Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Pilgrimage

Wikipedia: A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.

On Friday, the 30th of August, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen, Your Humble Scribe and his first-born, the Naviguesser, boarded the Mercedes SLK 350, fired up the onboard navigation system and headed south. South to...

This is something I've been wanting to do for some time now. The Naviguesser volunteered his services as a driver the weekend we arrived here in California. I accepted. And yesterday, we made it happen.

This, for me, was a pilgrimage. Paying my respects to Lex is something I needed to do, this was a journey of spiritual significance for me. For if it hadn't been for Lex, this blog would not exist.

This was also an opportunity to actually meet, live and in person, my co-blogger, Tuna. As an added bonus, I had had an email from HMS Defiant the week before we left for California indicating that he would be in the San Diego area the same week we were visiting, how about a meet at Shakespeare's? The planets aligned, the signs were propitious, the rendezvous was set. So yes, yes let's meet up at Shakespeare's.

What better way to pay tribute to Lex than to visit his final resting place and then to visit the place he and his colleagues, friends and associates were wont to stop and have a Guinness, or three?

This is a brief record of that pilgrimage.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery


Lex is in fine company.
I was here in person, thousands more were with me, in spirit.
Lex, you will never be forgotten.

It was time to leave those who have gone ahead. It was now time to meet up with others who still walk the path, those who are still heading towards that clearing at the end of the path. Where we will all arrive someday.

While it's not the end of the journey, status is definitely:
Mission Accomplished!
Tuna and the Sarge,
Channeling Pinch and Lex
It was fun, it was somehow sublime. A day which I will remember until my last breath. But it was time to head back. Time to go home.

Pacific Sunset
Southern California Sky

It was a good day.

Guest Post- Tuna

     Sarge left me the keys to this place awhile back, and this afternoon he almost goaded me into posting something while he's out here on the left coast visiting family. That's us- Tuna and the Sarge, with photo-bomb courtesy of occasional reader and prolific phellow blogger of HMS Defiant who will remain nameless - not to protect any sort of anonymity, but because either he was only introduced as his blog title, or I never picked up his real name.  Either way, it was nice to meet up at Lex's place to have a drink with Sarge, HMS Defiant and his lovely wife, as well as Sarge's chauffeur and tour guide- none other than the one and only Naviguesser.

     I will continue to digress if only momentarily.  Check out the HMS Defiant link above.  The home page is somewhat near and dear to my heart.  Not that I'm a closet-SWO, but it's a painting of the USS ESTEEM (MSO-438).  I spent the month of June 1989 onboard her sister ship, USS GALLANT (MSO-489) during training as a Midshipman.

     That cruise, while a great learning opportunity which I relished, probably cemented my desire to become a Naval Flight Officer.  The Gallant and her 6 foot draft took on 12 foot seas up the coast from Treasure Island Naval Station in the Bay Area to Portland Oregon for the Rose Festival.  Those seas led to near constant gastronomic upheaval for everyone, and I mean everyone, including the Captain, one LCDR S. Johnson, although we never actually saw that happen.  Now however, having long ago put away my flight gear, I happily toil in what Lex would call "Cubicle Hell" at the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command (NMAWC).  Those ships are long gone, and their replacements, the Avenger-Class Minesweepers are quickly approaching end of life.  That keeps me busy as I attempt to replace their capability in the Fleet as we cautiously await, and wait, and wait, for the ever-so-promising Littoral Combat Ship Mine Countermeasures Mission Package (LCS MCM MP).  If there ever was a neglected warfare area, without which we could possibly face a massive slowing of the world's economy, it's Mine Warfare (MIW).   By the way, the Gallant CO later retired from the Navy after commanding two more ships and a base.  He was on the panel when I interviewed for my job at NMAWC and works with me in the same department.  Amazing how things come full circle.

     Where am I going with this you ask?  Don't worry, it's all related to the point of my guest post.    Sarge is not much for posting politically charged items, usually reserving this forum for all things Phantom, or phighter (ok, now that's just phoolish) Fighter-pilot related.  That's completely expected as he's a phormer phantom phixer, and his brood are either in the Fighter community or Naval Officers of other distinction.  Since I have the floor here though, I want to comment on something related to current affairs.

   In the Arabian Gulf we have some Avenger-Class Minesweepers, a detachment of MH-53E Sea Dragon Mine Sweeping Helicopters, and a bunch of EOD Divers- The MCM Triad.


