Thursday, June 22, 2017

NATO - Part II

The flightline at NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen (Source)
So, we're now in Germany at NATO Airbase Geilenkirchen. At the time we had 18 E-3A Sentry aircraft assigned, all registered in Luxembourg, so of course we would sometimes refer to ourselves as the Luxembourger Air Force. In that lead in photo the light gray aircraft furthest from the camera are the NATO birds. The two aircraft in the foreground are USAF KC-135 tankers. We used them a lot when the unpleasantness in the Balkans was going on. The NATO birds maintained round-the-clock surveillance of that area.

So, I've arrived and met my replacement. Here's what he produced, once a week -

"Um, what is this exactly?" I asked of my successor.

"Well, this pie chart shows that for the total number of computer starts last week, the green were the successful ones, and the yellow..."

"Uh, is this for one aircraft?"

"No, the whole fleet."

"This is for the whole week?"


"Alrighty then..."

Then the old E-6 took me to where he stored the handwritten logs of the aircraft computer operators. Those were in a sealed manila envelope, in a safe, along with the print outs of any significant events which occurred during the flight.

Seems that these logs would come in the day after the flight, and our old E-6 would collect them, go to the computer room and enter the flight number and whether or not there were any restarts, either when first loading the computer or during the flight. These events were logged by the operator.

I don't think he ever looked at the printouts. Which, I later discovered, contained a wealth of information. His job, the one I was rushed to Germany to perform, having to fly on New Year's Day mind you, took him all of two hours each day.

"So what do you do the rest of the day?" I queried.

"Whatever I want." Was his answer.

"Alrighty then..."

Seems the pie chart was printed out, marked "UNCLASSIFIED" and then sent to the Operations Wing, the Training Wing, and a copy was filed in our wing admin. (I was in the Software Support Wing, IIRC, later the name was changed to the Mission Support Wing.) Then all those print outs and hand written logs were shredded. On this rinky-dink shredder which would jam if you fed it too much paper. Not a problem when there were only a few logs each week. A very big problem when we were flying missions over the Balkans later on. But I will speak of that shredder, and the Balkans, in a later post.(POCIR)

So yeah, it took about ten minutes to learn that job. The rest of the time I was getting to know my co-workers.

Now I worked directly for a Canadian Air Force captain, René, most of the other guys were German, though there were also two Italians in our office, one civilian, Adolfo, the other military, Felice, from Sicily. The boss was an American major, one of the best bosses I've ever worked for. The division chief was a Canadian lieutenant colonel and the wing commander was a Norwegian colonel. Now that was the operational side of things.

We also had our American administrative chain, we had a senior enlisted guy, and an American lieutenant colonel. While they had NATO jobs, they also took care of the American things which NATO didn't really care about. Like yearly evaluations, promotion testing, golden flow, weight checks, PT, and the various and sundry other things which were meant to keep us all healthy, wealthy, and wise. Well, not so much wealthy or wise, but I digress.

Now the whole shooting match on the base consisted of a number of squadrons on the flying side, which fell under the Operations Wing, the Training Wing handled flight and ground (non-flying) training, and a NATO clinic for the Europeans. We, being Americans are, apparently, built different so...

Being Americans we had to have our very own medical clinic, probably so the medical types could have a cool assignment in Germany which didn't involve the giant base at Ramstein, or the two fighter bases at Bitburg and Spangdahlem. NATO was special, we didn't belong to USAFE (United States Air Force in Europe, the acronym is officially pronounced "You-Safe-Ee," I always called it "You-Safe." It's that pedant thing again.) and we didn't have to play any silly USAFE games. Though there were some silly NATO games, they weren't as anal as the USAFE games tended to be. (And by games I mean operational exercises to test readiness and the like. In PACAF they were called ORIs - Operational Readiness Inspections - which for we enlisted involved a lot of mopping and waxing of floors and doing last minute training that we were supposed to know but only did if an ORI was coming.)

We also had two, count them, two American squadrons, with two, count them, two lieutenant commanders for to command the two, count them, two squadrons. I never did figure out why we had two, eventually somehow higher up the food chain asked the same question and we were reduced to one. I mean it takes time but eventually the Air Force does fix things. Well, they used to, I'm not so sure these days.

At any rate, being in NATO was excellent. Other than this job I had. Which, while not very taxing, seemed a poor excuse to send me to Germany. But, I was in Germany so I definitely had that going for me!

After the old E-6 retired and returned Stateside, I sat down with Johannes to bounce a few ideas off of him to make my job more useful and productive of something other than a pie chart. Which I had discovered our wing would file away, all the other wings would throw it away. Useless drivel that it was.

