Friday, October 31, 2014

Some Music, Some Talk, A Lot of Awesome

F-5Ns of VFC-13 Saints on the flightline at NAS Fallon, NV
(Photo by Jerry Gunner of Lincoln, UK CC)

Today's video was uploaded to the Tube o' You by Paco Chierici whose awesome videos live here and who blogs here. The man knows his stuff. (I do believe he might be a Nasal Radiator. Possibly. He has that certain panache.*)

And as you might guess, my Muse is still nowhere in sight. (But I'm getting rumblings from the cheap seats that that is not a bad thing. Kind of like back in school when you get to watch a video instead of hear a lecture. Not that I was ever into that. Not that you could prove anyway.)

So sit down, buckle up and pay attention.
Naval Air Station Fallon or NAS Fallon is the United States Navy's premier air-to-air and air-to-ground training facility. It is located southeast of the city of Fallon in western Nevada in the United States. Since 1996, it has been home to the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), and the surrounding area contains 240,000 acres of bombing and electronic warfare ranges. It is also home to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC), which includes TOPGUN, the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School (TOPDOME) and the Navy Rotary Wing Weapons School. Navy SEAL Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) training also takes place here.

The airfield is named Van Voorhis Field in honor of Lieutenant Commander Bruce Van Voorhis (1908-1943) who was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. (W)
The citation for that Medal of Honor reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Squadron Commander of Bombing Squadron 102 and as Plane Commander of a PB4Y-I Patrol Bomber operating against the enemy on Japanese-held Greenwich Island during the battle of the Solomon Islands, July 6, 1943. Fully aware of the limited chance of surviving an urgent mission, voluntarily undertaken to prevent a surprise Japanese attack against our forces, Lt. Comdr. Van Voorhis took off in total darkness on a perilous 700-mile flight without escort or support. Successful in reaching his objective despite treacherous and varying winds, low visibility and difficult terrain, he fought a lone but relentless battle under fierce antiaircraft fire and overwhelming aerial opposition. Forced lower and lower by pursuing planes, he coolly persisted in his mission of destruction. Abandoning all chance of a safe return he executed 6 bold ground-level attacks to demolish the enemy's vital radio station, installations, antiaircraft guns and crews with bombs and machine gun fire, and to destroy 1 fighter plane in the air and 3 on the water. Caught in his own bomb blast, Lt. Comdr. Van Voorhis crashed into the lagoon off the beach, sacrificing himself in a single-handed fight against almost insuperable odds, to make a distinctive contribution to our continued offensive in driving the Japanese from the Solomons and, by his superb daring, courage and resoluteness of purpose, enhanced the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. (W)
Note that the VFC-13 patch includes the wings worn by the
highest classification of Soviet fighter pilot, the "Sniper".

Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC-13) Saints is a US Navy fighter squadron that provides adversary training for U.S. Navy air wings at NAS Fallon, Nevada.

VFC-13 uses "Bogey" as its main radio callsign.

In January 2006, VFC-13 established a permanent detachment of 12 aircraft at NAS Key West, Florida for East Coast training. Subsequently, in the fall of 2006, the VFC-13 Key West detachment was re-designated as a separate squadron, VFC-111, with an assignment of one F-5F and 10 F-5N. In parallel, the eleven aircraft strength of VFC-13 at NAS Fallon was increased to 17 F-5s.

VFC-13 provides adversary training for Navy and Marine Corps Active and Reserve fleet and replacement squadrons, carrier air wings and Marine aircraft groups, USAF units, to include Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, and Canadian Forces. The Fighting Saints have received two consecutive CNO Safety Awards, the Golden Wrench Maintenance Award, and in 1994, the Battle "E" award.

The Saints are manned with 69 Navy personnel including 33 enlisted and 36 officers. The 33 enlisted personnel provide critical operations, administrative, safety and training support to the squadron. Maintenance support is for the F-5E and is provided by civilians who work for Sikorsky Aircraft. The 40-member officer wardroom includes 25 Selected Reserve (SELRES), 5 Regular Navy and 10 Full Time Support (FTS) officers. These three elements of the Saints combine to fly over 5,000 adversary sorties per year in support of US Navy Fighter squadrons and their air wings, as well as USAF, USMC and Canadian Forces. (W)
Damn, you gotta like that! I mean seriously, the "Golden Wrench Maintenance Award"- these guys are Sierra Hotel!

