 Voodoo LH ES-3A Shadow (acceptable only because it’s the exception to my rule) LH AC-130E Spectre (too cool to leave out) Northrop B-2 Spirit McDonnell F-3 Demon McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom LH C-130 Hercules.  You lose 2 points for Reaper.


4. Animals: Brewster F2A Buffalo GD F-111 Aardvark (may not be original name) NA OV-10 Bronco NA P-51 Mustang Grumman F9F Panther Grumman F-9 Cougar Northrop F-5E Tiger II De Havilland C-7 Caribou Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion is acceptable as the Sea doesn't make it a compound word.


5. Islands: Consolidated PB2Y Coronado Consolidated PBY Catalina.  Brewster A-34 Bermuda 


6. Waterbirds: Grumman J4F Goose Grumman UH-16 Albatross HH-3F Pelican (Derivative)
J4F Widgeon (smaller version of the Duck)

7. Birds: Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey Douglas AV-8B Harrier GD F-16 Fighting Falcon McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle Cessna T-37 Tweety Bird SR-71 Blackbird (non-official name) McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk (see my rules).  Minus 10 if you wrote down Global Hawk.


 8. Dogs and ships: Boeing-Vertol CH-113 Labrador Kaman H-43 Huskie Grumman C-2 Greyhound Boeing C-40 Clipper Vought F4U Corsair Vought A-7 Corsair II 


9. Weps: F-86 Sabre and NA F-100 Super Sabre Convair B-36 Peacemaker


10. Starry stuff: C-121 Super Constellation C-141 Starlifter F-104 Starfighter P80 Shooting Star F-104 Starfighter C-141 Starlifter C-121 Super Connie RC-121 Warning Star C-5 Galaxy C-130 Hercules P-3 Orion C-69 Constellation P2V Neptune.  No points for Aries, Arcturus, and Aurora (CAN Orion variants).


11. Kitty cats: Hellcat Wildcat Bearcat Tomcat

Extra Credit Rockwell T-2 Buckeye (Ohioan/Nut)

You might have others, credit will be given for other answers as long as they follow the rules.  There's probably a bunch of foreign ones I don't really care about- like French Mirages, Gazelles, Moths and Camels. Sorry, call me an Air-ist or Plane-ist.

Highest score gets 3 hip-hip hoorays and a hearty pat on the back.

Here's a couple Huskies (Huske) to close it out- found them in the livery of all five Armed Services by the way.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Survival

Last week, Sarge posted about cold exposure in Korea during the winter.  That reminded me of this "war" story.

So,  There I was....* A brand new First Lieutenant at my first operational tour in the 80TFS "Juvats" at Kunsan AB ROK.  I have completed my area checkout and am now an operational Fighter Pilot.  That having been said, my operational skills do not accurately reflect my self image. 
Who I was
Source

Who I thought I was
Source

In any case, the Wing is about to be given an ORI (Operational Readiness Inspection).  As I've mentioned elsewhere, an ORI is intended to determine the Wing's overall combat readiness and capabilities.  The reality of the inspection is that it is an evaluation of the Wing and Squadron Commanders and determines their future potential for promotion and a continuing career in the Air Force.  To be sure, individual screwups, even by lowly First Lieutenants, are not career enhancing either.  Let us just say ORIs are stressful for all hands and leave it at that.

Based on the high stakes and my low experience, I have been relegated to the night schedule.  Out of sight, out of mind as the saying goes.  The ORI is in February.  The inspectors will be cold and miserable enough during the day, there's no reason to expect to see them at night. 

The ORI team arrives and we're off to the races. Airfield attack horns going off, Gas Masks and MOPP gear being donned, missions being flown, it's a busy time, even at night.  The rules at the time were you could only fly twice at night as opposed to three times during the day.  We would show at the squadron about 8, brief at 9 for an 11PM takeoff.  Missions were usually 1.2, so we'd be down about 12:15.  We'd do a quick turn and be back in the air about 1:15 on the ground by 2:30, debrief and leave the squadron as the sun was coming up around 6.  Head for the quarters and try to sleep.  Get up and do it again.  This goes on for a few days when just before leaving the squadron, I get called in to my Flight Commander's office and told I'm going to be taken off the schedule for this evening's flight.  I've been selected for a "good deal".  

The ORI wants to evaluate the Wing's survival skills.  They've got an instructor from the survival school at Fairchild on the team and they want to take someone out overnight and see how they fare.  My Flight Commander says that since I just went through the school the end of November, I was the best choice.  Yeah Right!