Well, over time Johannes and I created a system on a PC, unclassified data only, where we tracked which computer operators flew on which aircraft. Which operators took more than once to load up and boot the computer. Everything was on magnetic tape. Yes, we discovered, through talking with the operators, that sometimes the first tape they tried didn't work, though the second usually did the trick. I think they carried three on each flight, yes, sometimes they went through all of them. If they couldn't get the computer to load, it was a mission abort. That big radar dish on the bird's back was no good without the software to drive it.

So Johannes and I came up with a plan, our boss Major Fraker (a most excellent female officer, one of the best officers I had ever the privilege to work for) said, "do it" and we got things rolling. After a couple of weeks we were entering data into our PC and getting interesting results. Things like,
  1. Tapes with a certain lot number never worked.
  2. Certain operators just did not have the knack of getting the tape hung right the first time.
  3. Certain of the aircraft had bad tape drives.
  4. Some of the operators had their own "method" of loading the tape and booting the computer, and yes, you're right, it was unauthorized and didn't work.
When the initial report went out, folks started noticing. Some of the operators would come by and share their insights and problems they were having. That bad lot of tapes, yup, they were dumped.

The maintenance guys also liked the new report. It helped them pinpoint problems with the aircraft computer. They too had suggestions for data to be captured and how to present it.

No one missed the pie chart. No one. In fact, no one ever remarked "whatever happened to those pie charts we used to get?" The word got out, soon nearly every organization on the base who dealt with flight ops wanted a copy. They too had suggestions as to how to improve the report.

Johannes and I also automated the process of generating the report. Our wing's secretary had mentioned that we had made more work for her, though she meant it jokingly, we took it to heart and wrote a simple program which generated the entire report with the "press" of one button. (Not an actual physical button but a software button.) The secretary (a lovely English lady named Moira, with whom I am still friends) was overjoyed. She mentioned that she had been kidding about the extra work, now she joked, "if the colonel sees this I might be out of a job!" (We made sure the colonel knew that Moira had to make sure the report was formatted correctly, made sure that he signed it, and made the necessary copies, collating and stapling same, and then distributing them to the right people. She really did have to do that, printers back then were not what they are today.)

So that's how I made myself useful in Germany for the first four years I was there. The last three were different but interesting, perhaps only from a software wienie's perspective, but that's what I was part of the time. The rest of the time I was doing data entry and then analyzing the results. I even provided ad hoc query services for one of the maintenance guys, a Belgian chap who wanted to make sure that the air crews had the most reliable systems possible. The man had all sorts of interesting angles to look at problems. A brilliant dude and a joy to work with.

Most of my tour in Germany was like that.

Next time, which may or may not be tomorrow, depending on my mood and what I want to write about, I'll get into the social scene in Germany. The wing had a touring committee who came up with all sorts of bus trips, for very reasonable prices. A four day weekend in Paris was the first we went on, I can't remember how many trips we made to the Mosel River wine country in Germany. For one thing there were a lot of them, for another, well, we drank a lot of wine on those trips.

But that's a story for another time. I'm off to bed, having just completed my latest late shift. (Which for you was last night, but which for me is right now. Time travel, neh?)

The town of Cochem, as seen from the Mosel River. Yeah, Germany, from my perspective, was all castles, wine, and beer, oh and schnitzel, mustn't forget the schnitzel. All of which I will regale you with at a later date. (Source)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NATO - Part I

In the waning years of the 20th Century, The Missus Herself thought it might be just dandy for Your Humble Scribe to request an assignment to Europe. Damn near anywhere in Europe would do, though she did specify Germany as the European country of choice. (I think one of her Korean friends had been there and recommended it.) I had no problem with asking for an assignment to Germany, realizing that the odds of that happening were roughly slim and quite probably none.

However, comma...

Far off in the land of good beer and excellent schnitzel there was an old E-6 who had been on active duty for 22 years. At that same time there were a bunch of personnel wienies in Texas going through the rosters to determine which of the Nation's finest had served past their high year of tenure (HYOT). Seems that for an E-6 the new HYOT was now 20 years. Not 21, and certainly not 22. Upon reaching one's HYOT (provided that number was 20, not 18, not 19, but 20 years) one could retire, as opposed to being unceremoniously dumped by the wayside as not fit to proceed on the path to Air Force success.

Meanwhile, Yours Truly had visited his local Consolidated Base Personnel Office - or CBPO as most referred to it -  yes, each letter pronounced by it's lonesome, no combining them into a word which some unfortunately did. I considered it beneath me to call it See-Bow, it seemed, somehow, not quite right. As an aside, a thing which drives me to distraction at work is people referring to the Evolved Seasparrow Missile - ESSM of course - as the Ess-um. No, no, no, stop that, it sounds too much like SM-2 (Ess Em Two). Say it with me now, EE, ESS, ESS, EM. Why yes, I can be a pedant at times, why do you ask?