To be honest, this video brought a tear to my eye. It's beautiful and I'm getting to be an old softy in my dotage. I'm betting Lex's wife The Hobbit might know one or two of the ladies in the video and can vouch for what they have to say.

Prepare to meet some of the nation's very best. (Take note of the callsigns, I got a chuckle from most and want to know the back story on all.)

So lads and lassies, I'll warn you upfront that this video is about fighter pilots. Navy fighter pilots, aka Naval Aviators. So their language gets a bit salty. If you are squeamish about fire trucks (sic) and cannot complete the phrase "doesn't know ____ from Shinola," then this video is probably not for you.

Everybody else? Get your popcorn.

Paco Chierici is a retired Naval Aviator. Paco accumulated 3,000 hours and nearly 400 traps flying the A-6 Intruder and F-14 Tomcat on active duty for ten years, and the F-5 as a Navy Adversary pilot for the subsequent ten years in the Navy Reserves. Paco is the Creator and Producer of the award winning Naval aviation adventure-documentary Speed and Angels. Paco flies for a major airline and is type rated in the Boeing 757/767 and the Airbus 330. After leaving military aviation, Paco discovered pistons and props and he now flies his family around in a Mooney and borrows friends Yak-50s for weekend warrior dogfighting.

I really need to start paying attention...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

No Cheesy Music, Just... Wonder

The Diamond
(Public Domain)
The Muse is still out there - feckless, foot loose and fancy free.

Moi? I sit here, high atop the battlements at Chez Sarge and ponder the infinite.

Actually I'm counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds until The Missus Herself returns from her sojourn in California. Yeah, it's lonely at the top. Or so I'm told.

In my never ending quest to bring you the finest in aviation and military related video fare, I stumbled across the following gem. Mr J.C. King has some nice videos at his place on the Tube o' You (as Buck likes to call it). I recommend them to you.

So what's it like to fly with angels? It has to be something like this.

(Some of you will recognize the locale over which the Blues are flying...)

Oh yeah, you're gonna want to go full screen on this one. Trust me. I needed a cold shower after watching.


And if you see my Muse? Tell her "she got some 'splainin' to do!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

No Cheesy Music, Just Hard Work...

USS Enterprise Flight Deck Source
If you've spent any amount of time visiting here, you know that I like my flight videos (cheesy music and all). You also would know that I used to maintain the mighty F-4 Phantom, many, many, many, many moons ago. My fellow aircraft maintainers (in all the services) are near and dear to me.

So I thought it might be appropriate to show a video highlighting the men and women who work in one of the most dangerous environments on Earth...

The flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

Here's to all the men and women of the air wing and ship's company, without whom there would be no Naval Aviation in flight videos. These folks are from the USS ENTERPRISE CVN-65, Big Time's  old home away from home. (The Nuke spent a lot of time on the Big E as well!)

Put your hands together for the men and women of CAG 1 and the Big E.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Typhoon Tales (Episode 1)

Kadena AB, Okinawa - the area around "radar hill." (Google Maps)
Long, long ago, shortly after the last Ice Age, I was a young(ish) airman, stationed on the island of Okinawa. It was my very first "real" Air Force assignment (everything prior to this was training) and, truth be told, I was not happy to be there. In true military fashion I had volunteered for Germany and received an assignment to Thailand.

Furious I was, foolish I later felt when one of my instructors told me a few things about Thailand. Seems it was an assignment to look forward to. However comma...

Seems that the military was "drawing down" in Southeast Asia, the war was (for us anyway) over. Saigon had fallen on the 30th of April, 1975. Exactly 13 days before I reported for my very first day of active duty.

So the American F-4 Phantoms at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base were to be sent away. The maintenance folks, aircrew, support folks, everybody was leaving Udorn with the jets. Of course, in the infinite wisdom of the Air Force, all those awaiting orders to go to Udorn would be going someplace else with them. As if they were already at Udorn. After all, Udorn was closing down.

Where were a lot of those jets and personnel going? Why to Okinawa. So let's send those slated for Udorn to Kadena. Wonderful.