    Alongside our Brit counterparts who have a similar sized force, the burden of maintaining an MCM capability in the region (and keeping the gulf open) falls to us, and only us.  We didn't ask for this burden, but it's one was take on because we can't have madmen using indiscriminate weapons.  The U.S. only imports 13% of its oil from the gulf, but we know that there's a global impact of a straits closure.  We keep our forces there because it's the right thing to do and we don't wait for others to ask, give approval, or pat us on the back for doing it.

     With regards to Syria, the same principle applies.  I know it's not easy.  There are no rebels or Assad-backed forces flying airplanes into our skyscrapers; there is no oil there we need.  Backing Assad is wrong.  Backing the rebels sure isn't right.  It would be nice if we had a giant red "Easy" button for the President to put next to his "red line," but those don't exist.  Unfortunately, our red line, which I agree with, is ceasing to exist as well, and the longer we wait, the less meaningful our action will be.  President Obama is between a rock and a hard place, but it's one of his own doing.  He wants the UN to back him on using force.  My head is spinning from whether he believes in what he said as a Senator regarding Presidential authority, or whether he wants to act without their blessing.  Our Brit friends have already said no, they won't be joining us.  The President is pressured from all sides to act or not to act.  As I said, it's not easy, but as to that rock and hard place? I see a soft side to that rock.

     The US, and almost every other country in the world have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention.  The shear magnitude of those numbers is a mandate in itself against Syria.  Acting against Assad is not only a right, but a moral obligation.  He used what we call "Weapons of Mass Destruction," not "weapons that get people a little upset," or "weapons that are not very nice."  President Obama may not like us acting as the world's policeman, but when it comes to WMDs, just like mines in the gulf, it's a burden we must accept. When we act, we do it because we truly believe it is the right thing to do, not because some poll said it would play well on the world stage.  I'm not saying we should put troops on the ground, or even send in Big Time and the WSO.  Nobody wants another Iraq- we shouldn't send in a ground force to violently overturn Assad.  We should take out their WMD capability and if possible, the forces responsible, and we have the weapons to do so.  Taking out Assad might leave some sort of power vacuum for anti-US forces to take over, but it's not as if Assad is wrapping himself in an American Flag these days either.  Will there be repercussions and backlash?  Almost definitely.  Will there be casualties? - Yes.  Will there be innocent casualties?  Unfortunately the answer to that is probably yes as well.  That's a horrible resultant side-effect of warfare, but doing nothing has already sent a signal that Assad can get away with it.  That the US isn't as strong or caring as it once was.  That the use of WMDs really isn't as bad as it sounds- that they can now be titled "Weapons that kind of make people a little angry, but not enough to do anything about it."   We can act because we all agree that madmen can't use WMDs and get away with it- do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not ask congress.  Do your job.

    Today a reporter tried to press former President George W. Bush to weigh in on the Syrian issue.  He wouldn't take the bait, nor has he since leaving office.  He did offer this though: "The human condition elsewhere, matters to the United States."  C'mon Mr. President, Mr. Commander-in-Chief, it's time to prove it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Great Day

An awesome day, truly awesome.

But long, very long. Five hours down, five hours back. An hour with Lex, two hours at Shakespeare's. More to come.

After some sleep...

I need to find a bed!

The Friday Flyby - 30 August

F/A-18E of VFA-31, Tomcatters
CAG 8, NAS Oceana

In keeping with the whole "I'm at NAS Lemoore" theme for this week. It seemed appropriate to feature the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (the Rhino) for this week's Friday Flyby. I'm sure Buck will forgive me. After all, that link back there has big floating things painted haze gray. Granted, he had some Air Force stuff too, but I haven't seen any Air Force stuff out here this week. Though rumor has it there are one (or two?) of these bad boys at Fresno-Yosemite International.
F-15 Eagle
(Juvat's Old Ride)
Representative Rhino Paint Schemes

From Wikipedia:

The Super Hornet achieved initial operating capability (IOC) in September 2001 with the U.S. Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 115 (VFA-115) at Naval Air Station Lemoore,

California. VFA-115 was also the first unit to take their F/A-18 Super Hornets into combat. On 6 November 2002, two F/A-18Es conducted a "Response Option" strike in support

of Operation Southern Watch on two surface-to-air missile launchers at Al Kut, Iraq and an air defense command and control bunker at Tallil air base. One of the pilots,

Lieutenant John Turner, dropped 2,000 pounds (910 kg) JDAM bombs from the Super Hornet for the first time during combat.