Anyhoo, the good folks at CBPO, of which there were a couple, they're not all shoe clerks though the bulk certainly were, had advised me that though they would accept my request, I might as well reconcile myself to the idea that I would no doubt remain at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, for the remainder of my career. (At the time I had been at Offutt for four  years and had another four years to go to "make my twenty," as they say.

All my troops had a good laugh at the old sarge's quixotic ideas of an assignment to Germany, until it actually happened, not long after I asked for it. A moment of stunned silence followed my announcement that I was bald auf dem Weg nach Deutschland. Yes, all too soon I would be off to Germany, leaving my troops bereft of my shining example and fine leadership. (Yeah, they did just fine after I left, they might have missed me, a little.)

Remember the old E-6 I mentioned above, the one with 22 years on active duty? The one in Germany? Well, the personnel wienies had directed him to go to his local CBPO and immediately request retirement, his request would be expedited and he would be an Air Force retiree just as soon as Big Blue could ship Yours Truly and his tribe over to Europe. The old E-6 would train me, his replacement, and all would be hurried along muy rapido.

The Air Force, in their infinite [cough, hack, cough] wisdom decreed that I would proceed to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, on or about the 1st of January, 1992. Yup, New Year's Day, and I would report No Later Than (NLT) the 4th of January, 1992.

Alrighty then. I received word of my assignment six months in advance. Why, oh why, must I depart these here United States during the holidays to get to Germany to replace a guy who, I later found out, didn't actually do anything? While it wasn't actually a "woe is me" situation, it was somewhat inconvenient to travel on New Year's Day.

But mother Air Force decreed it, therefore...

And yes, that was the Air Force Chief of Staff at the time, Merrill "Tony" McPeak, wearing a uniform of his own design, making that announcement in the video. (I'm kidding, but not by much...)

So early in December we packed up our stuff, some to storage, some to Germany. Into temporary quarters we went and about a week before Christmas we piled into the family auto, a '90 Jetta as I recall, and drove from cold, but dry, Omaha to cold, and snowy, Vermont.

We had a wondrous Christmas but a rather solemn New Year's Eve, though it was enlivened quite a bit by The Nuke, who insisted that there be no long faces on her birthday (which coincides with New Year's Eve) and that all would be merry or she would know the reason why not.

New Year's Day it was off to Bradley Field (er, Bradley International?) for to board a flight to JFK. Where we discovered that we would not all be sitting together. Seems that the shoe clerks out in Omaha had decided that the last minute was a good time to schedule our flight.

Remonstrations to the airline employees were in vain, there was naught they could do, the flight being fully booked, etc., etc.

Now the female members of the tribe were all together, but The Naviguesser and I were separated from them, and each other. I asked the chap next to me if he'd mind swapping with my son. He, at first, ignored me, then upon my becoming rather insistent for an answer, either yea, or nay, he sayeth "Nay! I shall keep my seat, come what may." (Okay, I might have dramatized that, a bit.)

So off to where my son was sitting, to be told by a flight attendant to please take my seat, I explained my predicament and she immediately decided to pitch in and help. Next to my son, in a middle seat, was a middle aged Jewish gentleman, I gathered from his attire that he was orthodox, or at least that's the way he appeared to me, a simple Gentile.

Yes, the chap looked rather like this gentleman, though with a much friendlier look. (Source)
I inquired as to his interest in gaining an aisle seat for the six hour flight to Brussels. He was more than willing to swap with me. His only reservation was that he had ordered a kosher meal for the flight and was concerned that he might lose his meal.

The flight attendant assured him that he would get his meal. I assured him that if I received his meal through some airline oversight then I would carry it over to him personally. Thus assured, he went to my old seat. My son, ever the clever chap, got up to let me into the just vacated middle seat.

"I don't think so sport, over you go."

With a sigh he slid to the middle and we settled in for the overnight flight to the capital of Belgium. Oh, I should have mentioned that our flight was scheduled to arrive in Brussels at 0700 local. So we would be in the air most of the night.

We got there, jet lagged and ready to hit the hay. We were met by our sponsors, Mike and his lovely wife Teresa, from Texas of course, and discovered that our hotel awaited us. Some two hours away in Geilenkirchen (of which we'll hear more in subsequent installments).

Groans issued from the progeny but nonetheless we piled into Mike and Teresa's van and headed east, towards Germany. On the way there Teresa kept admonishing the kids to stay awake in order to overcome the jet lag all the quicker. At one point The Nuke inquired as to whether or not sleeping was illegal in Europe. (She was a rather precocious child. She was nine years and two days old upon touchdown in Belgium.)

I should point out that The Naviguesser was rather engrossed in the countryside, The Missus Herself and I were engaged in conversation with our sponsors, all while The Nuke struggled valiantly to stay awake and decry the injustice of it all.