I went from pissed off, to happy (approaching ecstatic) back to pissed off. All in the space of a few weeks. A buddy of mine from back home and I drove from Denver to Vermont for Christmas of 1975 (a story which will be told here, someday) and as we were crossing the windswept icy wastes of Kansas (for such it was in mid-December back then, probably still is) we heard on the radio the announcement of the very last F-4 to leave Udorn. With sound and everything.

The sound of those two J79s coming over the air waves was not much comfort to me. Though the same sound would thrill me no end in years to come. But I was young(ish) and truth be told, not all that bright in many things in those days of yore.

Eventually. one bleak February day in 1976, I left the frozen snow-drifted hills and fields of Vermont and was deposited at Naha, Okinawa, in the middle of the night, on the other side of the world. Where I waited many hours for transport to my home for the next few months. That barracks you see outlined in yellow in the opening photo.

I say for a few months because at some time in the near future we would all be moved to another barracks adjacent to radar hill. A barracks identical in layout to the one above but no longer there. Seems there have been many changes on the base since I left in 1978. Of course, much has changed everywhere since 1978, hasn't it?

Life in the barracks was not all that bad. We were one man to a room (or woman but in those days the ladies had their own barracks, no co-ed facilities in those days), we had a big refrigerator, desk and chair and a rack (aka "bed") one each. I swear my rack was from World War I. But I could have been wrong.

Now Juvat, in his most recent posttalked about the typhoon evacuations we were subject to during typhoon season. Which runs mostly from May to October, thereabouts. I'm not a meteorologist though I did have a semester in college. Which means I can spell meteorologist if you spot me the "meteor" and the "ologist."

But (wait for it) I digress...

Normally when a typhoon was announced it was every man for himself, chaos reigned as people fought over beer in the package store and...

No, that was a movie I watched a few nights ago. And it was about zombies, not typhoons. But again, I (drum roll please) digress...

First thing to take care of was the aircraft. In those days we had two squadrons of F-4Ds, one squadron of F-4Cs and a squadron of RF-4Cs. According to my source for these kind of things, the squadrons when I was there were -

  • 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-4Ds)
  • 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-4Ds)
  • 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-4Cs)
  • 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (RF-4Cs)

I didn't work on the reconnaissance birds, just the fighters. It was enough to keep a number of fine young Americans busy, 24/7 and 365 (366) as they say. Myself being one.

Now as Juvat told you, some of the birds would fly off to the north, some would stay home. Those for which we had room and those which were (for one reason or another) not flyable. There were always a few of those around. Hangar queens we called them (but not around their crew chiefs, remember this story gentle reader?)

Now getting some of those birds into the hangars was interesting. Of course, there were never enough crew chiefs around to marshal the aircraft, outside the hangars they would be operating tractors pulling jets with tow bars. Once in the hangar, human strength would be used to jockey aircraft into every little space available. One time, some genius decided that our shop people (from WCS) would "help" marshal aircraft as part of typhoon preparations.

Some of these guys spent their entire lives in the shop, never venturing onto the flight line where the jets roared and wrench turners did their thing. No, the shop guys were all about radar mock-ups, test equipment and air conditioning. Not for them the sweaty world of the flight line. Except this one time.

Before going further we need a picture.


Now the picture is of the tail area of the mighty Phantom. I call your attention to that protuberance circled in yellow on the left. That is the hind-most piece of the mighty Rhino. It is called a dump mast. There are three on the Phantom, that one circled in yellow and one on each wing (the left one is in the orange square, barely discernable.)

These dump masts are used by our intrepid air crews when they are returning home. Now an aircraft is a finicky thing, they don't like being landed when they are too heavy. One thing which can help an aircraft get down to landing weight is to dump excess fuel. Through those dump masts.

Now keep three things in mind for this next bit:
  1. Inexperienced non-flight line types helping move jets
  2. The dump mast on the tail sticks out
  3. Dump masts are used to dump jet fuel
So there you have it, let's see what happens next.

So Airman First Class (A1C) Schmuckatelli is told off to "watch the tail of this bird as we swing it into place" - A1C Schmuckatelli is (I remind you) a "shop guy," a "mock-up weenie," a fellow little exposed to actual aircraft.