Later that day, I show up at base ops and meet the instructor.  I've got my flight gear with me,  He's got a seat pack from an F-4 and a parachute.  In short I've got what I'd have if I had just jumped out of a jet.
Survival Gear which didn't usually include a bottle of Champagne

We board a Huey (a terrifying experience, there's really only one good time to be on a helicopter.  When it has just picked up your pink butt in a rescue.)  

I digress.

We fly North for a bit and land in a frozen rice paddy just as the sun starts to go down.  The instructor and I get out and the Huey disappears to the south.  I recognize where we are generally.  We're in airspace that was named MPSA (Maverick/Pave Spike Area).  We used it all the time to train with training versions of those weapons.
I'm in the general vicinity of the Hwy 32 Marker in the top center

As I said, the sun is going down and the wind is coming off the Yellow Sea at about 15-20k.  It's starting to get very cold.

While the instructor is setting up his tent, cot, sleeping bag and small cook stove, he's quizzing me about initial post ejection survival procedures.  Finally, he's all set up and he's ready to show me my luxury quarters,  He hands me the seat pack and parachute and we're off.  We hike for a couple of miles and climb a hill that's above another rice paddy, frozen.  It's dark.  He asks me what my priorities are now.  I ask him, is this war or peace time survival.  He says peace time.  I say, get out of the elements, attempt to contact someone, and stay warm.  He says your radio is busted.  OK, I look around.  In the field are several Hay Ricks, large piles of the stalks of Rice left behind after the rice was harvested. 
Hay Rick
Source: en.wikipedia.org

I walk over to a group of them and find a couple that are fairly close together and perpendicular to the wind.  I knock down some of the hay into the gap, spread the parachute on top of that, then knock down a bit more on top.  My very own sleeping bag!

He asks "Now what, you going to bed?  I say, "Nope, I'm going to start a fire"  I look in the seat pack for the strike anywhere matches that are in the kit and they're not there.  He laughs and said "I took those out to complicate the exercise a bit for you."   No Problem.  I walk over to the Rick I've decided will be my fireplace, reach into my survival vest, pull out a flare, and light the night end.  
Source


As it ignites, he says "Don't! That'll cost the AF money!"  I reply "Good" and push it into the Rick. 

Slept warm and toasty all night.  The next morning I woke to the sounds of a Huey landing.  The Huey driver said he saw the smoke and fire and knew who was who.

I did learn that I needed to have my own survival kit with what I considered absolute essentials, one of which was matches.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Death and Love

Arlington National Cemetery at Dusk on New Year's Eve, 2014
Death never seems to be far away. People die every day. Sometimes after long and fulfilling lives. Sometimes after lives that were cut far too short.

This subject has been weighing very heavily upon me these past few days.

My friend Buck has been gone for over a month. I still miss seeing his comments. I'll go to his place and wander through his old posts, remembering.

Then today this, over at Skipper's place, the news of a young man lost far too soon. A young man whose parents are friends of friends.

I cannot begin to imagine the grief of his parents. I cannot pretend to "know" what they are feeling. I pray every day that I never know that pain.

The fear of losing a loved one is ever present. Most of us try not to think about it, we push it away and hope and pray it doesn't happen to us or to people we're close to.

But it does. And it hurts.

They say that time heals all pain.

They're wrong in one sense, that pain stays with you until the day you die.

Our sincerest hope is that when we die, we are reunited with our loved ones in the "sweet by-and-by." It's what I believe. It's what I hope.

I do not fear my own death. We all die.

I fear the death of those I love.

So, does one not love in order to avoid that fear?

No. For then this life would be truly pointless. And I know in my heart of hearts that it is anything but pointless.

We're born, we live and then we die. Hopefully, somewhere in there, you find people to love, people who love you.

So yes, mourn those who have passed. But remember their lives and how much they enriched your own life.

Without love, life is a living death.

I've been there, I don't ever want to go back.

Dawn, the 15th of January 2015.
Another chance to celebrate life.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rocket

So, There I was….* Assistant Ops Officer of an F-15C Squadron at Kadena AB Japan.  It’s the first Duty Day after New Year’s, and The Boss has called the Ops Officer, myself and the four Flight Commanders into his office for a meeting.  It had been a very restful Holiday Season after a very eventful past couple of months.  We’d been to the PI for an extended Cope Thunder helping the RAAF check out in their new F/A-18s, the usual rotations to the ROK for Alert at Osan AB or Kwang Ju AB.  We’d even had the opportunity for some unusual formation flying.