Meanwhile The WSO, having decided that the rules were to be damned so she herself slept most of the way to Germany, despite many admonitions and encouragements to stay awake. The WSO has ever been something of a scofflaw.

I wonder where she gets that?

We went to the base first where Mike took me inside and introduced me to the chaps, most of whom were German, one of whom I hit it off with almost immediately. That would be this rather tall and well-built German from "up north" in Schleswig-Holstein, near Kiel to be precise, whose given name was Torben, which he informed me means Thunder Bear in some ancient Nordic tongue.

"Just call me Benny!" he said after nearly crushing my hand with his firm handshake, though I gave as good as I got, the man had a grip. Good man though, we had fun, but that too will be covered in later episodes. (Hey, I've got over seven years of stories from Germany, some I've told, many I have not. Patience Grasshopper.)

Two things I noticed right away, first, they had a refrigerator stocked with beer in nearly every office, and second, I had an instant liking for the Germans.

Needless to say, I had a great time in Germany. But this tale is just begun. Back to the van, off to Mike and Teresa's where they fed us an incredible home cooked dinner, which incidentally was my first, though most assuredly not my last, encounter with beef Stroganoff. Now an OAFS favorite, at the time it was novel and somehow surreal (note that I had been awake for nearly 30 hours by that time).

After that fine meal, we went to our hotel where everyone, save Yours Truly, fell into a deep sleep. As for me? I discovered that Das Boot was on television, auf Deutsch, natürlich.

So there I was, in Germany. Soon ye shall be regaled with the tales of my first days on the job, a job I had to create for myself. You shall see that the guy I was to replace was essentially, a dunsel. With the assistance of a German civilian, Johannes, I created a useful position for myself. It's nice when you can define your own job. Makes the work much more enjoyable. For that I have Johannes to thank. Another good chap.

I may have told the story before of my trip to the Hürtgenwald, to take pictures for my great-uncle who had been wounded in action at that battle. When I told Johannes where I had been over the weekend, and why, he remarked that his father had been captured at that same battle.

Small world.

More to come...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Your humble scribe, trying to act all Euro-GQ-like.

If you couldn't tell by the by the opening picture I did a little traveling recently, up to the North Far North.  60 degrees latitude to be specific, and Sarge guilted me into finding the time for a post.  One of my duties as a Mine Warfare Analyst is bringing about the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship, or more specifically, its Mine Warfare Mission Package. The Norwegians were interested in our plans to transition from a "Man-in-the-Minefield" concept to a "Systems-in-the-Minefield" concept- sending off little critters to do the job for us.  So I went over to brief them on our plan. It was part of a NATO exchange program where our military engages with their military, to learn about each other's capabilities, celebrate alliances, and possibly sell some of our defensive "stuff."  There's also some alcohol involved somewhere along the way.

I was there with some Aegis Anti-Air Warfare folks and an Aviation Anti-Submarine Warfare expert; Each of us briefing our area of expertise.

Fridtjof Nansen-Class Frigate                                                              Source

The Norwegian officers briefed us on their Anti-Surface Missile Capabilities and we got tours of a couple of their ships, a Skjold-Class Corvette, and an Alta-Class Minesweeper.

Skjold-Class Corvette with Anti-Surface Missile Launchers ready

Pretty bad-ass ship if you ask me.  Fast, mean and lean, the air-cushion it rides on allows speeds up to 60 kts.  Designed for fighting in the Fjords, the ships have a very shallow draft and are completely maneuverable- sideways, backwards, pivoting, etc., even when going full-speed ahead.  With a crew of only 21, it's meant for quick engagements vice long deployments.  It's also made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic so while it's no dreadnought, it's easy to repair and if hit, it'll float.  However, it'll also burn/melt quite easily.  There's another video here which shows the actual ship I toured and the CO (in the left seat on the bridge) who was our host, still in command 4 years later.

Their Minesweepers/Minehunters are built on the same basic hull with the same construction.  The low draft (.9m) and the air cushion (reducing it to zero) helps with acoustic and magnetic susceptibility to mines, although the plastic hull is the biggest safety factor against influence mines.

Apparently this was the first time in the exchange that my command, or any previous command had gone over to Norway; the Norwegians doing all the travel to Virginia in the past.  However, since my command, the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC- pronounced smidik) has taken over the oversight of the aforementioned Naval missions after a major reorganization of warfare centers of excellence, we got the happy privilege of continuing the exchange here in San Diego.