So he is intently watching the tail of one F-4 as it approaches the tail of a second F-4. Me and a select few others are moving other crap around in order to fit more jets into the hangar. As we are doing this we hear Schmuckatelli yelling, "you're good, keep coming, you're good" then a loud sound of metal tearing metal.

"Oh shit, oh dear!" we all exclaim in unison as we see where once there were two fine and perfect F-4 dump masts on two fine and semi-perfect F-4s (if they were perfect they would be "up north") there are now one twisted and sad looking dump mast and on the other bird a hole. Yes, a hole where the dump mast used to be.

Remember number 3 above? Yes, dump masts are used to dump fuel. There is a valve inside which is opened to dump the fuel. What happens if you tear the dump mast off? Well, if the valve goes as well as the dump mast, there ain't nothing to prevent the taxpayer funded JP-4 jet fuel from issuing forth from the jet. Leastwise that's how it was explained to me.

So A1C Schmuckatelli had broken two F-4s and caused jet fuel to issue forth onto the floor of a hangar packed with jets and other metal things. Some of those metal things were in the process of being moved. Dragged in some cases. Dragging metal things on concrete can cause sparks. We were in the presence of "this is not good, this could end badly." (Truth be told, the more I thought about this incident, I'm not sure how much fuel, if any, was spilled. I may be remembering this wrong and confusing this with another incident where fuel was spilled, lots of fuel. Call it artistic license and it's my story and this is how I choose to tell it. Others may remember it differently.)

Fortunately we did have adult supervision on scene in the form of grizzled old sergeants who had "been there, done that," they immediately shooed most of us out of the hangar and quickly got the leaking fuel situation under control.

The effort to patch up the jets, clean up the spilled fuel and continue to move jets into the hangar was accomplished. Took a little longer than usual, was messier than usual but it got done.

Cost the taxpayer a pretty penny I'm sure. The upside was that we WCS weenies were never invited to play in any reindeer games aircraft marshaling efforts ever again. We didn't really mind. After all, we'd rather be hunkered down in the barracks, drinking beer, playing pinochle and waiting for the typhoon.

It's what we did when we were young.

I'm not sure whatever happened to Schmuckatelli. Didn't think to ask.

There's some things you're better off not knowing.

If you catch my meaning.

Monday, October 27, 2014


So, There I was…* Been at Kadena about a year, got through Flight Lead checkout with only a few hitches, made the list for Major and am now a Flight Commander.  I’ve got guys I actually command!  Well, not really, but I do get to do all the paperwork on them. If they get into trouble, I get called in with them to the Squadron Commander’s office and get my butt chewed with them and then again after they’re dismissed.  So, I’ve got that going for me.

On the personal side, Mrs Juvat and I have been notified we’ve finally moved up the list far enough to qualify for on base housing.  This was a big improvement as the place we were living on the economy had two tiny bedrooms, and the kitchen counters were way too short for me.  Also, it was costing me an unheard of amount of money.  IIRC about $1000 per month (mid 80s).  COLA helped, but didn’t cover it.  Moving on base, we’d still get the COLA, but lose our housing allowance.  Still, moving on base was going to be a pretty big raise.  Mostly, though, moving on base was getting us back with our (USAF) family with all that entails.

Little Juvat (for the record he’s 6’4” now and probably a bit peeved reading his nom de plume), had just turned 4 and had developed an initially endearing habit, that very quickly became tedious.  Something had convinced him that there were “Ghosties” in the house.  He would go to sleep at the normal time, leaving Mom and I a little time to do those things that people like to do before going to sleep.  Sometime way too soon after, would come a terrible shriek followed by the pitter- patter of running feet.  A sobbing explanation that there were “Ghosties” in his room and would Dad please come and make them go away?

As I said, the first couple of times were endearing.  After that…

It started being every couple of hours all night long, and for whatever reason, Mom didn’t have the anti-Ghostie power.  Only Dad.

This was in the middle of the Reagan buildup years.  I saw a comment on Old NFO’s blog, saying Pilots NEVER got enough flying time.  True Enough!  However, there were times when we got pretty close.  Flying two or three air to air sorties a day could wear a guy out and getting a good night’s sleep was welcome. 

It’s Friday and I’m getting fairly tired.  As a measure of how tired, I decided against the usual Fighter Pilot activities at the Skoshi KOOM and went home.  I’m sitting there reading something.  Little Juvat is sleeping.  Mrs. Juvat is doing something somewhere.  I’m pondering going to sleep where I am or seeing if I can drag my butt to bed, when the phone rings.