In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq War), VFA-14, VFA-41 and VFA-115 flew close air support, strike, escort, SEAD and aerial refueling sorties. Two F/A-18Es from
VFA-14 and two F/A-18Fs from VFA-41 were forward deployed to the USS Abraham Lincoln. The VFA-14 aircraft flew mostly as aerial refuelers and the VFA-41 fighters as Forward Air Controller (Airborne) or FAC(A)s. On 6 April 2005, VFA-154 and VFA-147 (the latter squadron then still operating F/A-18Cs) dropped two 500-pound (230 kg) laser-guided bombs on an enemy insurgent location east of Baghdad.

On 8 September 2006, VFA-211 F/A-18F Super Hornets expended GBU-12 and GBU-38 bombs against Taliban fighters and Taliban fortifications west and northwest of Kandahar. This was the first time the unit was in combat with the Super Hornet.

During the 2006–2007 cruise with USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, VFA-103 and VFA-143 supported Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and operations off the Somali coast.

Alongside "Legacy Hornet" squadrons, VFA-131 and VFA-83, they dropped 140 precision guided weapons and performed nearly 70 strafing runs.

In 2007, Boeing proposed additional F/A-18E/Fs to the U.S. Navy in a multi-year contract. In 2008, it was reported that the Navy was considering buying additional F/A-18 Super Hornets to bridge a "strike-fighter" gap. As of October 2008, Boeing had delivered 367 Super Hornets to the U.S. Navy.

On 6 April 2009, Defense Secretary Gates announced that the Department of Defense intends to acquire further 31 F/A-18s in FY2010. Congressional action has requested that the DoD study a further multi-year contract in order to avoid a projected strike fighter shortfall. The FY2010 budget bill authorizes, but does not require, a multiyear purchase
agreement for additional Super Hornets.

On 14 May 2010, it was reported that Boeing and the U.S. Department of Defense reached an agreement for a multi-year contract for an additional 66 F/A-18E/Fs and 58 EA-18Gs
over the next four years. The latest order for 124 aircraft will raise the total fleet count to 515 F/A-18E/Fs and 114 EA-18Gs. However, the Navy is already 60 fighters below its validated requirement for fighter aircraft and this purchase will not close the gap. The deal was finalized on 28 September 2010 for a multi-year contract said to save $600 million (over per year contracts) for 66 Super Hornets and 58 Growlers and to help deal with a four-year delay in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

I wonder how they're going to deal with no, as in zero, F-35s? According to my sources, there currently is a crying need for spare parts. Guess what? The geniuses in the Pentagon don't really have a system in place to just buy parts. So not only is there a shortfall in actual airframes, but of the ones we already have, some don't fly. You can't fly what you can't fix. Trust me, I know these things.

Anyhoo, ladies and gentlemen, the Super Hornet...  

Gladiator in "Go Fast" Mode
Pilot's Cockpit, WSO's Cockpit
(Hhhmmm, the one on the left looks familiar...)
Loaded for Bear
And we're off...
On the boat
Go Time

Until next time...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sim Time

Okay, that's not the view from a Rhino as you approach "the boat", but it gives you a pretty good idea what I was seeing in the simulator today. Well, kind of...

I was always a bit high. To my credit I didn't do a ramp strike.

So I had that going for me.

Got to the sim building on time (which can be a minor miracle when you have to get a three year old ready at the same time!) I settled into "the jet" right around 1045 local. After adjusting the rudder pedals and the seat, we were ready to go. Son-in-law Big Time was my instructor and he's a good one. Tells you what to do and why you do it a particular way.
After an unfortunate, "What the Hell was that?" incident, (Big Time hit a button, all I saw was the "red screen o' Death" then we reset) we were ready for take-off. Out of NAS Miramar of all places!
F9F-6P of VC-61 over NAS Miramar
(Back in the day)
When Big Time said we were ready to go, the throttles went forward, past the detent and into 'burner. As he put it, "Guess you know about that part..." As he started to speak again I had already eased in a bit of right rudder to correct a rather disturbing "Hey look, I'm heading off the left side of the runway" problem.

In moments we were "airborne", simulated of course.

This sim was rather placid, no movement to give you a feel for flying, but rather nice displays and sound. We seemed to be flying around the time of nautical twilight. Either that or someone needed to crank up the brightness and contrast. Heh.

I was at 20K in no time flat so we played around for a while. Did a loop, which was alright until I did the old "look straight up and back to acquire the horizon" thing only to note that the all-around displays weren't quite 360-degrees. Directly overhead, nothing. So I looked right, reacquired the horizon and pulled out comfortably with beaucoup altitude to spare. I hadn't tied the low altitude record yet!