San Diego is a slightly better destination than Dahlgren or Norfolk Virginia, and the Norwegians were suitably impressed. During the last exchange in 2016, someone thought it would be a wonderful idea for the Norwegians to reciprocate.  Hence the boondoggle business trip to Bergen Norway, the main Fleet concentration area for their Navy.  The base at Haakonsvern is small, but it has everything- housing, a school, grocery, a small hospital, and even its own garbage company.  The Norwegian Military has conscripts- mandatory service for its citizens, both men and women, but only 9200 have been called to serve, and many of these do the jobs like administrivia, cleaning, driving military vans, and garbage trucks, etc.  Things we'd contract some company to over-charge us for, but they get young Sailors to do instead.

I thought it was interesting how differently they view women in Naval service than we do.  It took us years to modify certain ships to allow females.  The Norwegian Navy could care less- they put males and females in the same berthing.  They also have women in their Marinejegerkommandoen - the Norwegian maritime special forces unit.

The gingerbread-looking house is a Starbucks and Norway's version of TGIFridays.

Bergen is a beautiful city, a quaint Scandinavian town mixed with both historical Nordic architecture interspersed with modern buildings.

It's a fairly expensive city, which follows what I've heard about Oslo- the most expensive in the world.  Our rooms ran us a little over $200 a night and the average meal was $40, so I thank all you taxpayers for the trip.  Everyone I encountered seemed to be well dressed and driving mostly late model cars so I assume the salaries are decent enough, despite the taxes.  Norway is a Socialist country and the government takes their share- 25% VAT (Value Added Tax) and 50% Income Tax, although I didn't hear any of the Naval Officers complaining.  They also get 46 weeks of leave after having a baby (14 for men), 3 weeks paid vacation, free college, and the right to take a year of sick leave if needed.  Sounds all fine and dandy, except we know it isn't free at all, you're just paying up front there.  There is "free medical" however, although you'll have to wait up to 2 years to use it, even for a crushed foot that needed repair for one of the Norwegian Officers we worked with.

Old Army Fort

Waterfront Square Market, with all the fish you can afford

It was a great, but short trip- barely 4 full days.  And the jet lag was fairly brutal- 9 hours time difference from out here on the left coast and I didn't sleep a wink on the flight.  I did eat well and watched a bunch of movies though so I've got that going for me.  Hacksaw Ridge was excellent if you haven't had the opportunity.    I'll have to go again since the one thing everyone said I had to do was visit the Fjords.  I also didn't see any Vikings.  Hmm.

Norwegian Minesweeper in a Fjord
Ha det! Til neste gang! (Good bye, until next time)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Attitude not a Specialty Code

You've heard me say "Fighter Pilot is an attitude, not an AFSC".  AFSC stands for Air Force Specialty Code,  it's called MOS in the Army and I'm sure the Navy and Marines have their own acronyms.  They all accomplish the same function, it allows the Shoe Clerks the ability to account for all the people in that branch of the service by what they're trained and qualified to do.  I was an 11F, Fighter Pilot.

However, there are Fighter Pilots and there are Pilots who fly fighters.  There is a difference.  There is an accompanying saying.  "The Air Force is composed of Fighter Pilots and Shoe Clerks.  Fighter Pilots know that the Mission of the Air Force is to Fly and Fight.  Shoe Clerks are in direct opposition to that Mission."

Much like Fighter Pilot is an attitude not an AFSC, so also is Shoe Clerk.  My wife is definitely a Fighter Pilot even though she worked in Personnel.  I also believe Sarge to be a Fighter Pilot even as a Radar Fixer Upper.

Which brings me round to my story today.

Col Joe M. Jackson received the Medal of Honor for actions taken on May 12th 1968 when he successfully rescued 3 members of an Air Force Combat Control Team from the airstrip at Kham Duc South Vietnam.

He is one of the men on the Monument at Lackland whom I didn't recognize their name. Researching this post, impressed me.  Col Jackson is not only a Fighter Pilot, but also a warrior.

So, a little background, because reading about him brought forth a few interesting details that I'd like to sit down with him and discuss over a beer.

Yes, he is still with us at 94.

Col Jackson started out his Air Force Career as a crew chief on B-25s before being accepted to flight school commissioned and checked out in the B-24.  During the Korean War, he flew 107 combat sorties in the F-84 earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.  After which, he was one of the first pilots to fly the U-2.

Now, in his third war, he's in South Vietnam flying the C-123 Provider where he flew 298 combat sorties.  The C-123K is a 2 engine prop transport outfitted with 2 auxilliary jet engines to enhance it's short field capability. Which will come in handy as our story unfolds.

Col Jackson is airborne on a routine sortie, so routine, that it is being used as a Check Ride.  Check Rides were semi-annual events where you had to go and prove your skills to a Check Pilot from the Standardization and Evaluation section.  (Stan-Eval, semi-formally, Stanley Evil behind their backs.)

Check rides were a general pain in the lower posterior anatomy.  Basically the best that could happen was you'd pass.  Everything else was worse, up to and including losing your wings.