It’s the Ops Officer.

He asks if I’m a volunteer for a “real world” mission.    “Yes, Sir, of course.”  “Great, can’t tell you more over the phone, but be at the squadron at 0600 tomorrow.  Bring your deployment bag.”

All thoughts of sleep are now gone.  I turn on the TV to see if I can get some indication of what’s going on.  Wondering if one of the Kim clan is planning to vacation in the South of Korea and we’re going to predeploy.  Well, that’s what they pay me for. Other than weather, nothing much on the news.

Next morning arrives, only a couple of battles with the Ghosties, but I haven’t slept much anyway.  Excitement, “what if”-ing, and a bit of Oh S#!T.

Time to go,  kiss the wife and kid goodbye, grab the bag and jump in my trusty stead.  It's a Mazda rustbucket, but it has a cassette player.  Slam in the cassette that’s partially popped out and crank up the volume.  It’s “Highway to the Danger Zone” from Top Gun.

 Perfect! Fate is on my side! The Fangs pop out and I’m ready to go kill something.  It's early Saturday morning and traffic is light.  I make good time and get to the Squadron.  Walk in and find the Ops Officer and find out what he needs me to do. 

He says, “Well, we’re going to be ‘phoon evac-ing the squadron at 1000 to Kwang Ju, how about getting the ROK weather and notams.”  Fangs immediately retract to the peace time, boring mode.

Kadena didn’t have enough Typhoon proof shelters to shelter all the aircraft on the base, and so, when a typhoon looked reasonably likely to hit, the various agencies on the base would decide who would get the shelters and who would fly out of the way.  This was a good deal if they determined that the storm track would prevent flying North.  Since our mission was to prevent the Kim clan from vacationing in the South, having the aircraft already deployed there  was preferred over trying to recover aircrews, aircraft and maintainers from an unplanned deployment to Clark.  So Kwang Ju it was.
Home Sweet Home
Source: Google Maps

We brief. We’re taking all flyable aircraft, 24, and I’ll be leading one of the four ships.  Nothing really difficult.  We step to the jets, and the Ops Officer happens to be riding in the bread van with me.  He says I look really tired.  I explain the situation with the Ghosties and he offers some possible solution which I say I’ll try when we get back.

Crank up, taxi out, blast off, two hours of airliner time, come down initial and land.  No worries.  Get into the building we will be using for squadron operations as well as our quarters, and check with the Ops Officer on what the plan is.  He says the Maintainers will be recocking the jets for the remainder of the day and we’ll resume a flying schedule in the morning, why don’t you get some rest?  I look at my watch.  It’s a little after noon.  Make it into the room and the next thing I know, my wingman/roommate is shaking me saying it’s time to get up, we’ve got a briefing in half an hour.  It’s 0700 the next morning.

The typhoon bullseyes Kadena with 120K winds.  Trees are knocked down, but other than that not much damage.  Mrs Juvat and Little Juvat handled their first typhoon quite well.  They actually stayed with the Navy Dentist and his family next door.  She reported that he makes excellent Margaritas.

A couple of days go by and we get the redeploy order.  Shortly thereafter we’re back at home.

That night I get a complete night’s rest.  In the morning, I ask Little Juvat about the Ghosties.  He says “the wind blew them all away!”  Gotta love him!

BTW Happy Birthday Mrs Juvat!

*What’s the difference between a Fairy Tale and a War Story?  A Fairy Tale begins with Once upon a time and a War Story begins So, there I was.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Not Feeling It

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Oct. 20, 2014) Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) move mail to the hangar bay. George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Loni Mae Lopez/Released)
I don't really have anything to post about today. I do need to go through the snail mail (a task The Missus Herself does so well, but she's in California) and perhaps do a bit of laundry.

Besides which, some dumb ass gave my Muse the day off.

(What was I thinking?)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Gee, I am so looking forward to Monday.


PACIFIC OCEAN (May 6, 2013) Aviation Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Paul George, from San Diego, directs an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Bounty Hunters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan is underway conducting flight deck certifications and carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV/Released) 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

From Virtual Key West

Main gate, NAS Key West. (Google Maps - Street View)
By now you're probably asking yourself, where the heck is the Sarge at? Why no post today?