Santa had been somewhat good to me, I’d received orders.  I was going to Ft Leavenworth KS for “ArrrrrMeeee Training Sir”  (AKA Command and General Staff College).  I was to report mid-June for “Army Kindergarten”, intended to get us somewhat up to speed on all things Army.  The downside was my Wife, Mrs. Juvat (AKA Capt Juvat to the personnel folks that worked for her) was staying at Kadena for a year along with my 6 year old son and as yet unborn but coming, daughter.  A good assignment that would be better with my family.  It is, what it is.

That, however was 6 months in the future, I still had a lot of operational flying to do.  In fact, later today I had a 2 v 2 similar flight lead upgrade ride to give to one of the guys who’d been in my flight while I was a flight commander.  He went by Rocket an epithet bestowed on him with all the love that a fighter squadron can convey.  In prior posts, discussion has waxed and waned on the various means someone acquires a “Call Sign” and by what means the actual name could come from.  Rocket had come to the F-15 through a “pay your dues” tour.  While I don’t recall what it was specifically, it had to be either a First Assignment IP (FAIP) or a Forward Air Controller (FAC).  I’m certain enough, within the constraints of my memory, to decide it was a FAIP.  I base this on his evolution as a fighter pilot.  He had absolutely no problem with formation or instruments, which was common in FAIPS.

Rocket had progressed through the various phases of fighter pilot checkouts with the normal ups and downs for a first timer.  Some classic mistakes, some boneheaded ones, but none of them call sign caliber.  So, he went by “Bob”, which was natural as his first name was Robert.  He kept trying to encourage us with suggestions, but we were having none of that.  As Sarge has stated, your call sign is given, not taken.

It was one Friday nite and we’re in the squadron bar.  (Yes, children, Fighter Squadron’s had bars back then, with Beer, and we drank beer on Fridays in the squadron.  Come back when you get over the vapors.) So, Bob and I and a couple of others were drinking beer and shooting watches and cussing and scratching and engaging in other no longer allowed activities, when the wives arrive.  This generally happened around 6 or so and was a not so subtle hint that we needed to wind things down and take them over to the Skoshi Koom (Skoshi being, we were told, “little” in Japanese and KOOM being the acronym for the Kadena Officers Open Mess). The Skosh was an offset of the Big Club, had a couple of dining rooms as well as (cover your ears, kiddies) a bar.  The Wing frequented it as our unofficial club.

Well, the wives arrived. One of them had a stunning extra with her.  Rocket, who was single, took site of her and was off like a ….

Well, you know what happens at the end of the rocket burn, right?

Ergo, Rocket. Rocket, you are, Rocket forever you shall be.

As Sarge so frequently tells me, Juvat, you digress get back to the meeting.

We’ve all gathered, and the Boss hasn’t come in yet, so we’re all, even the OpsO, trying to guess what the subject is.  In walks the Boss, we all rise (yes, the Air Force, even Fighter Pilots stand up when a commander enters the room, don’t get all teary eyed).  He motions us to our seats.

“Guys, the Wing King has a good deal for the Squadron”  Oh no, here it comes again.

“The Squadron that had been tasked to provide Red Air for the next Cope Thunder has had to pull out. PACAF asked the Wing if one of our squadrons could fill in.  The Wing King chose us.”  Pandemonium breaks out.  Cope Thunder was just about the best flying we had available and we’d been back from it less than a month.  Plus it was at Clark AB PI, doesn’t get much better than that.  (Side note, I think it was a Navy F-4S squadron, doesn’t really matter they weren’t there.)

We’re scheduled to deploy in 2 weeks.

Time passes quickly and we’re now down in the PI, playing Bad Guys, which is not a role we played very often at Cope Thunder and the fact that we’d done it during our last Cope Thunder against the Aussies probably was a factor in our selection.

I’ve got the afternoon go leading a four ship, but am not the mission commander.  So while I’ve got some mission planning to do, I’m also available to be SOF for the morning go.  This means I have to attend the morning mass brief.  I’m there, taking some notes, getting a general feel for the plan. 



The mission commander has a typical plan for dividing responsibility for defending the airspace.  Essentially, a line from Clark to High Peak to Hermana Mayor (a large island a few miles off shore) will divide the Land approach from the shoreline approach and a line from Clark to the mouth of the river at Botolan will divide the Shoreline approach from the Spratley’s approach.  Reasonable visual references to try and help provide physical separation between flights.  Briefing completed, the morning go goes about the business of going. 