So the Colonel is getting a check ride when he gets diverted to a Special Forces Camp near the Laotian Border.  The camp has been under attack for a couple of days and is being evacuated.  The evacuation had been thought completed with the loss of a C-130 on the ground and another one shot down on takeoff with the loss of all on board.

However, as the last C-130 lifts off with what was believed to be the final troops on board, the Crew Chief sees 3 Americans running for the aircraft as it begins its takeoff roll.  Not wishing to leave anyone behind, the aircraft circles around to make a landing and pick them up but is hit by AAA and badly damaged.

Colonel Jackson, having been diverted, has arrived overhead and hears the story as it unfolds.  He tells the controllers that he will attempt to land as he has seen where the survivors are located on the airfield.

Aaron, do NOT attempt this on YOUR checkride.

He sets up 9000' above the field.  Configures the aircraft for landing and starts a maximum descent 270o degree swooping dive, arriving at the overrun exactly on speed and touches down.  He reverses thrust and gets the aircraft stopped exactly beside the survivors.
Copied from an Air Force Magazine Article I used a s a source, I couldn't find this picture big enough to be useful.  As it's caption says, this is believed to be the only picture of a Medal of Honor event taken while it was happening.

Leaving the jets running to minimize time on the ground, he lowers the back door as the survivors sprint for the aircraft.

As he's waiting for the word that they are on board,. his co-pilot (the check pilot) exclaims "Oh, my God!"  He turns and sees a rocket headed straight for him.  Fortunately, it breaks apart in mid air and comes to rest under the nose of the C-123 and fails to explode.

Hearing that the survivors are on board, he cobs the power and takes off from midfield.  Everybody and their brother is firing at them as they lift off, however, they successfully take off and recover back at Danang AB.

He had been on the ground at Kham Duc for 50 seconds.

I'd bet it felt like an eternity. Major John Gallager, TSgt Mort Freedman and Sgt Jim Lundie were glad he dropped in for a visit.  (The team he rescued.)

Later, at Danang, he does his post flight inspection of the aircraft and finds that the aircraft sustained no damage whatsoever, not one bullet hole.

At the ceremony where he was presented with the Medal of Honor were 3 other recipients.  The Marine recipient happened be well known to Col Jackson as they were both from Newnan Georgia a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta.  (I love those little coincidences.)

He currently works for a local church providing meals to the hungry.

This is truly a Fighter Pilot, and more than that, a Warrior!

Here he is telling his story.

Col Jackson's Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Lt. Col. Jackson distinguished himself as pilot of a C-123 aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of a 3-man USAF Combat Control Team from the special forces camp at Kham Duc. Hostile forces had overrun the forward outpost and established gun positions on the airstrip. They were raking the camp with small arms, mortars, light and heavy automatic weapons, and recoilless rifle fire. The camp was engulfed in flames and ammunition dumps were continuously exploding and littering the runway with debris. In addition, 8 aircraft had been destroyed by the intense enemy fire and 1 aircraft remained on the runway reducing its usable length to only 2,200 feet. To further complicate the landing, the weather was deteriorating rapidly, thereby permitting only 1 air strike prior to his landing. Although fully aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt. Lt. Col. Jackson elected to land his aircraft and attempt to rescue. Displaying superb airmanship and extraordinary heroism, he landed his aircraft near the point where the combat control team was reported to be hiding. While on the ground, his aircraft was the target of intense hostile fire. A rocket landed in front of the nose of the aircraft but failed to explode. Once the combat control team was aboard, Lt. Col. Jackson succeeded in getting airborne despite the hostile fire directed across the runway in front of his aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson's profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself, and the Armed Forces of his country.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

La Rêve Passe

Guy was awake early, he was tired, he was sore, he was wet, and couldn't find a spot from the waist down which wasn't covered with mud. It had been a hard slog to get to this ridge and his battalion had only reached the place a little after three in the morning. The whole march had been in the pouring rain. The temperature had dropped as well, he was shivering and miserable.

Ah, the glories of being a corporal!

Hardly any of his unit had straggled, the men took pride in being in Reille's corps. The II Corps contained some of the best units in the army outside of the Garde. After all, wasn't his division commanded by the Emperor's brother? Though the veterans didn't think much of Prince Jérôme Bonaparte, Guy figured the young fellow had to have some talent. I mean, he was a Bonaparte, right? Guy was far too young to know of the follies of the Prince, former "King" of Westphalia and a bit of a rake. Too full of himself by half according to the sergeant major.

As it began to lighten, Guy looked across the rain-sodden fields to a small forest on the English right flank. Apparently that was to be their objective that day.

Looked interesting, they would be shielded from English cannon fire amongst those trees. Perhaps they might have an easier day today, let I Corps do the fighting. All they had done so far is march!