Well, I was at virtual Key West all afternoon.

Uh, what?

Yup, well actually I was here, in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Let me explain. (Oh, you better!)

Rivendell Books and Games, Rehoboth, MA
The door to the left of Rivendell's is the entrance to virtual Key West.
(Google Maps - Street View)

Why do I keep talking about "virtual Key West"? Well, I went to Rivendell (Elrond wasn't there, he doesn't come in on weekends) to learn to play this...


It was a most excellent afternoon as my buddy Fringe led me through the first "turn" of this most excellent game.

I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. I've flown actual aircraft and had the chance to "fly" the Super Hornet sim out at NAS Lemoore.

Not to mention the many hours of virtual stick time I have on a multitude of computer flight sims.

I am also a veteran of military board games from way back. (When other kids were indoors in the winter, my best friend and I were in virtual North Africa, fighting it out between Monty and Rommel in Avalon Hill's game Afrika Korps.)

So I'm no nugget when it comes to war gaming. But I will make no claims as to my military genius or lack thereof. The time The Missus Herself landed unopposed on the North German coast and took Berlin while I was on the outskirts of Moscow still rankles. Let's just say, I'd make a better chief of staff than a commander. (Hell, truthfully? I could polish the CO's boots.)

Still, Fringe is a great friend and fellow Lexican and also a scenario designer for Birds of Prey (BoP). What with The Missus Herself being out California-way and me at loose ends, it sounded like a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

And it was.

While the game appears inordinately complex at first glance, once you get used to the many charts, graphics and tools, it is awesome.

Simulating fighting in a modern jet is no easy task in a board game environment but once Fringe showed me how all the charts and such worked, I began to see the light. Just follow the rules of the game, the mysteries of physics and all that math are taken care of.

So there I was*, it was supposed to be a 2v2, me and my nugget wingman taking on two VFC-111 F-5s. Mano a mano. Er, kind of. My nugget was a lady pilot, freshly winged and a novice learning the mysteries of air combat. (Hey, it's my story, I will tell it my way. After all I have friends who are ladies who fly fighters. They kick ass. Just in case anyone asks.)

On the runway, cleared to roll and as we run the engines up, my nugget hears a "bang" and gets a Master Caution light. She's a ground abort. I'm a solo.

I guess it's a 1v2 now. No problemo.

Once airborne and at 24,000 plus, I see them. Two of those nifty little F-5Ns in bad guy colors. Lead has already tipped his hand as I see his wings bank and his nose lift, he's turning into me, his wingman is still level.

Hhhmm, what does Gomer have in mind?

Let's go two-circle and take this fight vertical. I'll match my Rhino to those guys any day of the week.

The guys in the red circles are the  Sun Downers, the yellow arrow points at my ride.

Those were my thoughts anyway. I described them to Fringe, he showed me the magic of the BoP tools, charts and graphs and voilà that all gets translated to what you see above. Me, going vertical having gobbled up altitude and beginning to turn towards the gomers.

Of course, as I hadn't seen Fringe in over a year in the real world (see him online all the time, but it ain't the same) we started shooting our watches and talking about people we know, games we've played, etc., etc.

So we never got to my next move, we will though, down the road as I learn this game.

But really I had an awesome time. Can't wait to do it again.

Those Sun Downers are toast.

Now how about some real jets? The Hornet Ball 2014 video. Sweet, neh?

*WARNING: The beginning of a war story. Sort of.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Recent events in Canada have left me too angry for words.

Two good men are lost.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent will be missed.

They shall not be forgotten.

Go here to share your thoughts and leave condolences.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

In Memoriam

Out in California, in the San Joaquin Valley, lies Naval Air Station Lemoore. Home to five Carrier Air Wings (2, 5, 9, 11 and 17 - 5 is forward deployed to Japan) and 20 fighter attack squadrons (four of them forward deployed with CAG 5), NAS Lemoore is the newest and largest Master Jet Base in the United States Navy.

Overlooking the runway at Lemoore is that bronze statue above, dedicated to the men and women of Naval Aviation from NAS Lemoore who lost their lives in the line of duty, serving their country, faces to the foe.