I get back to mission planning.  I hear the Blue Force Jets taking off.  The intervals of 10 second take off going on for about 10 minutes is a big hint of identity.  20 minutes later another minute of 10 second intervals alerts me that Red Force is airborne and I am on Duty.  This means little more than the Duty Desk knows where I am in case the 3TFW SOF needs Eagle specific emergency procedure help. 

About 20 minutes later, I hear a knock it off call made on Guard.  Uh-Oh, that’s never used at Cope Thunder unless something bad has happened.  A couple of minutes later the SOF phone rings, there’s a couple of seconds and I hear “He’s right here” and hands the phone to me  I feel sick.

I identify myself, and the SOF says “we’re not sure what’s happened yet, but it looks like we might have lost one of yours, please notify your Senior Rep (The Vice Wing King was deployed with us) as well as Home Base.  We’re doing a head count and will let you know as soon as we know anything definite.” 

I look at the schedule and make a note of the names and tail numbers assigned to the morning go.  I notice that all my guys from my former flight were airborne.  Time is stopped.  I want to know who, but don’t want to know who.

I call Chambers Hall and ask to be put through to the Vice Wing King.  He’s left the building.  Call the Club.  Nope not there for breakfast.  Decide to call back to Kadena, and get put through to the Wing King.  Explain what I’ve been told as opposed to what I know to be true so far.  He tells me to call back every 10 minutes until directed differently.

The SOF calls back and says we’ve definitely had an Eagle hit the water, in the vicinity of Hermana Mayor.  Well, that eliminates the Boss who was in the Southern Vector, however, my guys now represent 6 of the 8 remaining possibles.  I call back home and report that info.  Jets are starting to come back down initial.  I’m listening as they check in on tower.  The flight in the center vector checks in with four.  It’s definitely one of mine.  Finally the last Eagle flight checks in, One, Two, Three.

Rocket.

The Vice shows up and I fill him in on what’s happened.  He tells me to continue and he’ll contact Home for now.  The guys start coming back in the squadron and I have them give me all 12 VCR Tapes and put them in a safe and lock it.  I tell them to debrief and take copious written notes. When done, sign them and give them to me.  They’re added to the safe.  Pretty soon, the 3TFW Wing Safety Officer comes up and signs for all that material.  The Vice relieves me, grounds the squadron until further notice and I head back to Chambers Hall.

There is a Wake at the Club that night.  That’s the only thing I can think of to describe it.  No other squadron showed up, for dinner, beers, crud or anything.  Just us.  There were some old retired fighter pilots there, who kept a lid on things. 

The next morning, The Boss calls us all together and tells us what he knows.  Rocket had been involved in a mid-air with another Eagle!  The Blue Force had used Hermana Mayor as a Nav point and Rocket as #4 had seen them.  He’d called the tally to his lead who cleared him to engage.  Rocket’s flight was in the Eastern sector.  Rocket began a left hand turn while looking down to keep tally on the bogeys.

Simultaneously, the flight in the Middle Sector’s #2 guy was on the east side of his flight and sees the bandits below.  He calls the tally to his lead who cleared him to engage.  He starts a right turn to keep a tally on the bandits.

Distance between the two flights was about 8 miles, between the filght leads about 12, neither flight lead was aware of the other flight.

Extensive modeling after the fact determined that Rocket had milliseconds before impact begun to commit the nose of his jet down taking it slightly out of the flight path of the second jet.  The horizontal slab of the other jet passed through the canopy of Rocket’s jet killing him.  Since the Eagle will trim itself automatically when the stick is held steady for a second, the airplane was trimmed for a couple of degree nose low moderate bank which it held until impacting the water. The other Eagle thought he’d hit jet wash, came back to Clark and landed normally.

This happened 25 years ago today.  F-15C 78-534 was not recoverable.  There was enough DNA recovered to confirm Rocket’s death.

The squadron is cleared to fly two days later.  It was not the same, and it took us a while to get back up on step.  We finished out the exercise without further incident and deployed back home.  That was to be my last Cope Thunder.

Two weeks later, I received a package in the mail from PACAF headquarter, containing these two photographs.  Rocket is #4.

A week or so ago, PA posted about the last 7 seconds.  I’m convinced those 7 seconds were no different than any other 7 seconds in Rocket’s life.  One instant he’s there, the next he’s not.  As I sat down to write this, I realized that’s probably the best possible way to go.


*SJC