Looking towards the objective of Jérôme Bonaparte's division of the II Corps. Google Street View

Even though it wasn't yet dawn, that wouldn't be for another hour, Captain McTeague was awake. The damp straw that he'd managed to scrounge the night before was now thoroughly soaked. It was lay in the mud and pretend to sleep, or get up, have some tea, perhaps something to eat, then check on his company. Though he knew that Sergeant Bain would see to the men, it was better for morale if he was there as well.

His company was somewhat sheltered by the large hedge to their front. Though it had been too damp to start a fire, at least they were somewhat out of the wind. He noticed that a number of his men were already up and about.

"If we could start a fire Cap'n, we could brew up some stirabout, we've got the oatmeal, Lord knows we have plenty of water!"

McTeague nodded to MacTavish, the lad was from his own village and seemed to think that made them friends. Shaking his head, McTeague moved down the line. He could swear he smelled tea.


The Prussian army was on the move. Adalwolf had a new horse and he was now with a reconstituted squadron. They had been delayed by a fire in one of the towns they had passed through, but now there was nothing but muddy tracks, streams, and woods between them and where the Field Marshal wanted them.

Adalwolf had spent a miserable night. He had been nearly run over by an artillery limber and when he had jumped from the road, he smacked into a tree which he couldn't see, of course, as it was as dark as Bonaparte's heart that night. He was fairly certain he had a broken rib on his left side. But he would struggle on, he'd found some brandy and was using it to dull the pain. Not too much though, he wouldn't want to fall from his horse!


As Guy and his company entered the wood, shots came from ahead of them, they could see soldiers in green uniforms moving back. They were Nassauers, they were Germans, which made Guy realize what a polyglot army the English general was leading. They fought well enough, but there were far too many French moving through the forest.

Pausing to shoot at the green-clad men, Guy saw one falter and fall. He realized that it may have been his own musket which brought him down. A chill ran up his spine when he thought that he might have just killed a man.

As the French approached the edge of the wood, beyond which was an open space and then what appeared to be a brick wall, one of Guy's men bent down to check the fallen Nassauer. Who lunged with his short sword, impaling young Pierre Dupont. The Frenchman collapsed in agony. No longer feeling any remorse, Guy stabbed down at the green soldier with his bayonet. This time killing him.

Stumbling out of the woods, Guy and his men stepped into Hell.

Assault on Hougoumont by the division of Jérôme Bonaparte
The French nearly force the gate of Hougoumont.
The fighting around the large chateau of Hougoumont lasted all day. Eventually the bulk of two French divisions were locked in combat with roughly a battalion of mixed nationalities and units. The backbone of the defense was the Light Company of the 2nd battalion, Coldstream Guards.

Wellington fed in other companies throughout the day, but in reality the defenders never numbered more than a reinforced battalion. Against roughly 22 battalions of French infantry.

Guy Charron was in the thick of the fighting all day. Which consisted of a number of futile advances against the heavily defended garden wall (to the right in the first print above). Guy's company had numbered 53 men at dawn. By the end of the day, Newly promoted Corporal Guy Charron was the senior man surviving in his company. He led seven men at the end of the day.

But at the start of the fighting, the I Corps of d'Erlon was about to go into action against Wellington's left flank. These four divisions had seen no fighting during the campaign. All they had done so far was march. This time they were to march on the enemy.

I Corps advances.
Captain McTeague was with his company, lying down behind the hedge facing the French. They couldn't see much but they heard the cannon firing for nearly an hour before they heard the French drums. When they could hear the French soldiers shouting their paean to their emperor, McTeague crawled forwards and used his sword to cut a gap in the hedge. What he saw shook him to the core. The French were massed in their thousands. They looked unstoppable.

To his right he had seen some of the 95th Rifles in their distinctive dark green uniforms. Now they opened a galling fire on the advancing French, though there weren't enough of them to stop the advancing enemy. Who seemed to be in an insane fervor, screaming, starting to dash forward, breaking their formation up.

Sir Thomas Picton now ordered them up onto their feet, shaking themselves into formation, they pushed forward through the hedge and fired a volley at the surprised French. The Highlanders had seemed to materialize from the very branches!

The first volley staggered the densely packed French, but they gathered themselves and pressed on. 

"Steady laddies, reload, quickly now!" As McTeague bellowed that command he heard a horse behind him. It was a trooper of the Scots Greys, soon the 92nd was surrounded by the big horses being driven forward by their fellow Scots. One of the highlanders screamed out -

"At them lads! Scotland forever!"

The heavy French cavalry riding in support of the infantry pitched in to the fight as well. But they were too few to halt the advance. The Union Brigade of the Scots Greys, Inniskillings, and the Royals pressed into the French, two Eagles were seized and d'Erlon's attack was shattered.