The WSO sent me a few photos after her return from a deployment to Key West. I can't wait to get out there and see the memorial for myself. It means a lot to me and to many others.

The insignia of the units which call Lemoore "home" line the way.

The second one in is VFA-2, The WSO's outfit.
Pinch might recognize the next one after the Bullets.

A little further up (VFA-25) - Lex is wearing that patch in his photo at the top o' the blog.

In position off the statue's starboard side is a memorial to Captain Carroll LeFon.
To which so many folks contributed.

Shortly after the statue was put in place and a ceremony to dedicate the site was held, the Navy's Blue Angels, on their way to Fleet Week in San Francisco, put on a small show to salute the new memorial. (The next two photos are from the NAS Lemoore Aviator Memorial Association Facebook page.)

Those who were there tell me that it was a wonderful display by the Blues, the perfect finish to the commemoration of this place. Why, you may wonder, is this memorial so meaningful to me personally?

I spent 24 years in the Air Force, most of it in aviation units. My son-in-law and my youngest daughter are in Naval Aviation. Everyone who has spent any amount of time in an aviation unit either knows someone, or has friends who know someone who one day...

Slipped the surly bonds...

Climbed sunward...

Swept up the long, long delirious burning blue...*

And didn't come home.

I knew someone, I called him friend.

I remember him and those like him, never to be forgotten. I pray.

From an idea...

Dook and the sculptor (Facebook)
To reality...

For those who may be interested.
NAS Lemoore AMA is a non-profit organization founded by LCDR Erik "Dook" Kenny and LCDR Ben "Julie" Charles, both stationed onboard Naval Air Station Lemoore. Over the past year, the AMA has raised enough funds to build a memorial dedicated to all aviators attached to NAS Lemoore who lost their lives. 
The memorial is a 7' tall bronze statue that overlooks our main runway, 32L. The statue is surrounded by memorial grounds, filled with donor bricks of those who graciously donated to our cause.
Erik and Ben, along with three local board members, Charlie Meyer, Travis Lopes, and Guy Brautigam, continue to fundraise to support the familes of the fallen and future military and community efforts. We still have bricks available (4x8 and 8x8 bricks) so please send us a message or call Ben at 361.816.1986 or Erik at 410.499.4130 if you are interested.
The different ways to donate are:
  • Send a check payable to NAS LEMOORE AMA to 230 Lake Drive, Lemoore, CA, 93245
  • Call Ben at 361.816.1986 or Erik at 410.499.4130 for a credit card donation
  • PayPal account at
Donations of $250 will received an engraved brick (4x8) that will be part of the memorial, $500 - engraved brick (8x8) with a logo, visit their Facebook page.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

*From High Flight - John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It was so beautiful.*

There’s been a fair amount of reflection underway here since I read Sarge’s post about the loss of a tree.  His sentimentality in that loss is understandable, and he’s not alone in that type of thinking.

I haven’t always been as introspective as I am now.  During a particularly challenging phase in flight training, I was struggling to keep up.  An instructor recommended listening to some self-help tapes put out by Anthony Robbins.  I instantly discounted that advice as I couldn’t for a moment consider sitting down and quietly listening to myself, much less a personal development guru.  That type of self-motivation was not for me then, but I suppose I would be more open to it today if I felt it was necessary.

My taste in entertainment has changed from when I was younger as well.  Going to a movie or watching a rental over pizza was once more to my liking, but I can’t remember the last time we did that.  Going to a play would have bored me in my 20s, but now pushing past middle age, my wife and I visit a local theater on a regular basis.  I’ve also shed most concern about what others might think of me, gaining a level of confidence from that attitude.  Additionally, I’ve learned to relax, not always rushing around, taking the slow lane at times, both literally and figuratively.

As my wife and I get older, we are starting to see a few minor health issues pop up, mainly for me, but I know that’s par for the course.  However, we’re fortunate to have good and affordable health care.  We’ve talked about being empty-nesters as our kids are also getting older; In a couple years the teenangster will be off to whatever Art School she impresses the most, and eventually our son will be out of the house as we help him to become more independent.  While my wife has already had to deal with the kids not needing her as much, having a house to ourselves also means we’ll be able to travel more.  With maturity also comes a mortgage with an end in sight, and greater savings with which to do more for ourselves.  While these changes that come with age may at first be unwanted or unwelcome, they are part of a life that also brings about positive aspects. 

