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|
Who I thought I was
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.)
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.
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.
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.