Next I wanted to build up some smash. I suppose I could have put the nose down to gain airspeed but where's the fun in that? Past the detent and into 'burner I went (after all we're in the sim, who cares about fuel conservation?)

When I got her going pretty good, I pulled back to military power, rolled left and pulled the stick back hard into a pretty sweet high-G turn. Big Time showed me the read-out, I think I got it up to 5-Gs. But as you couldn't really feel it, it wasn't that much fun. So I figured I would do some more maneuvering to see if I could at least not look like an idiot while "flying".

Did a rather nice Immelmann (again, the lack of a full 360 display was a bit disconcerting), then from there went into a Split-S. (Yes, I did check the altitude first!) While enjoying the sight of the displays reacting to my maneuvering I kind of lost my situational awareness. Next thing I know "Bitching Big Time" is muttering in my ear, "Pull up, pull up". Oh yes, boys and girls, the Old AF Sarge was rapidly approaching tying the low altitude record but through judicious back pressure on the stick (as in trying to touch my spine with the joystick) I managed to level off at a rather uncomfortable 100 feet.

By the way, the simulator displays are rather 3-D. 50 feet lower and I do believe I would've plowed into a ridge. At least it looked like a ridge as it passed rather rapidly under the jet.

So, let's find the boat and try and land this beast.

After some fooling around (and a reset to give me a bit more fuel, remember I went into 'burner more than was probably prudent early in the flight) there was this disturbance on the ocean's surface.

"That's the wake?"

"Yup, of course we're pretty far out yet. It'll get bigger."

Well, technically yes, it does get bigger. But OH MY GOD I HAVE TO LAND WHERE?

Yes, big ocean, small boat. Relatively speaking.

First approach wasn't too bad. Of course, the old timers would no doubt argue that the jet practically lands itself. You can set Automatic Throttle Control (ATC) which will manage your airspeed pretty nicely. Unless you jerk the controls around a bit much. Then the onboard computers decide, "Well, the meatware seems to want to do things his way, alright, YOUR JET!"

Yup, ATC will shut off if your control inputs are, shall we say, a bit rough. Ditto the autopilot. Kind of sucks when you're slamming the jet around trying to stay on path and on glideslope. Gently does it cowboy, gently! 
Rhino Heads Up Display (HUD)
So I'm coming in pretty good, just a tad high. Big Time says "chop the power" (or words to that effect), I pull the throttles all the way back. I'm on the deck.

Um, shouldn't I be stopping now? Laughing maniacally, I push the throttles into 'burner and start yelping "bolter, bolter, bolter". Time to try again.

"So Big Time, what happened there?"

"Well, you came down a little hard, so I'm guessing you managed to bounce your 'hook over all four of the wires."

"Well. That sucks."

"Hey, it happens."

"To you?"

"Of course not."

So we went around again. For two more touch and goes. And one low pass over the boat when I realized I had pulled back on the stick instead of pushing forward like my nice IP told me to.

"What was that?"

"Uh, I wanted to wave at the Admiral?"


So our sim time was up. I never did trap, but I didn't damage the carrier in any way. No sailors were harmed.

I also was amazed at just how much seawater those General Electric F414 engines can suck down and still function.

(While I never hit the boat, we did go swimming a couple of times.)

As we departed the sim, the operator guy who controls everything said, "You need a little work on your landings." Yes, we all had a good laugh at that. Nice of him to say "a little", rather than, "Hey, you suck at this!"

All in all, three things today -

1) It's not easy landing on an aircraft carrier,

2) Big Time is a superb instructor,

3) Aircraft carriers only look big when you're not trying to land on them.

Today was:


Oh. Yeah!!!

A Musical Interlude

While I'm at the sim, give this a listen. (Heard on the radio yesterday, as always, crank it up.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NAS Lemoore

Me and the VFA-94 Board at the O-Club
For Those Who Didn't Know, Lex Commanded VFA-94.
Had a great day, not really counting the furniture shopping. Long story short, kids are buying a house, they (well actually the WSO and the Missus Herself) are shopping for furniture. So, we've spent an hour or twelve doing that. Not a problem, me and Little Bit have terrorized a few furniture stores in Fresno. We're having fun while the others debate the relative merits of one sofa versus another. Big Time has a "get out of jail free card" he's had to work the past few days.

Anyhoo. There was a patching today at the Lemoore O-Club, FNGs coming out of VFA-122 heading to their first operational squadron. Loads of fun, lots of insulting commentary regarding the FNGs and lots of adult beverages.