As McTeague tried to get his company back into some semblance of order, he was nearly breathless with excitement. He was seeing the fleeing French and watching the British sabers going up and down. It was a catastrophe for the French.

Hearing another horse coming up, McTeague turned and heard -


Frantically trying to swing around and parry the coming blow with his broadsword, McTeague got his feet tangled in the trampled crops. He stumbled and only had time to scream -


The big Frenchman rode on, to be shot down and bayoneted by three men of McTeague's own company. But it was too late for Angus McTeague. Veteran of many battles in the Peninsula, the 36 year old captain of the Gordon Highlanders breathed his last on the muddy slopes of the ridge at Mont-Saint-Jean.

After the defeat of d'Erlon's corps and the bloody repulse of the Union Brigade, who had driven too far into the French Grand Battery pounding the ridge. A lull fell over the field. Not at Hougoumont though, Guy Charron and his comrades were still locked in bloody struggle.

The Duke of Wellington could scarce believe his eyes as he saw what was happening on the French side of the valley. Masses of cavalry were gathering. Surely this was a false move. His infantry were tired but they were still steady.

Turning to De Lancey, Wellington grumbled, "The fellow is a mere pounder after all. Well, we shall see who can stand it longest. Come De Lancey, we need to seek shelter."

Some say the French came on seven times. Others say fewer, some say more. Nevertheless, the suffering in the Allied infantry squares was staggering. Though the French cavalry had little effect on the squares, when they fell back between each advance, the French cannon could play on the packed formations.

After the battle, the stand of the 27th Foot (also known as the Inniskillings, not to be confused with the cavalry regiment, both were made up of Irishmen) could be traced on the ground by their dead. Still in square, surrounded by dead French cavalrymen and horses.

Adalwolf Eckstein and his squadron arrived on the right flank of Bonaparte's army. He sat his horse impatiently as he watched the Prussian infantry charge into Plancenoit, only to be driven back out again. It was Ligny all over again. Except for the fact that most of the French army was heavily engaged with the English.

There! French infantry in the open falling back. Charge! Charge! Adalwolf's squadron commander ordered them forward.

On the other side of the road to Brussels, another drama was playing out. The Emperor finally deciding to commit his guard. La Haye Sainte was now in French hands, the Prussians were advancing. Now was the last throw of the dice!

Guy Charron and the remnants of his battalion had watched the Imperial Guard march up the ridge, disappearing into the powder smoke. Then had seen them, the survivors anyway, come tumbling back down. It took a moment for that to sink in.

A captain of grenadiers nearby shouted, "The Garde is defeated! We are lost! Run, save yourselves."

The Prussians seize Plancenoit.
With that the army disintegrated into a mob. Guy led his seven men back to the ridge from Hougoumont. Everything was in chaos. He could see the English advancing up the ridge, bayoneting, shooting, and stabbing anyone who showed the slightest sign of resistance. So Guy led his men down a side lane, avoiding the main road back into France.

As night fell, the Frenchmen paused to take stock. They decided to keep their weapons, the peasants would be against them. Near the main road they could see the army fleeing south, most of the men had thrown away anything which would slow them down. Only a few units maintained their discipline, pausing and forming occasionally to slow their pursuers.

Just north of Genappe, one of the men cried out as three horsemen plunged into them out of the dark.

Adalwolf screamed in fury as his saber came down onto the yelling Frenchman's head, cleaving the man's skull like a melon. He was killing Frenchmen, and loving it.

As he turned to saber another man he felt a blow to his left side. The agony of those broken ribs was overwhelming. His eyes teared up as he felt himself being dragged helplessly from his saddle. He knew he was doomed.

Guy had his boot on the Prussian cavalryman's throat, Guy could see that the man was in agony, his eyes clenched shut and watering and his jaw firmly clenched.

He watched as his six survivors unhorsed the other two Prussians and bayoneted them to death. Alexandre checked François, who had gone down under the initial attack.

"He's dead, Guy. He's dead."

Guy shook his head, trying to clear it, then he heard the Prussian groan. Without thinking, Guy lifted his musket to cave in the man's head. Then he paused. There had been enough killing for one day. The man was no threat.

Reaching down he picked up the Prussian's sword and threw it into the night. Then he and his mates slipped off into the darkness. Heading home to France. If they could make it.

Adalwolf was found by his own army and turned over to the surgeons. He managed to survive that experience.

He didn't hate the French so much as he had.

Guy Charron returned to his uncle's farm to discover that his uncle had died while Guy was off with the Emperor. Now the farm was his. No one disputed the claim of the fierce looking young man who had returned home in a blood spattered uniform.

Guy lived to have many children and many grandchildren. One of his sons died at Sedan fighting in the Franco-Prussian war. His only two grandsons died in the trenches around Verdun in 1916.

Guy lived to the ripe old age of 88.