Then again…

I don’t know the demographics of the readers here at Chez Sarge, but I doubt the Millennials are represented in force.  Middle to later-aged folks is what I’d expect.  For that group, it’s also the time in life where we start experiencing more loss.  Statistically speaking, we have met or we know more people, we’ve seen our fair share of car accidents, know those who have had heart attacks, breast cancer, etc.  So it’s hard to get past middle-age without knowing someone in your inner or outer circles who have gone from this life.  Within Naval Aviation, the statistics are only surpassed by ground forces I would expect.

Warning:  Graphic Video

Another that I can't seem to upload:  here  

What losses have I experienced?  I’ve seen the breakup of my parent’s marriage, which actually was a good thing for her and us;  Later, my mom dying from cancer.  Several pets have come and gone in my life, including one that was such a part of the family that it hurt very much.  Still does if I think about it. 

I’ve always had pets, but our Beagle Molly grew up with my children and had such a personality that she is greatly missed.  We only had her until she was 10, a brain tumor taking her from us.  Her buddy, our rescued Jack Russell is still here at 16 years old, and he’s seemingly forgotten her now.  With that loss, that he’s been able to assume the mantle of Alpha Dog in his pack of one.  He’s a lucky one, living over three times as long as he would have had we not adopted him moments before he was to be put down in the Hillsborough County Shelter.

There’s been the loss of a few shipmates, like Graham Higgins with whom I went through Flight School.  He was in the back of a VF-213 Tomcat which crashed into an apartment building in Tennessee when his pilot was trying to show off.  

Scott Zellem, another flight school classmate whose VS-35 S-3B Viking crew crashed into a mountain in the Western Pacific. 

Z-Man on the President's left.

The crew memorialized.
And of course, Lex.

Some of these losses we expect.  Naval Aviation is an inherently dangerous sport.  Being an Infantry Soldier is even more so, especially during wartime.  Someone dying on the battlefield or in an aviation mishap is something we know will happen sooner or later.  So while we’re saddened when it comes, we know it’s a risk that comes with the job.

My mother had been a smoker since her teens; heavy smoker later in life during a stressful stretch at work and the troubles within her marriage.  After the divorce, she quit smoking and hadn’t picked up a cigarette for 14 years before the cancer came, but the damage had been done.  That was a sad loss of course, but it dragged out for a bit and we knew it was coming after our confidence in medical science, a confidence gained from her being a nurse, started to fade.

Fall has finally arrived here in San Diego, with cool, but comfortable nights.  I love the crispness in the air, but will miss the warmth of Summer.  The inevitableness of the situation with my mother also came like that change in seasons, slowly, but it couldn't be stopped, and yet I was conflicted in how I felt about that.  I was, of course, sad to see the end, but I knew it was better for her, and so I almost looked forward to the end so she would be relieved of her suffering.   

My shipmates, none truly close to me, I mourn briefly.  Lex is sorely missed though.  However, that is different from the more personal loss like a parent.  However, since we knew the cancer was taking my mother away, and that her death offered her respite, that loss too seems different.

So as I reflect on both my life and this post, I realize that with age comes some wisdom, hopefully some wealth, maybe a bit of sophistication or varied interests, but also varied degrees of loss.  However, one loss that we’re not supposed to experience is the death of a child.

Unfortunately, I have.  No, not my own child, nor a direct family member, but the 12 year old son of a very close family friend and brother-in-arms- a Marine Corps Pilot.  He was the older brother of my Godson, and the loss hurts deeply.  It was a horrible accident just over a week ago, and I can’t imagine how my friends are coping.  They have a deep faith and take some consolation from it, but I’m sure it doesn’t stop them from replaying the day over and over, doing it differently each time, trying to prevent what occurred.

While I wouldn’t change a thing in my life, being quite happy with my current state of affairs, I would like to go back and somehow change what happened that day, saving my friends from such grief.

This is the song sung at his memorial service.  It's a cover of Hillsong United's "Oceans."It's a beautiful song and it was an excellent choice by his sister, because in Hawaii, where his family grew up, his name means Ocean.

Farewell Kai, we'll miss you and life is a little less bright without you in it.

*Scene and quote from Forrest Gump