At any rate, this is the first chance I've had to actually be onboard NAS Lemoore. Got to have a couple of Guinness in one of Lex's old haunts and got to hang out with some of America's finest.

After finishing Guinness Number Two, I noticed a newbie, call sign "Tight Pants" (a guy by the way) carrying a pitcher of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale...

This Stuff
So this guy became my new best friend. A fine gentleman, a true representative of American manhood. He kept me well supplied. A good time was had by all.

Though one thing distressed me greatly. There are backwoods swamps in Louisiana with clearer water than the pool at the O-Club. Seems that "due to sequestration" they can't afford to put the pool in service. Nice. I think we should make Congress come out and swim at the Lemoore O-Club.


Anyhoo (once again), it was a good day. A real good day.

Tomorrow should also be awesome. I have sim time from 1045 to 1145.

Sim time you ask, what's that?

Yours truly gets to plant his not insubstantial derrière in an F/A-18 flight simulator. On the base. Same thing the pilots and WSOs train on. That's going to be sweet!

Big Time is an awesome son-in-law...

The Sun Sets on Another Fine Old AF Sarge Day
(Sometimes it's good to be me!)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Random F-4 Photo
So, I'm in California and have pretty much been in vacation mode since departing little Rhody on Saturday. So I haven't really been thinking about the blog all that much. I am feeling somewhat guilty about that.

But what's worse is that there are a number of blogs I follow and I haven't been keeping up with those either. I am, as they say, behind the power curve.

Not sure how to get back on top of things, perhaps we should motor out to Lemoore and get some aircraft pics. Yeah, that would be great.

We shall see, we shall see...

Monday, August 26, 2013


Classic Hanford Roadside Scenery
So far, we're having a great time out here in sunny California. Hanging with Big Time, the WSO and Little Bit. The Naviguesser even drove down from his place further up in California. He was driving one of these -

Mercedes SLK 350
He and I drove over to Fresno (just because we could). Riding in the Naviguesser's car was, in a word...


Haven't had that much fun since I got to go up in one of these -

SNJ-6 Texan

I'm not sure if the SLK will do aerobatics, but it definitely goes fast and the handling is pretty sweet.

So yes, we're having a good time. But I haven't seen this lady yet (though there are signs everywhere that she's about)...

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 25, 2013


On Saturday we flew from Providence down to Newark, to start the long trek across country for to visit the progeny. We had a 2 and half hour layover before getting onto our next flight to San Francisco.

Terminal C at Newark International overlooks the New Jersey Turnpike and provides a very nice view of the New York skyline. While biding our time, waiting for our flight, I wandered over to check out the view.

Empire State Building, check, and then...

"Huh? What's that?" I said to myself when looking towards where the Twin Towers used to be.

It's called "4 World Trade Center" and it seems...

Out of place.

I think most Americans alive on the 11th of September 2001 remember what used to be there. So to me, the image was jarring.

To say the least.

I stood there for what had to be ten minutes, ten long minutes, just staring. There was a temptation, an urge, to get a little teary eyed at what used to be. At all of the changes in America, and the world, since that day. Most of those changes, in this scribe's humble opinion, not for the better.

But after thinking about it, the new building is rather handsome. It fills a hole in the Manhattan skyline. Yes, it's different.

But things change, things evolve. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. It remains to be seen what the future will bring. Will this nation return to greatness? Or will we continue the slide into socialist mediocrity? Who knows? Not me, I am no prophet.

Things have changed. Things will continue to change. But one thing I know, no matter what takes the place of what used to stand on that spot, my motto remains -

Never forgive, never forget.

Until we live in a world where this can never happen again,

Land of the...

The Missus Herself and I were discussing the characterization of California as the "land of the fruit and nut". I mentioned that I had perhaps insulted those of my readers who hail from the Golden State.

The Missus pointed out that where the Naviguesser lives there is a Blue Diamond nut processing plant. And thousands of acres of almond trees. So quite literally he lives in the land of nuts.

The WSO and Big Time are surrounded by many acres of lemon and orange trees. So they live, again literally, in the land of fruits.

So yes, we would view this as the Land of the Fruit and Nut. You know, kind of like how Israel was described to Moses, the land of milk and honey.

Perhaps I should hire the Missus Herself to be my editor.

Oh, the flight from San Fran to Fresno, which was at night, it was absolutely excellent. We were on this beauty -

I'll be back, with more stories of California.